Tools of Engagement—Going Into the Toolbox

Good afternoon company officers and firefighters. Last week, we responded to a structure fire incident that resulted in several firefighter injuries. The goal of this educational session is to discuss operational challenges that occurred at this incident. It is imperative that we all share our perspectives on what happened—more importantly, what can we do next time to avoid firefighter or civilian casualties. 

The above activity is common across all fire service organizations. What is also common is that often only a small selection of individuals actively engages in discussions. In the 21st century fire service, tapping the diverse perspectives and rich input of every fire service member is invaluable. For this to happen, the fire service instructor/facilitator must use a group process that invites real participation. This process touches on group dynamics and group interaction. 

Liberating structures is a method for introducing tiny shifts in the way we meet, plan, decide, relate, and interact in a group setting. Under the liberating structures concept, there are over 30 different strategies for keeping a group of learners or collaborators engaged. 

The 1-2-4-All is the most used liberating structure strategy that enhances group participation. The planned steps include:

  1. For the first minute, ask all learners to quietly reflect and write their responses to a specific question.
  2. During the next two minutes, ask each person to join with someone else to discuss their respective reflections.
  3. For four minutes, join pairs together into quarters to synthesize responses.
  4. For the next eight minutes, invite anyone to share with the full group the most outstanding or striking ideas that they heard.

This 15-minute activity allows each learner to mentally engage with the question, informally share input, and listen to others. At the end of one round, the entire group has been involved in synthesizing a deeper understanding of the topic/theme, issues, problems, or solutions that have emerged. The method also allows for the sharing of different perspectives

As fire service instructors, active learning and creating an environment for participate/student engagement are essential to “our” success. In the fire service, we value and need the input from senior members of the organization. We also value and need input from junior members as well. In learning environments involving aspiring fire and EMS responders, we need to build that “active engagement” foundation early. 

1 Comment

Liberating structures

April 12, 2022 07:23 PM by Mary Sovick

Demond, I appreciate practical, worthwhile techniques like the one you've shared here. Thanks! I expect I'll try it during some future, in-person class.

Mary Sovick

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