Facilitating Learning is B***s***

The role of ‘learning facilitator’ rather than teacher was another one, like the language of choice, that I was initially very inspired by and really believed in. I think it is the truth that students are best taught by allowing them to discover a subject, and having the teacher act as ‘host’ to the world of knowledge contained within it. It encourages passion, curiosity and learning for the sake of learning.

I quickly learned that current teaching practice only pays lip service to this idea, and it is not embraced enough to allow it to have enough of an effect. To fully take this on board, students would need to design their own learning, listing their own objectives and at all times working towards those.

Engagement and motivation would be through the roof, but, it would require a complete abandoning of the curriculum and/or qualification specifications, and it would require many more teachers and much smaller classes. Students would need more training in study skills, and in key skills, and how to plan their own learning.

None of that happens in schools. The only thing that does happen is the activities are required to be ‘student centred’, rather than teacher led, so that students are given a task and must work on it, with teacher support. The teacher is still designing what that task is, and by extension, is still designing what the students discover within it.

It’s probably not the best idea to fully embrace it in the way I’ve described either. It would leave students with massive gaps in their knowledge, and most would leave out the difficult or dry parts of a subject so that they will need to be picked up quickly later on when it is discovered they are needed. That’s obviously not the best way to work.


Fred Tracy said...

I take issue with this too. Not facilitated learning, but the spelling of the phrase 'student centred'.

I understand that you Brits feel the need to spell center as 'centre' but 'centred' just looks weird.

Actually, I can see what you are talking about here and how it's a problem. I think perhaps the best solution is to leave teaching the way it is, without facilitation, and allow those students who really care about the material to do their own research as they've always done.

If someone is clever and driven enough then they can learn whatever they want to learn – for the most part – through Google anyway. I think the role of the educator should be to instill a certain "vibe" into the student, as well as making sure that everyone has at least a certain level of base knowledge.

Whatcha think, dawg?

The Edudicator said...

Alright Fred! It's just such an ace idea that doesn't work for one second in real classrooms.

I think if you leave those who are really into a subject to their own devices, then they're not going to view school as where they do their learning though.

I think a mix of both of those approaches would be good, but teachers in the UK are expected to centre (ha!) on the students 24/7 and are in deep shit if they're not seen to be doing that.

Elizabeth said...

I know I'm coming into this a bit late but this is something I've got fed up with.

I have worked in the IT world and have been a facilitator of workshops and learning events in that world. It works there - because the "students" involved (delegates as they are usually termed) are:

1. motivated to take part (it is usually to learn a new technique/skill required for their role which they have chosen to do, or it is to answer a specific issue/question within the team/company).
2. They are largely designing and deciding on what is going on in the sessions.
3. The outcomes of those sessions will be used very quickly in their subsequent work.

So, why does it work?

Because those same delegates have a huge body of knowledge, experience and self discipline as well as respect for each other and the facilitator to allow it to work.

Why does it NOT work in a school situation?

Because the pupils (I LOATHE the use of "learners") or the students (if post 16) have NOT acquired that body of knowledge, experience of where their conclusions can be used, or respect for others or the self discipline to engage and motivate themselves.

The Facilitator is there to ensure that all within the group has an opportunity to provide their views on the given subject - even in the world of work, there will be some people who have inspiring and valuable contributions but are unable to have their voice heard - the Facilitator will ensure they ARE heard.

A Teacher is imparting knowledge (which is deemed to be very unfashionable now) to pupils and students which they don't already have and don't know they need and then guiding those pupils/students in how to practice/use/apply that knowledge. Perhaps near the end of a course of study can facilitation be used - perhaps in revision sessions? But in day-to-day class work it doesn't really work.

I can see where Fred Tracy is coming from with the idea of a student deciding what they wish to learn but releasing them onto the Internet to learn in their own way isn't a safe way to do this. The student needs to have a sound knowledge and experience of identifying material on the subject/topic of choice and analysing its worth. Is it biased? Is it true? Is it reliable? How old is that information? Are they then able to read and synthesise that information to explain it back to the teacher/someone else in a way that shows they understand it? In my experience, most students (even around age 16-19) are unable to do this - they simply cope/paste/repeat what they have read without analysing its worth. How are they now learning?

This kind of experience is achieved through life experience and through the body of knowledge one has already acquired - it is really only seen in students in tertiary education. Hence University students, largely, are studying on their own with their tutors and lecturers guiding their efforts.

This is impossible in a School Environment and also impossible if society requires (and by that I include employers) the future workers to have a basic understanding of x and y. But what x/y ought to be is a whole other essay!

Incidentally the reason we Brits spell Centre in the way we do is because it comes from the Greek for κέντρον (kéntron) a "needle", "spur". We can then derive Central, Eccentric from this spelling. ;-)

The Edudicator said...

Exactly. How do you know what you need to go and teach yourself if you have ZERO knowledge of anything? To truly facilitate learning we should just send the kids to the library every day and direct them to the resources they want.

If you are a teacher there will always be /some/ aspect of directing them to learn what you want them to learn, even if it's just to begin with. How are you even supposed to cover the curriculum otherwise?

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