From Teacher to Facilitator

facilitator_groupOne thing that I am continuing to learning about gifted children is sometimes I need to get out of their way and let them use their abilities to solve problems, be creative, and come up with a different vision than most would see.

I am charged with teaching gifted children five small groups of gifted children in a pull out program for one day week. So we spend around 5 straight hours together. I absolutely love it. We do projects that cover various topics and subjects. I usually try to build a theme that lasts for 9-12 weeks. I give them short projects on that topic that last 3-5 weeks, and then we present them, or we do some sort of demonstration.

There is a difference between being a teacher and a facilitator. Here is how I see the difference, and how it can impact your teaching.

A teacher is one who is the controller of all information going forth to the students. They may see themselves as the “sage on the stage.” There is guidelines for how work is done, and all work is done closely the same way for all students. There is nothing wrong if you see yourself this way as long as you are differentiating for your high and low students, and they are growing academically and they are being challenged.

A facilitator is one who presents the information, but allows students to take that information and use to fit their vision of their final product. Instead of lecturing, the art of asking the right pointed questions at the right time is king. (Socrates had something right in way of facilitating learning.) The art of asking questions to draw out assessments as students are doing projects or in the design phase of projects can be tough to learn. You can’t point out obvious flaws, but you have to allow students to find the flaws themselves. You also have to allow students to struggle and fail, but give them time to redeem themselves.

For a long time I was the teacher who controlled the flow of learning in my classroom. I needed a change. When you move to facilitator you give up a lot of control. When you are being a facilitator you are allowing students to take risks, use skills they may need in the real world, and allow them come up with projects that will differ from each other. Your classroom becomes an active environment that can a safe and inviting place where students come to appreciate, and be challenged.

I know this type of philosophy can work in all classrooms, but I know it does work with gifted children. My students love challenges, and they like when they can have control over how they do their final projects look like. I will tell you I use rubrics as assessment tools. Sometimes students come up with the rubric and other times I make the rubric.

In any regards, sometimes you just have to get out of the way, have some faith in your guidelines and procedures for an open and safe classroom, and allow your students to learn and explore.

How do you see yourself? Teacher or facilitator?


Teaching or Facilitating: That’s the Question

This morning my Assistant Principal come in and observed me as part of the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES Rubric).  He sat in my room for close to an hour. He saw my teaching style, and what my students were doing. He observed the classroom environment, and how I interact with students.  Some of you are probably familiar with this because many other states are doing something similar in teacher evaluations.

After the evaluation, he and I began a short conversation about the differences between teaching and facilitating. He noticed that I stayed more in the role of facilitator with my gifted students than lead teacher. I have found that my gifted students achieve more when I help to lead them down the road to success than when I drag them. This isn’t to say I just give them free rein on their assignments. Some need more one on one time with me than others. Some students are very goal oriented which leads to a great work ethic. Some are easily distracted. Those students I work more closely with.

tfs wordle

I feel that it is my job to ask questions. Some are leading questions, but most are open-ended questions where they will need to explain to me the reasoning being their actions or processes of their assignment.

Let me show you the differences in teaching and facilitating.

Teaching: The process where the teacher leads a group of students in acquiring new skills and/or knowledge. Did you see it there? The teacher leads. Teaching is where the teacher is in control of the one-way flow of information. Many teachers including my self had relied on this method. It’s very traditional. At times, this method is necessary, but it should not be the only method you use when teaching.

Facilitating: The process where the teacher helps a group of students learn together in acquiring new skills and/or knowledge. Did you see it there? The teacher helps. Facilitating the binary flow of information. Facilitating isn’t one way flow of learning. . It flows back and forth. Instead of using one mind, you collectively use all minds in learning.

When you really delve into the teaching verses facilitating paradigm you really have to look at who is at the center of your class. If you are a teacher in the teaching paradigm, then you are the center of your classroom. Everything should revolve around you. If you are a teacher in the facilitating paradigm them the students are the center of your classroom. Everything should revolve around them. (Here is a chart of what I mean.)

One of the main differences in teaching and facilitating that I believe is the most important is the role of the students. In teaching the role of the students is to sit and listen. They are the passive, and not part of the learning process. When a teacher is facilitating the role of the students is to be actively engaged. They are part of the learning process.

How do you move from teaching to facilitating? You have to let go. You have to change your thinking from being the focus to your students being the focus. You have to sharpen your questioning skills. You have to allow students to use their prior knowledge they learned, and show them how to apply it to whatever you are doing in your classroom. Remember facilitators teach. They just do it in a way that involves the students allowing them to be creative. By allowing your students to be creative allows you to just as creative, and it makes your class so much more enjoyable.

So the question is: are you stuck in the teaching paradigm or are you a facilitator? Are you transitioning from one to another? Let me know what your expereinces are.

(The Wordle is the text of this post.)