Man, by nature, desires knowledge. —Aristotle
At NHHSA, we view learning as a multi-dimensional process of growth and development that is not isolated to a single context but that occurs, rather, along the course of a broader continuity of relationships. These relationships extend beyond a classroom and a school. They unequivocally include a peer group, a family structure, the broader community and the cultural society of which the student is a part.
From Teacher to Facilitator
facilitator: someone who makes progress easier
In its original form the word teach simply meant to show, and teacher meant one who shows another how to perform a given task or function. By virtue of definition and etymology, both of these words continue to adhere to this original meaning. But despite the fact that these imply an interactive relationship between student and teacher, today’s socio-educational environment conceptually re-defines this relationship if only by virtue of expectation.
What once posited the classroom as a part of the child’s learning now sees it, to a greater or lesser extent, as the institution and sole provider of life’s skills. This effectively, if erroneously, positions the teacher (and the institution of which she is a part) as an undisputed authority or possessor of the knowledge to be learned. The student, seen as having little to contribute, then becomes a passive (or sometimes actively unwilling) receiver of it.
Consequently, a student’s responsibility towards his/her learning is vaguely understood. Compulsory attendance laws force parents to, in turn, force students to show up for class. Whereas showing up for class is a good thing, that we require laws to enforce this is indicative of the severity of the breakdown in the teacher/student relationship. The student’s responsibility is reduced to one of begrudging attendance.
Conceptually reducing the vast field of learning to a single classroom and/or school is not only overwhelming to the teacher, it cripples the student. A teacher cannot simply pass pre-digested, organized materials to students and expect them to have an appreciation of their content. In fact, when teaching is approached in this manner, students become disconnected from the material being taught. This should come as no surprise. When a course of study is presented as fact and indisputable, a student has nothing to contribute.
The principles which underlie the pre-digested teaching method, per force, ignore the fact that the process of learning is the process of living – that is, it is inherent to life – and presume the student to be absent of any recognizable contribution to the material being learned. Functionally, if it wasn’t such a contradiction in fact, you could say that the student is viewed as being in a state of stasis.
70/20/10 Formula describes how learning functionality occurs
In actuality, a learner is actively involved in the learning process. Teachers must recognize that the student – the learner – is dynamically and continually constructing ideas and reshaping the view of the world in which he/she lives. Students interact with materials, accept or reject processes, form certain connections and discard others, and identify new patterns or re-shape existing ones. Their minds, just as their lives, are in continual development. Therefore, learning flourishes when it is linked to experience or when it contributes to the re-shaping of the education that is already underfoot in their lives. A teacher contributes to this learning when she imparts not simply facts and details, but when she facilitates opportunities as well.
Therefore, a teacher becomes a facilitator when she recognizes her role in the context within which learning occurs. A progressive learning environment acknowledges the emotional, physical, social and mental attitudes of both the teacher and the student.1 Rather than perpetuating the forced-fed model popular within many existing public institutions, a facilitator:
- Encourages open-ended discovery and problem-solving skills. When a student asks a question, the facilitator shows the student how to find the answer.
- Makes full use of the 70/20/10 formula2 that describes how learning occurs –
- 70% from real life and on-the-job experiences, tasks and problem solving. (The most important aspect of learning and development.)
- 20% from feedback and from observing and working with role models.
- 10% from formal training.
- Promotes a “learners as teachers” environment which involves two critical aspects –
- Allows learners to actively share their experiences, and
- Leverages the knowledge and experience of the learners to help them teach each other. (The experience of teaching provides an immense boon to learning. See the 70/20/10 formula above.)
Current teaching approaches at the elementary and secondary level of education are, at best, fraught with educator and student stress and, at worst, utterly failing. For years, we have sought to change the learning paradigm to one that incorporates the student as a functional participant in an educational process that, after all, significantly affects his life at its most critical and formative stage. Ultimately, we’ve learned that we cannot do this while remaining loyal to the very mindset that disintegrates the student’s learning and development.
Hence, a teacher’s role is one of facilitator. Rather than tell a student what he should know, she must stimulate thinking, encourage exploration, and facilitate the integration between what she is charged to teach and what he is capable of learning through observation and experience.
- Jennifer Tylee, BA (Macquarie), MLitt (UNE), PhD (Newcastle), Teacher as Facilitator: One of the Face-to-Face Teacher’s Roles (1999)
- Morgan McCall, Robert W. Eichinger, Michael M. Lombardo, Center for Creative Leadership, The Career Architect Development Planner, 3rd Edition, Eichinger & Lombardo