Facilitating, Moderating, or Teaching – is there a difference?
Way behind in my blogging this week – apologies to anyone who is reading regularly. Had to jot down the first 20 pages or so of my comps paper so that I was progressing as I should be :). This past two weeks has been spent exploring the topic of facilitation and teaching….what they are or aren’t, how they happen or should. It has been interesting as a lurker on the discussion-board to watch as those who embody the traditional sense of learning (i.e. that which is structured, has a purpose, defined and directed) go about constructing a scenario where those needs can be met (i.e. setting up a meeting with someone in another time zone and keeping it). While this appears to be meeting the needs of a group of our participants, I have noticed that another group that was once active has taken somewhat of a back seat to all of this. What I find extremely interesting in this 2 week long observation is that it points out some of the differences in how people learn and what they expect from a teacher in a learning setting.
I happen to believe that teaching IS facilitating. That learning is the responsiblity of the learner and that the role of the teacher is to guide, inspire, remove barriers, and provide feedback so that the learner meets his/her ultimate goals. Now the problem with that statement is that we live in a traditional world where the role of teacher has been that of expert, dispenser of knowledge and leader…..almost to the point of the learner having to do nothing at all but complete the assignments. I think that this world is changing due to the Web 2.0 revolution so that the newer generations are more comfortable with creating their own learning through a global process, understanding how to critique information and utilize it as their own, and participating in social networks to provide feedback, community, and growth. The work of Henry Jenkins jenkins_white_paper-challenges-of-a-media-culture2 shows us that this requires new skills that we are not necessarily “teaching” in school….in fact, we tend to systematically provide barriers to the tools that facilitate this type of learning under the guise of “safety”.
I happen to hold the title of professor and my formal role at this time is teaching nursing students how to perform clinically. I teach at the undergraduate level. My previous role was as hospital administrator and I spent many hours teaching/facilitating in that job also. This is because I feel my primary job is to help people learn how to think for themselves, how to reason through an issue to come to a conclusion that is grounded in theory, and how to develop a lifelong practice of learning. I do this mostly through facilitation – by supporting what I call “a spirit of inquiry”. I encourage difference of opinion – I see it as an open dialogue to learning. I utilize tools and venues (i.e. discussion boards, second life, reflection blogs) that other teachers do not – which makes them think they are doing more work. Students who have me as an instructor work harder because I don’t just give them the answer, I ask them to understand what they are doing. It doesn’t make me popular to begin with, but in the end they move forward with tools that will make them successful as nurses as well as people – or at least that is the feedback that comes back to me from former students.
The new role of teaching IS facilitator…….or has it always been and we’ve let the formality of structure and measurement get in the way? These things are not mutally exclusive. It is my belief that as teachers we are responsible for keeping up with new ways of learning and being so that we may inspire others to become the learners they need to be to survive in this new global world.