31 August 2008

Weeks 4 & 5

Facilitating, moderating or teaching


In the last couple of weeks I have been reflecting on my teaching, learning and facilitating journey in all areas of my life so will bring to this posting a number of concepts that I have been drawn to over the years and how they have help frame my current thoughts.

I have spent some time trawling through a number of FOC 906.703 blogs to gain an understanding of the community of which I am a member. What has struck me is the diversity of participants. It would be interesting to analyse the demographics? An example - it appears the majority of participants are women?

I am no longer worrying about currently being a lurker ... postings are being read and considered. I am reflecting and trying to let go of starting with the end in mind, realising that it's OK to not know where my learning will lead, relax and enjoy the journey.

My journey, my lessons so far

After leaving school and before I started teaching I served 4 years in the NZ Army – I loved the discipline at a relatively young age and (mostly) adapted to the structure and rigid nature of such an institution. I learned some valuable lessons that still guide me today, but quickly realised I didn’t want to remain a “student” conforming. I learned the basics of survival, was hungry to learn, wanted to challenge the boundaries and become an independent thinker.

I then trained as a secondary school teacher (teaching students aged 13-17 years) and remember learning about Maslow’s and Karl Marx’s theories. We didn't learn about thinking styles, learning styles, multiple intelligences, 6 Thinking Hats, cycles of learning. The 16 Habits of the Mind didn't exist.

Freshly graduated and teaching in a tertiary institution (students ranged in ages from 16-70+), technology was a banda machine and carbon paper (coloured paper was an expensive luxury). We put up with chalk dust and fingernails being scratched along the blackboard (no, not a Blackboard LMS)! There was time to play and doodle (and we’d never heard of Moodle)! Progress in those days was the thrill of a whiteboard and a set of coloured marker pens (of more than two colours)! Next were OHP and OHTs! Typewriters were for secretaries. Filing cabinets in classrooms were kept locked by the ‘teacher in charge of that room’. You didn't dare ask to share resources. I was young, na├»ve, had energy, an enquiring mind and a passion for life and believing I could make a difference. I wanted to teach and be good at it. There was no independent study and students were not allowed to collaborate (that would be seen as cheating)!
“The mediocre teacher tells … the good teacher explains … the superior teacher demonstrates … the great teacher inspires.” William Arthur Ward

Over time, the generations I taught moved from being close to my age, to becoming a ‘generation gap’ I felt I no longer related to them (or, should I say, they didn't relate to me). I completed a Diploma in Holistic Education, which provided me with skills to promote a new way of learning for my students. I learned the value of diversity by embracing the knowledge of my students’ learning styles alongside my teaching style and promoting more discussion – still face-to-face in the classroom. As I reflect, I realise I was moving into a more facilitative role in the classroom …
“It seems that we learn the lessons when we least expect the, but always when we need them the most, and, the true gift in these lessons always lies in the learning process itself.” Cathy Lee Crosby
Now, that was fine, or so I thought – as you sometimes do – for a moment.

About six years ago New Zealand experienced an influx of international students (mainly Japanese) who knew how to rote learn extremely well but found great difficulty in developing critical thinking skills in an applied sense (as they studied towards a Diploma in Business). These students did not want to discuss or question, so I struggled to find ways to moderate. Another journey began for me in finding ways to promote a facilitation within and outside of the classroom.

Around the same time along came Blackboard (the LMS) to our institution. I meddled in the technology, but made myself ‘too busy’ facilitating in the classroom to become an ‘early adopter’. However, curiosity got the better of me (as it does) and I accepted a secondment for a year as the institution’s Blackboard Trainer and Developer – and I didn’t even have a Blackboard site! I had no idea what LMS, CMS, VLE, HTML code, hyperlinks and many other unique identifiers in this environment.
"When you come to the edge of all the light you know, and are about to step off into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing one of two things will happen: there will be something solid to stand on, or you will be taught how to fly." Patrick Overton
I’m not sure I flew, but I had something solid to stand on … my patient computer-savvy colleagues, my years of experience as a learner, a teacher and moderator helped me become a skilled facilitator, enabling student-centred critical thinking in a participative, collaborative environment to take place. My Blackboard site Discussion Forum for the F2F students became the place to discuss current and often contentious legal issues, I moderated, I facilitated, I also became a more reflective learner as they taught me. The Whiteboard (in Bb) became theirs - they drew legal scenarios to help them remember legal cases.

At the same time my son was also entering the teenage world. Not only was I grappling with how to involve students with 'push-pull' technology, I was dealing with the norms of teenage development (his on the way up, mine on the way down)! I thought I was learning to facilitate - in hindsight I now know it was the other way round - teacher (mother)-centred to learner (teenager)-centred! Many times since I have been the student again learning to moderate, negotiate and facilitate.

I relate to and agree with Steve Mackenzie’s “Chinese wisdom” posting on 20 August 2008 in Leigh’s blog "To facilitate or to teach".

I can also relate to the blog posting: Random walk in learning: Salmon's 5-stage model and digital natives. The digital native and the digital migrant. In my institution teaching staff comprise mostly of "digital migrants".


I suggest the skills of a teacher, moderator and facilitator need not be mutually exclusive but overlap, a varying degrees, depending on the level, purpose of the lesson, the power of the questions you pose, the information you need ...

To become better at it? Time, belief, perseverance and attitude. Whether as a teacher, moderator or facilitator, the lesson/s, no matter the mode of delivery (a face-to-face classroom or an online environment) needs support and guidance by teaching, moderating and facilitating. With fine tuning, learning new stuff as well as processing all new knowledge we have and will be experiencing during this course, re-capping the things that were taught and revealing our learning journey from it. (A Maori saying is ‘to walk into the future backwards').

Acquisition of complex knowledge and skills requires extended learner effort and guided practice. Without the learner’s motivation to learn the willingness to exert this effort. Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People can easily apply to our community of practice in this paper.

I particularly enjoyed reading Shane Robert's post Teaching and Teching: Teaching or Facilitating and his supporting statements that reinforce the need to initially construct the learning environment. "Through this process, involving constructivist, connectivist and transformative approaches to learning, I provide the means for students to independently and collaboratively learn from others and to collaborate to build knowledge." I believe he has articulated the well-researched theory alongside the reality of learning for teachers, moderators and facilitators. The wisdom in each of these roles is knowing when to let go .....
"The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind." - Kahlil Gibran
And the wisdom of Dr Seuss ---
Oh, the Places You'll Go!

"... And when you're in a Slump,
you're not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself
is not easily done.

You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they're darked.
A place you could sprain both you elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?

And IF you go in, should you turn left or right ...
or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it's not, I'm afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.."

"... And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.) ..."


Elaine Dittert said...

Hi Kay
I love your quotes! (William Arthus Ward's was very appropriate!)
Its great how you are relating the questions posed to your personal circumstances. It makes for very interesting reading.

Leigh Blackall said...

Hi Kay, I nice personal post. I was glad to see the references and links in there. A glimps of where you are coming from now, mixed with your past.

So you are happy that the roles over lap. I wonder if you might challenge my comment over on Russell's blog?

Joy said...

Hi Kay,
I totally agree what you said, to pick up a role from teacher, facilitator and moderator really varies from different cases.
A very interesting example of shifting the role of teacher (mother centred) to facilitator (teenager centred). I find it's not hard to shift between these two roles at my work. But at home, I am really strugling to step back as a "facilitator" towards my teenage daughter. haha!


Sarah Stewart said...

Have to say that I identify with the comparisons to being a mother. My kids want me to 'teach' - they want the answer there and then. But I do my 'facilitating' and say to them 'what do you think', or I play devil's advocate and give them the other side of the story, and then tell them to make up their own minds. When I tell/teach them what to do, they go off and do their own thing any way, so I think 'facilitation' is the much more satisfying approach for me.

So how do I apply that to an online course that I run?