The facilitation competency framework

The framework

The National College facilitation competency framework supports the development of both new and highly experienced facilitators, working face to face or online. It contains a set of ten competencies, three skills and four areas of knowledge and understanding and explains why these are important for the facilitation of learning. Alongside the competencies, skills and knowledge, the framework provides guidance concerning the observation and development of professional practice.

Group of teachers collaborating

Facilitators who are new to the role begin by focusing on the acquisition of process skills and knowledge. A deeper understanding can only be gained though practice. It is at this point that facilitators develop intentionality towards their actions, whether designing learning experiences, working with groups or making interventions. When this happens, effective facilitators are more aware of the effect of their behaviours and tailor their actions to support the learning of individuals and groups.

High-quality facilitation moves beyond the intentional application of skills, knowledge and understanding. It is often observed that highly experienced facilitators become less reliant on the technical aspects of the role and are more driven by a personal philosophy. The facilitation of learning rests on the ability of the facilitator to develop and sustain high-quality relationships, underpinned by a climate of authenticity, openness and trust.

In the 'What is facilitation?' section, you explored different definitions of facilitation. The College has defined it as:

a dynamic, personalised process that empowers and challenges individuals and groups to engage in significant learning.

The College has chosen to focus on a model of facilitated learning experiences that are underpinned by emotional intelligence and changing behaviours. This stems from the work of Daniel Goleman, Annie McKee and Richard Boyatzis (2004). Their research built on McClelland's (1973) work on competencies.

The term 'competency', as used in the framework, is adapted from McClelland's use where:

'a competency is a personal characteristic, evidenced in (patterns of) behaviour(s) that differentiate levels of performance in a given, job, role, organisation or culture'.

Goleman and his team used McClelland's work and identified a set of competencies for emotional intelligence that underpins effective performance in roles that involve relationships and leadership. They defined emotional intelligence as: 'the capacity for recognising our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves and for managing our emotions well in ourselves and our relationships' (2004, p317).

Watch the video to hear to why Daniel Goleman thinks that emotional intelligence is important for the leaders of today.

questions & activities

Personal reflection

Record your reflections to this question.


  • 01.
    While Goleman is relating the importance of emotional intelligence to leaders, what, for you, are the links with effective facilitation?

Exploring the domains in the framework

The facilitation competency framework has been organised using the four domains of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management.

The left-hand domains relate to self and the right-hand domains to others. The top domains are about your awareness of self and the bottom domains are about how you manage yourself in relation to others (in this context your participants or co-facilitator).

Sitting beneath the domains are two further boxes: skills and knowledge and understanding.

The skills of a facilitator relate to how you design learning experiences, manage the groups you are working with and use enquiry as you work with participants or groups. The knowledge and understanding relate to aspects that sit alongside facilitation in terms of knowing more about the potential of the role, leadership, learning and impact.

The framework can also be found on page 5 of the National College competency framework document.

Facilitation competency framework
questions & activities

Personal reflection: Four domains

Record your reflections for future reference.


  • 01.
    As you explore the four domains, what do you consider the importance each has to your role as a facilitator of adult learning?

Considering the impact of your actions

Just to the side of the domains is a small but very significant box with the word 'Impact' in it. The most effective facilitators, through their tasking, questioning, behaviours and interventions, have a positive impact on the learning of others. As you facilitate, you also need to model behaviours required of leaders as they transform their schools and influence the learning of pupils.

What impact do you expect to have as a facilitator?

Man explaining to colleague


Your experience of impact

Task 1

Choose one of the following activities:

  1. Think of a situation where your learning was facilitated. What happened to support your learning and what was the impact? Consider the behaviours of the facilitator too. List all the features.
  2. Think of a situation where you facilitated a group. What did you do to support learning and what was the impact? Consider your behaviours as the facilitator too. List all the features.
  3. Think of a situation where you supported the learning of a pupil. What did you do to support his or her learning and what was the impact? Consider your behaviour too. List all the features.

Task 2

Now see if you can place those features in the four domains in the framework. Are there any surprises?

Record your thoughts and answers.

Delving deeper into the framework

Now that you have explored the domains, you will move on to looking at each of the competencies and skills to help you gain a better understanding of their contribution to facilitation.

Competency descriptors

Look at the resource 'Delving deeper into the framework' below. Consider why each competency is important and what you are likely to see in practice.

As you read each competency, check that you understand the descriptor and consider your own practice as a facilitator. Do you recognise the description?

As you undertake this activity, you may choose to consider each competency and skill in its own right. Remember though that when you are facilitating, two or more competencies will often come into play at the same time.

Levels of performance

The National College competency framework provides indicators and illustrative examples of practice for three levels of performance (see page 6 of the framework). These ascend in order of their potential impact and complexity. Although some facilitators frequently display competencies at the highest level, rarely would they be seen at that level every time they facilitate.

External influences on behaviour are unique to each new set of circumstances. For facilitators, this can range from a group of difficult participants or a challenging learning curriculum, through to a dismal room or environment. For online facilitators this can extend to the challenges posed by technology. It may also extend to how the facilitator is feeling.

All facilitators have strengths and areas for development no matter how experienced they are. This is recognised by the National College and expectations for performance against the framework are illustrated in the following table.

Effective Highly effective Outstanding
All National College facilitators are expected to consistently display behaviours at this level. Facilitators who are highly effective are likely to have most of their typical behaviours here. A facilitator whose overall facilitation is considered to be outstanding is likely to have many but by no means all of their typical behaviours here.


Your strengths and areas for development

Task 1

As you read through each competency, there may be some that you already recognised in your own practice when facilitating adults.

In the 'Strengths and areas for development grid' (available using the link below), record three strengths and indicate what your evidence is for selecting them. Just focus on the competencies, not the three skills, as these will be explored in Section 5.

Task 2

Consider two development points or areas for improvement if you want to move to facilitating at a higher level. Give your reasons for selecting them.

As you become more experienced at recognising competencies in yourself or observing them in others, it is also helpful to consider the frequency with which each competency or skill is displayed. On the right is a simple scale that can be used for this purpose.

When you observe others in practice or you are being observed, it is useful to consider how frequently the competency is being used.

As you develop your skills, it is important to note that there are six key shapers of competencies that exist at different levels of consciousness. These are often depicted as the levels of an iceberg. The upper levels, those above the waterline and that are easy to observe, relate to the skills, knowledge and understanding in the framework. Those that are more complex and difficult to observe fall below the waterline and, in the framework, represent the four domains.

Frequency Indicator
Rarely This may be a new area of behaviour for a facilitator and therefore one for development.
Sometimes This indicates the ability to perform this behaviour but it is not fully a competency.
Often This indicates an ability that may not be a competency but which can be developed into one with conscious effort.
Consistently This ability is usually seen in practice.

Learn more about the iceberg levels in relation to facilitation by reviewing the iceberg model resources and respond to the questions within the resource.