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Facilitator training: LOCSU hosted a series of peer discussion facilitator training days for optometrists and dispensing opticians in November and December, working in partnership with the College of Optometrists, ABDO and the GOC. With more on the horizon, optometrist Ceri Smith-Jaynes, OT's multimedia creative editor, reports.

I WAS thrown into my first peer discussion in 2011 at the National Optometric Conference, without time to slip out quietly from the back of the room. Daunted as I was by the idea of a group of more experienced strangers judging my every utterance, within minutes my fears were dispelled and I found myself thoroughly enjoying the experience.

Peer discussion for me is an opportunity to examine my own methods, pick up new tips and learn from the successes of others. I have found that in order to progress as an optometrist, I need the opportunity to hear from those with different experiences. So, when LOCSU announced its facilitator training days, I leapt at the chance because I would like to help optometry as a whole benefit from sharing ideas.

Gill Brabner (pictured below, far right), Jane Gray, Barry Duncan and the team of professional actors gave us a day of practical, theoretical and theatrical training which gave me a lot to think about.

What is the point of a facilitator? According to the GOC: "The facilitator will ensure each individual fully participates, that the discussion enables participants to make a link to their own practice and are able to complete a reflection statement."

In real terms, the facilitator is responsible for breaking the ice, setting the ground rules, keeping the discussion focused and making sure everyone has participated. However, participation doesn't necessarily mean giving 'a monologue.' We were encouraged by Ms Brabner to think about the ways in which people learn--some have to talk as they think while some learn better by listening and reflecting.

On the training day, we were each given the opportunity to take the reins in a real peer discussion and given feedback on the things we did well and those we could improve upon. There was plenty of room to inject our own idiosyncrasies; rather than being given set phrases to use, we had to think about how to handle the situation in our own way.

The day was spiced up by actors Lee Moone and Rachel Hankey, playing characters they had observed in real life. Ms Hankey played an innocently fidgety woman, who unwittingly disrupted the conversation at every turn. The dilemma of the facilitator: do I ask her outright to stop distracting people or simply give her a role to involve her more instead?


Mr Moone played a loud, arrogant man, intent on belittling the event as a waste of his time. The facilitator's challenge was to manage the group dynamics and involve him without allowing his behaviour to take over.

Some participants may be intimidated by the reputed clinical prowess of others. Some may be mistakenly convinced that their way is universal best practice. Despite the mix of abilities and experience around the table, everyone needs to get something out of a peer discussion or the purpose is lost. There has to be opportunity after a discussion to summarise key observations and learning, and the facilitator must also give the members of the group a chance to reflect verbally, and in writing, on what they have learned, even if it is just affirmation of their own methods.

After the excitement of the training day, I now need to carry out three Peer discussion or Peer Review events to complete my accreditation. I'll need to plan the cases, resources and learning environment and work on my own listening and questioning skills. One thing's for sure: I'll never watch BBC's Question Time through the same eyes again.

LOCSU is holding more training courses this year. To be on the list to attend please email
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Title Annotation:local optical committee support unit
Publication:Optometry Today
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 11, 2013
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