The facilitators at last week’s EAGALA training excelled at the practice of leading through questions. To better understand the EAGALA process participants would ask questions. They were sincere questions honestly asked. What they anticipated was an answer or a dialog. What they got was a question reflected back.
“What do you do when a horse doesn’t cooperate with the client?” a participant asked. Based on the social norms to which we are all accustomed, they listened in anticipation of an answer. Our facilitators were experts in this field after all. It would seem reasonable to seek out counsel from these experts.
“What would you do?” our mental health professional responded.
Silence … wait time … pause … pause. “Well, provided I was confident of safety, I would let it play out and look to the client for what it meant to them.” I could see the smile come to our facilitator’s face with the joy that comes when a teaching moment works.
A cornerstone of the EAGALA method is a trust in the process including the ability of the client/participant to be in the best position to generate their own ideas and solutions. A direct response to the participant would have satiated the moment. By allowing the precious resource of space and time with the question reflected back to them led to their own internal processing and a deeper, more personal understanding. With this deeper personal understanding, the client has ownership of the ideas and consequently the solution. Through ownership comes joy and confidence of self-generated solutions.
“When others are busy instructing us, we are denied the opportunity to discover ourselves – who we are, our beliefs, our capabilities, weaknesses, and strengths. Likewise, the more we are instructed, the more we stop questioning and accept everything we read, see, or hear. Every time you instruct something during an EAGALA session, you have taken away an opportunity for real growth and learning for the client” (EAGALA p. 26).
I have had students, both elementary and pre-service teacher candidates, share impatience with me when my response back to them was a question rather than an answer.
“How do you get kids to be able follow through with an activity?” they might ask expecting a reasoned response from their teacher, the expert.
“How might you get your kids to follow through with an activity?” says the teacher.
“Well, I suppose if I made the directions very clear with only one or two steps at a time. I could write them on the board and then circulate around the room monitoring how it is going.” It’s at that point that a deep smile comes from within as I am witness to that process of my students arriving at their own answers from within.
I often tell my pre-service students that the worst thing they could do when their students ask them a question is to answer it. In doing so, you deny them that joy of finding out for themselves and massaging their own ability to learn.
In the closing dialog this last semester, one student said, “You know, it used to really bug me at the beginning of the semester when you would never answer any of our questions, but now I understand the power of reflecting questions back to the learner.” How do you spell deep abiding satisfaction?
In the next few posts I hope to continue my journey further examining the connections between the EAGALA model and what we do in the classroom with kids.
EAGALA (2012). Fundamentals of EAGLA Model Practice. Santaquin, UT: EAGALA