Facilitating, moderating, or teaching?

Facilitating, moderating, or teaching?

3 September 2008 11:40 am 6 comments

The foc08 task for this week is to try to determine the role and behavior of these three roles:

  • Facilitator
  • Moderator
  • Teacher

And to attempt to describe these roles.

Let me say up-front that I totally agree with a comment on Leigh’s blog that suggests the word ‘facilitator’ is being used loosely by many people and institutions. This makes it difficult to have this sort of conversation without getting into semantics. The meanings will be different depending upon the context and also from different people’s own experiences.

Rather than try and come up with a definitive answer, what I’ve done is captured some words and thoughts about each role that sprung to mind when I reflected on them. The following is my summary:

Facilitator–guide; interested in process not content; independent/neutral; creates space for conversations.

Moderator–to me, this implies the role of referee, adjudicator or arbiter; someone who has control of the conversation; directing flow of conversation.

Teacher–this is a generalisation, and I recongnise that there is a shift away from this (I’ll address this later on), but my perception of the teacher role is based on the traditional ‘schooled’ model: authority; structure; prescribed content; transmission-based; didactic; formal; and based upon expertise.

I want to pick up on the traditional notion of teacher as the expert imparting wisdom and knowledge. This is informed, and perhaps tainted by my own experiences – particularly in the Knowledge Management domain.

Because of the sheer volume of information and exponential growth of knowledge in the twentieth century–if you’re skeptical, I recommend you check out the Did You Know?/Shift Happens presentation–it is almost impossible to master a specific domain. In other words it is increasingly difficult to be an ‘expert’.

Further specialisation and reductionism is one response to this. However, I believe that this will ultimately lead to–and require–new ways of learning, and a change in the traditional teaching role towards a more facilitative style of learning. We need to “move from ‘Sage on the Stage’ to ‘Guide on the Side’”(Kempe 2001: cited in Australian Flexible Learning Framework guide).

If I understand correctly, this is what social constructivists argue.

So what does a facilitated learning environment look like? Here’s some quick thoughts (repeating the process I used above): networked; informal; self-directed and motivated; social; meaning-making; peer-learning; experiential.

I know I haven’t answered the questions directly, but I’ve enjoyed pondering and reflecting on the different roles and empathize with Leigh’s dilemma.