Scott: ‘To Facilitate or to Teach’?

In his iFacilitate blog post “Facilitating online: Why? How?” this morning, Scott says, “I see a debate: to facilitate or to teach.” He asks, “[It] doesn’t have to be so binary, does it?” His point is that both are important, and he makes a great case: “You can be a guide by the side, but you also have to provide leadership. You also have to direct conversation.”

Schoolyard in Kuwait (Azad-Hye)

He also summarizes what he’s gathered thus far about facilitating: “To effectively facilitate is to, in short, use schoolyard common sense.” His “schoolyard common sense” resonates, doesn’t it? As educators, we’re prone to wrapping our practices in pseudo-scientific jargon, but when we open it up to see what’s inside, we find stuff we’ve already learned in the schoolyard and playground. Scott lists some of these: “Be social.  Be kind.” Keep your word. “Lead by example.” Be passionate.

The one thing I learned on the playground is that the best “leaders” are, as Scott suggests, the best facilitators, but what’s interesting is that they’re often not the ones teachers peg as leaders in the classroom. The implication, at least for me, is that teachers tend to construct their classrooms in their own images, right down to the values that define effective leadership.

When we allow students to form their own groups, select their own leaders, determine their own goals and procedures — genuine project learning? — the “real” leaders often emerge, and these are the ones that seem to excel in facilitating. Students — we — instinctively know which of our peers will treat us kindly, keep their word, lead by example, and care.

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