The Glossary has definitions of many terms used in Course Reader and Course Workbook. Some terms are specific to the facilitation field, others are more general and may have a slightly different meaning when applied to group work. Words defined in a unique way by an individual or organization have a citation. All others are defined by the authors. [1] If a word is generally understood, we don’t cite a source for the definition.

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Absolute Consensus: all group members are in absolute agreement that the decision is superior to what exists in the status quo. (Justice & Jamieson, 1999)

Abstract Random: a learning style. People with this learning style generally exist in a world of feeling and emotion, maintain a sense of order in a random, web-like and multi-dimensional way, view time at the moment, have an inner guidance system and focus on emotional attachments, relationships and memories. (Gregorc, 1985)

Abstract Sequential: a learning style. People with this learning style generally exist in a world of the intellect based upon concrete work; create order in a sequential and two-dimensional, tree-like way; view time in the present, historical past and projected future; validate via personal intellectual formulae and conventionally accredited experts; focus on knowledge, facts, documentation, concepts and ideas. (Gregorc, 1985)

Action Plan(ning): a list of tasks (or the process of listing tasks) that need to get done, with identified people committing to completion of the task. It also includes a timeline and may indicate the resources and support needed to complete tasks.

Adult Learning Principles: adults are involved as partners in planning and evaluation of their participative learning; their needs and experiences inform problem-centered approaches to new ideas that are directly related to their goals for self-advancement.

Artifact: a solution summary that contains: a concise description of a meeting challenge or problem, a description of the solution that explains how it works and what it accomplishes, and includes instructions for carrying out the solution so that someone else could do it in their work or meeting. Do-Nows (see below) is a solution to a challenge and if the process and instructions were outlined would provide an example of an artifact. (Smith, 2018)

Assumption: a proposition that is taken for granted, in other words, that is treated for the sake of a given discussion that it is true. Take for granted that it is true without verifying it.


Best Facilitator Practices: grounded ethical behaviors and strategies that the facilitator uses in service to groups. (Bens, 1999)


Closing: a technique that includes one or more of the following: a sense of value or meaning, action planning, a sense of accomplishment or movement or completeness. (Gibson, n.d.)

Competency: the ability to perform some task.

Concrete Random:  a learning style. People with this learning style generally exist in a concrete world of activity and an abstract world of intuition. The order thought in a random three-dimensional pattern; view time in the now, which is a total of the past, interactive in the present and seed for the future; validate processes in intuitive, instinctive, impulsive and independent ways; and focus on applications, methods, processes, and ideals. (Gregorc, 1985)

Concrete Sequential: a learning style. People with this learning style generally exist in a concrete world of the physical senses; order thoughts sequentially in a step-by-step linear progression; view time in discrete units of past, present, future; validate processes with personal proof via the senses and accredited experts, and focus on material reality and physical objects. (Gregorc, 1985)

Consensus: when everyone clearly understands the situation or problem to be decided, analyzes all of the relevant facts together and then jointly develop solutions that represent the whole group’s best thinking about the optimal decision. It’s characterized by a lot of listening, healthy debate and testing of options. Consensus generates a decision about which everyone says, “I can live with it.” (Bens, 1999

Contracting: a process of developing an agreement between the facilitator and the group or group members about how to work together and what will be accomplished.

Core Facilitation Competencies: a framework of six competencies, tested over time, form the basic set of skills, knowledge, and behaviors that facilitators must have to successfully facilitate in a wide variety of environments. Developed by the International Association of Facilitators (IAF), the six competency areas are: 1) Create Collaborative Client Relationships, 2) Plan Appropriate Group Processes, 3) Create and Sustain a Participatory Environment, 4) Guide Group to Appropriate and Useful Outcomes, 5) Build and Maintain Professional Knowledge and 6) Model Positive Professional Attitude. Each competency further describes specific skill sets, knowledge areas, and observable behaviors. (International Association of Facilitators, 2003)

Core Facilitation Practices: methods that form the foundation of the facilitator’s style of performing tasks effectively as working relationships are built and maintained. Ten commonly accepted core facilitation practices are: 1) stay neutral on content; 2) listen actively; 3) ask questions; 4) paraphrase to clarify; 5) synthesize ideas; 6) stay on track; 7) give and receive feedback; 8) test assumptions; 9) collect ideas; 10) summarize clearly. (Bens, 1999)


Decision-making Options: Six distinct methods are 1) spontaneous agreement, 2) one person decides, 3) compromise, 4) multi-voting, 5) majority voting and 6) consensus building.

Diagnosis: the process by which you observe a group’s behavior, infer meaning from the behavior and casually relate it to your models of effective group behavior. (Schwarz, 2002)

Diagnosis-Intervention Cycle: a method to identify behavior by: observing behavior, inferring meaning and deciding whether, how and why to intervene, followed by intervening by describing behavior and testing for different views, sharing inference and testing for different views and helping the group decide whether and how to change behavior and test for different views. (Schwarz, 2002)

Do-Now: a short exercise or activity that each meeting participant can do when first joining a meeting. The instructions, if web-based, will be on the screen and you start as soon as you are ready. If face-to-face, instructions are posted on a screen or flipchart page. Do-Nows occupy people and contribute to the meeting outcome, provide information that will be used in the meeting and are done while the participants are gathering, whether virtually or face-to-face. They contribute to mentally engaging with the meeting topic. (Smith, 2018)


Facilitation: the design and management of structures and processes that help a group do its work and minimize the common problems people have working together. (Justice & Jamieson, 1999)

Facilitation Contract: an agreement between the facilitator and the group or group members about: how to work together; what will be accomplished; and who is responsible for what.

Facilitation Guiding Principles: beliefs that help a group build and maintain working relationships that create an environment to successfully achieve its goals. They are: every person’s voice in the group matters and provides relevant information needed to make informed decisions; people are naturally resourceful, creative and whole; people will follow through on commitments and decisions they helped to create; trust the wisdom of the group; with training and practice, a group can manage their processes and relationships; guiding a group through cooperative processes helps the group achieve goals; group decisions are stronger than individual decisions; you are responsible for the process, the group is responsible for the content outcome.

Facilitation Map: a meeting design that includes an opening, clarification of objectives, clarification of the role of the facilitator, overview of the agenda and/or process, development of working agreements, the body of the meeting, a recap of outcomes and a confirmation of consensus and next steps. (Bendaly, 2000)

Facilitator: one who contributes structure and process to interactions so groups are able to function effectively and make high-quality decisions; a helper and enabler whose goal is to support others as they pursue their objectives. (Bens, 1999)

Feedback: dialogue on how the meeting is going, whether or not the goal is being achieved, how members are conducting themselves, how decisions are being made, and/or how the facilitator is doing. Feedback improves individual and group performance and involves stopping the group’s discussions to ask them to assess how it’s going. (Bens, 1999)

Fish Bowl Technique: a type of group discussion used with two groups so that one can experience the other group’s discussion as observers. This technique can be used to create “buy-in” by two opposing sides. Each group has an opportunity to discuss the issue while the other group observes, much like looking at the fish in a fishbowl. The facilitator encourages discussion in the small group, keeping the discussion only among the inner circle and then drawing out individual and group reactions during the combined discussion later.

Focused Feedback: a technique where each group member writes down and then presents focused, supportive feedback to the practice facilitator of an Intentional Facilitation Practice (IFP). After an IFP, group members (participants/students) have one to two minutes to write their responses to one to three supportive focused feedback questions regarding the facilitator/trainer or the facilitation. Each share their question (if needed) and feedback with the group and the facilitator (one minute or less). The focused feedback session is a modified form of no-cross-talk dialog –  (feedback is shared one at a time with no comments, agreeing, disagreeing or holding discussion regarding what others have said. When the feedback ends, the volunteer facilitator/trainer thanks the group members for their feedback.

Free Writing: What Is It? Natalie Goldberg, in Writing down the Bones (Shambhala: Boston (2006), pp 15-17), says that “The basic unit of free writing practice is that it’s a timed exercise.” You commit to the full-time allotment for the writing. The commitment to that time matters. And this is what you do, adapted from Goldberg:

  1. Keep your hand (or fingers, if keyboarding) moving. (Don’t pause to reread the line you have just written. That’s stalling and trying to get control of what you’re saying.)
  2. Don’t cross out or backspace or delete. (That is editing as you write. Even if you write something you didn’t mean to write, leave it.)
  3. Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar. (Don’t even care about staying within the margins and lines on the page if you are writing by hand.)
  4. Lose control.
  5. Don’t think, don’t get logical.
  6. Go for the jugular. (If something comes up in your writing that is scary or naked, dive right into it. It probably has lots of energy.)

Goldberg stresses these ‘rules’. She says, “It is important to adhere to them because the aim is to burn through the first thoughts, to the place where energy is unobstructed by social politeness or the internal censor, to the place where you are writing what your mind actually sees and feels, not what it thinks it should see or feel.”


Ground Rules: guidelines that describe specific behaviors to improve group process. (Haskell, Cyr, & McPhail, 2007)

Group: a collection of individuals who come together to share information, coordinate their efforts or achieve a task but who mainly pursue their own individual goals and work independently. (Bens, 1999)

Group Process: how a group works together, including how members talk to each other, how they identify and solve problems, how they make decisions, and how they handle conflict. (Schwarz, 2002)

Group Stages: phases of group development. The amount of time and intensity of each stage will depend on the group, its dynamics, its task and the amount of time it has. Groups develop in a variety of ways. Some go straight through, while others skip stages and need to come back to them later. The four-stage model first described by Tuckman (1965) for group development includes: forming, storming, norming and performing. Since 1977, other group development stages suggested include: adjourning (Tuckman & Jensen), transforming and reforming (White & Fairhurst), re-norming, swarming, and so on.

Guidelines: stated norms that aim to streamline particular processes according to a set routine. Guidelines are an essential part of a larger process. Guidelines may be used to make actions more predictable and presumably of higher quality.


IAF: International Association of Facilitators. The International Association of Facilitators was formed in 1994 by a group of professionals desiring an avenue for interchange, professional development, trend analysis and peer networking. The IAF encourages and supports the formation of local groups of facilitators to network and provide professional development opportunities for their members. Regional groups from around the world are invited to become affiliated with the IAF to help promote the profession of facilitation as a critical set of skills in the global society of the 21st century. (

Inference: a conclusion about what you do not know on the basis of things that you do know. (Schwarz, 2002)

Intentional Facilitation Practice (IFP): any activity that asks participants (students) to facilitate a group process. Each IFP requires a participant to prepare before the next class. The instructor will give each person who volunteers to conduct an IFP appropriate material to review and use for preparation prior to the practice session. An IFP provides participants an opportunity to practice facilitating and receive feedback in a supportive environment.

Interests: the needs, desires and concerns that individuals have regarding a problem, issue or task; people’s interests are often compatible. (Schwarz, 2002)

Intervention Cycle: see the Diagnosis-Intervention Cycle.

Intervention: an action or set of actions that aim to improve the functioning of a group. (Bens, 1999)


Left-hand Column Technique: the thoughts and feelings we have during a conversation but do not communicate. Originated as the Two Column Technique.


Method: specific processes used to move a group through a series of steps as defined by the meeting purpose.

Mindful Learning Practice:  an opportunity to regularly engage in intentional listening, discussion, or reflection with a specific partner who is experiencing the same meeting content, process, and structure. The goal is to sharpen multiple group skills, deepen group process knowledge areas and hone helpful group behaviors without judgment, setting aside right or wrong, perfect or imperfect.

Modified Consensus: group members each agree upon a decision all can support or at least “live with.” (Justice & Jamieson, 1999)


Narrowing: checking for understanding to make sure everyone is clear about what is meant by each idea that’s been generated. (Kelsey & Plumb, 2004)

Next Steps: actions that the entire group agrees will accomplish “where we want to go from here”.

No-cross-talk Dialog: sharing experiences, concerns, feelings, opinions, and hopes related to a particular issue or topic without referring to, or reacting to, any other group member’s sharing, and without evaluating what has previously been said. Enables group members to improve their communication skills and share ideas and feelings without fear of being attacked or judged. It comes from practices traditionally used in 12-step meetings. (Justice & Jamieson, 1999)


Opening: a technique used to build a solid foundation from which the group can work on its task. It helps participants clearly understand the task, why they are doing it and the expected outcome. When effective, it brings participants mentally into their meetings and connects them with each other and the coming content. (Gibson, n.d.; Kelsey & Plumb, 2004)

Outcomes: end results; consequences.


Positions: solutions to the problem, issue or task. Positions are the way that people see how their interests will be met, and are often absolute and incompatible with each other. (Schwarz, 2002)

Process: the structure, framework, methods, and tools used in interactions. This refers to the climate or spirit established, as well as the style of the facilitator. (Bens, 1999)


Reflection: a technique that promotes discussion reviewing the details of the experience, its processes, structure, and products. This technique strengthens skill development by noting what worked and did not work. Reflection is a practice, formal or informal, used individually or in groups, that helps members or the collective group form generalized principles based on their experience, which then informs their future actions. Incorporating reflective activities into group work provides an opportunity to apply what has been learned, observed, experienced to improve future tasks or action taking.

Retrospective evaluation: pre- and post-questionnaire technique that asks participants to reflect on and rate their skills prior to the training and how they would assess their skills now. (Davis, 2003)


Tangents: refers to a topic nearly unrelated to the main topic, but having a point in common with it.

Technique: procedures used to accomplish specific activities or tasks.

Thinking and Learning Styles: behaviors, characteristics and mannerisms that are symptoms of mental qualities used for gathering data from the environment. There are two different categories of learning styles: natural and role-based. (Gregorc, 1998)

Tool: activities used to generate results and accomplish the purpose of the meeting. Tools are specific activities used within a method or technique. (Haskell, McPhail & Roming, n.d.)

Triads: groups of three.

Two Column Technique: see Left-hand Column Technique.


Undiscussable Issues: items on an agenda that may create discomfort when brought up. They often provide important information that helps the group with its process. Discussing undiscussable issues gives the group permission to both surfaces and check out assumptions and beliefs.


Working Agreements: guidelines that define how groups want to work together, and what they want in the working environment and from each other to feel safe and free to learn, explore and discover. (Haskell, Cyr, & McPhail, 2007)

[1] Strengthening Your Facilitation Skills series authors include Jane E. Haskell, Louise Frank Cyr, Kristen N. Grant, Gabe McPhail, and Lori Roming