Teaching the Teachers

I went to a workshop once where the person leading the workshop wanted us to think about presentation versus facilitation.

The way she put it was that a presentation assumes that most of the people in the room do not know as much as you do on your topic; therefore you are presenting them with mainly new information.

With facilitation, however, you assume that the people in the room know as much, or more, as you do about the topic. Your role becomes not to inform, but to facilitate a discussion that will find new ideas or new uses for the knowledge already in the room.

I witnessed this in action just this morning. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a facilitator for my workplace.  It’s my job to help parents learn more about their role as parents-as-first-teachers.  This morning I ran a music workshop.

It was a tough room. It was filled with teachers. Teachers. Mostly Primary School teachers. I’m not a capital “t” Teacher. No Teacher training whatsoever.  And in this setting, the Teachers usually think they know more than I do.

It’s true, to a certain extent. They definitely know more about teaching than I do. And more about primary school kids than I do. I definitely know nothing about getting 20-30 eight year olds to sit down and do worksheets.

But I know more about what they need to know to put their knowledge to work in an early childhood session. Which, contrary to their popular belief, is different from primary school.

So what did I do?  I facilitated.  I didn’t do much talking.  I asked questions. “Why do we use music in this setting? What do the children learn from music? What is the adult’s role when encouraging children to learn about music?”

I gave them no answers. They supplied them all. They knew the answers. They had just not applied them to this particular setting.

And they even took away the most important piece of information that they knew innately but hadn’t yet voiced, and the piece of information that I could have merely presented to little effect.

A child, by living, observing, experiencing, and actively exploring this world, is constantly learning, without any help from an adult. Sometimes an adult needs to be nearby to provide language, safety and equipment, but, more often than not, an adult can put their hands in their pockets and merely observe.

After that had soaked in, we talked about what they really wanted to know. “If we observe a child, notice, and recognise their interests and learning, what kind of music activities can we suggest that will scaffold and extend their learning?”

Again, I supplied no answers. They knew it all. They just needed someone to facilitate the discussion, and remind them of what they already knew.

Do you have examples of information that are better presented or facilitated?


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About Broot

Thoughts about learning and life that are lost in a sea of blogs.

6 responses to “Teaching the Teachers”

  1. solodialogue says :

    This is a very interesting post. I think most of law school is like this. You learn the cases on your own – come to class and the professor asks questions about how the information you learned on your own can be applied in other situations (a little teaching of certain concepts certainly as well). So, insofar as my own education, this was interesting.

    Also, as the mother of a special needs child, I find your perspective interesting about how children are able to learn on their own – not because I disagree but rather because I do agree even with a high functioning autistic boy- I wonder how much learning is self taught versus learned by therapies or preschool.

    Very nice post. Thanks for sharing. (You made me think today!)

    • Broot says :

      I think that most children self-teach. Adults are there to guide and facilitate. If you watch, the children who become life-long learners, enthusiastic and happy to learn, are the ones who (despite any challenge) have adults who facilitate their learning in a way that works for the child. I think that’s especially true of autistic children – they’re usually quite happy to learn without help. But they need help to filter and comprehend what they’re finding – and that’s where the adults come in. 🙂 I’m glad I gave you something to think about… that was the aim of the post, after all! 🙂

  2. I Thought I Knew Mama says :

    Love this approach! When I was teaching up until my baby was born, I used this method all the time. We called it Socratic Dialogue – and the kids loved it!

    Thanks for visiting my blog during my SITS weekend!

  3. eof737 says :

    Brilliant. Facilitation works well in any arena but particularly when you are dealing with experts. As a facilitator, I’ve found that people are amenable to the exchange of ideas when they feel their insights and expertise are valued and included. Presentations work best in a classroom of learners who need basic information… 🙂

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