Facilitatior or Teacher?? (Part One)

The debate still unresolved.

Probably won’t ever be. From Leigh:

As I teach and facilitate various online courses this year, a lot of the theories and concepts I subscribe to are getting some hard testing. The biggest challenge I am finding is the expectation for a teacher or instructor while everyone talks about a facilitator. I don’t think someone can be both, primarily because a teacher inherits a significant amount of power and traditional roles that counter act the more neutral and passive presence of a facilitator. This post will be a series of thoughts about this tension, and some ideas on how I can better manage my attempts at online learning community facilitation.

There’s a teacher at the party

I find it is all too easy to assume the role of a teacher if you are an expert in your field, but very difficult to adopt and maintain the role of facilitator to a group studying your field.

There is this fascinating thread in the list supporting the Facilitate Online Communities course

Two extracts:

Bron: this is our test of the group email. can you please tell the group about
your idea of a good time. This is a warm up so everyone can see how this
group email works.

Leigh: can you tell me/us how me telling everyone what I think makes up
a good time is going to help me/us understand how to facilitate online
learning communities better and quickly?

And from Bron’s Blog: [http://facilitatingonlinecommunities.blogspot.com]

Some questions: Why is this course called facilitate online learning communities and not teach online learning communities? Is teaching and facilitation really interchangeable? Is facilitation simply one of many techniques that a teacher employs in their work? Or is teaching just one of many 3rd party services that a facilitator might call on in their work? Is it possible to be both a teacher and a facilitator within the same group of people? What are the differences in the roles and what are the social dynamics in play when they function?

Follow on thoughts . . .

Sometimes I think it’s nearly impossible for me to think three thoughts in a linear function.  I often wonder if my degree of ‘success’ such as it was in the classroom was largely due to the ability of my students to sort out the stuff they needed from the rambling and shambolic sessions.  But I also gave every class a book.  And I re-wrote the book every year, set up to print from a pile of masters through the night before the first class.

Day one: “Here is the target: test samples, glossaries, quirky and whimiscal readings and problems, data sets, cartoons, advice (Like do some study), poetry and philosophy”  If I droned on or died they could still pick up enough to ‘pass’ (and notice I did not say ‘learn’ – this only happened sometime)

Rogers and facilitation

I have been fascinated by Carl Rogers. Facilitator extrordinaire.  Here is a quote from the wonderful infed site: (Probably better than wikipedia and citizendium in it’s field.)

Freedom to Learn brought together a number of existing papers along with new material – including a fascinating account of ‘My way of facilitating a class’. Significantly, this exploration brings out the significant degree of preparation that Rogers involved himself in (including setting out aims, reading, workshop structure etc.) (Barrett-Lennard 1998: 186).
Carl Rogers was a gifted teacher.

His approach grew from his orientation in one-to-one professional encounters. He saw himself as a facilitator – one who created the environment for engagement. This he might do through making a short (often provocative, input). However, what he was also to emphasize was the attitude of the facilitator. There were ‘ways of being’ with others that foster exploration and encounter – and these are more significant than the methods employed. His paper ‘The interpersonal relationship in the facilitation of learning’ is an important statement of this orientation (included in Hirschenbaum and Henderson’s [1990] collection and in Freedom to Learn).

The danger in this is, of course, of underestimating the contribution of ‘teaching’. There is a role for information transmission. Here Carl Rogers could be charged with misrepresenting, or overlooking, his own considerable abilities as a teacher. His apparent emphasis on facilitation and non-directiveness has to put alongside the guru-like status that he was accorded in teaching encounters. What appears on the page as a question or an invitation to explore something can be experienced as the giving of insight by participants in his classes.

Having someone in your class of guru like status changes things.  In light of the teaching/facilitation dialogue, this is important.  Sometimes reputation, your first sentence or your first post establishes something – a place to dialogue or not.  Etienne Wenger is superb at this: creating a space to move into.  But he is not just a facilitator.  More sometime.

I hear Leigh tomorrow. And Etienne in two weeks.  Cool

3 comments on “Facilitatior or Teacher?? (Part One)
  1. Great to find your post – as it certainly is something worth discussing tomorrow. Be sure to introduce yourself early if possible, so I can work out a way to bring this topic up. Thanks for posting, and giving me an idea of what tomorrow should be about.

  2. Chirnside Derek says:

    Gee Leigh, you are quick off the mark. I’ve a lot more to say on this. But I will never get the time to finish the post, so I’ll post in bits. :-)
    I regard this as a significant core issue. See you tomorrow.

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