Confidence in your convictions (Reflections on the SEDA Summer School – Part 1)

This is the first of several posts reflecting the excellent SEDA summer school I attended last week. One of the main learning points for me was around confident delivery, which will form the content of this post.

Although I always knew that confidence was an important component of successful delivery or facilitation, I previously had focused on my preparation and ensuring I had a clear plan for any session, with some contingencies. In terms of delivery I considered the importance of confident delivery but not really explored what that meant beyond presentation skills.

At the summer school there were a number of experienced staff developers who had clearly defined activities planned for each session and the confidence to deliver them. As a participant there were times at which activities felt a little strange and I wasn’t sure where we were headed, but the facilitators guided us through to a successful end point. They weren’t put off by any potential reluctance from participants, and took time to ensure we understood what was expected.

In some of my own sessions it’s when I recognise this feeling of ‘strangeness’ on participants’ faces that I can succumb and change my plans. I can then adapt or even scrap activities because the participants don’t seem to like them or find them hard. But what I should be doing is having confidence in what I’ve planned and delivering the activities I’ve chosen to best meet the aims or intended outcomes for a session. This point or topic around which participants are feeling challenged is probably a key area we need to explore or focus on in more depth, rather than one to drop.

In one of my recent sessions I put this ethos into practice. I was delivering a session with a group for whom I’d previously adapted activities for these very reasons and it had resulted in them getting a lot less from the session that I’d hoped. This time I made sure that we did the activities I’d planned and it seemed to work well, participants were engaged in active discussions and (hopefully) went away with some ideas for their next steps.

I think my simple message is have confidence in your convictions. If you’ve planned an activity that participants find challenging then give it a go, see how it works. By all means be flexible with your delivery, but remember the reasons for choosing the activities you did and see it through.


About Emma L King

Learning & Development Adviser @ University of Warwick (and an avid baker)
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3 Responses to Confidence in your convictions (Reflections on the SEDA Summer School – Part 1)

  1. Pingback: Summer school reflections : JISC e-Learning Programmes

  2. davidbaume says:

    I found this fascinating – thank you
    As one of the Summer School facilitators, I’ll make a couple of comments.
    1 The facilitator’s confidence doesn’t have to be genuine! I’m usually less confident than I appear when I’m working. I’m glad about this. I want to appear confident enough in what I’m doing to make sure that participants will trust me and work with me – even if some of what I ask them to do is potentially a little uncomfortable for them. But I also have to watch and listen very very hard, to check that the session is working, to check that any participant discomfort is productive and manageable. Too much confidence in themselves can make a facilitator insensitive, and therefore much less effective. I’ve seen it happen. I may even have done it a couple of times!
    2 I don’t like it when, even for a moment, participants in a session I am facilitating feel confused about what’s going on and why. I don’t mind them having to work hard and do difficult things. That’s when the learning happens. But I’m not a great fan of mystery in teaching. I don’t like the teacher’s message that says “trust me, you may not see the point of it now but you will later”. Too often have I seen teachers use this method to assert their power and splendour. I learn better when I can see, even vaguely, where I am going. This is probably true for most learners.
    You make me think. Thank you.

  3. emmalking says:

    Thanks for your thoughts David, they’re really helpful and interesting.

    I’m glad you say that the confidence doesn’t have to be genuine, it’s reassuring. I think that you’re right that over confidence can seem insensitive at times, it’s almost the slight uncertainty that keeps us on our toes.

    I think I should explain my feeling of strangeness a little more, I think this feeling actually emerges from that strange cross over when we, as professional developers, are back in the learning role. We’re split between just participating in the activity and reflecting on the pathway being taken – I find myself often switching between the roles and learning in two different ways. There’s almost a voice in the back of my head saying ‘how would I do this?’

    I was at ALT-C the other week and I think the opening keynote from Eric Mazur reflects these points. He talked about confusion and learning , reflecting that students who understood more were often more confused. I think this is really interesting, really encouraging us to get learners involved in challenging and difficult things as you mention. If I feel confused it’s often because I’ve started the path to understanding, it’s hard going but worth the journey.

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