Book By: John Eller
Review By: Julie M. Galloway
Director, Division of Basic Business
College of Business
Tennessee Tech University
John Eller’s opening statement in the preface is an ironic one: “So, you get to facilitate a meeting!” Get to? In my world where the words “effective” and “group” generally do not go together, the phrase “get to” is a dubious choice at best. However, for those charged with the task of unifying a diverse group to produce a useful outcome, this book is an excellent first-step to success.
In Effective Group Facilitation in Education, John Eller offers suggestions, guidelines, planning tips, and activities that remind the reader that group facilitation could possibly…might actually… be fun! The subtitle itself acknowledges two challenging areas that often plague group work: lack of energy and divisiveness. Eller’s approach to tackling these and other issues yields a useful resource that can be applied in as little, or as great, detail as the reader wishes.
A strong point is this book’s adaptability. Although several examples are geared to K-12 issues, the brainstorming activities would be equally effective in higher education staff meetings. Additionally, the planning techniques can be easily modified for student group activities. Even methods for redirecting focus and goal-setting are very applicable in a student advising session to motivate and interest a passive student.
Eller’s content organization also contributes to the book’s adaptability. With chapters divided into sections, useful charts and outlines, and applicable “real-world” examples, this is an enjoyable read from cover to cover. These characteristics also help readers easily find a specific idea, activity, or suggestion that can be applied to the immediate situation.
Eller reminds the reader the importance of attitude. The author’s differentiation between “group facilitator” and “meeting leader” is interesting as it hinges upon attitude and actions. Throughout the text Eller reminds the reader, in a variety of ways that effective facilitators create energy and maximize enthusiasm. The underlying sentiment is that effective facilitators approach their task without bias, preconceived notions, or personal agenda.
Nothing can teach as well as first-hand experience. But Effective Group Facilitation in Education will certainly help anyone feel more prepared and effective for even a first experience at providing leadership and management in the group setting.
Effective Group Facilitation in Education: How to Energize Meetings and Manage Difficult Groups.(2004). Book by Eller, John. Review by Julie M. Galloway. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press. 224 pp. $32.95. ISBN #1412904625