Are You Teaching or Facilitating a Class?
When you consider your work as an instructor, whether you are working within a traditional classroom or an online learning platform, would you describe your work as teaching students or do you consider that you are facilitating a process? A current trend in adult education is to view the educator as a facilitator rather than a teacher. This aligns with the concept of self-directed learning and andragogy, which is based upon the nature of adults and how they are involved in the process of learning. Many universities, especially online schools, emphasize that instructors are facilitating rather than teaching or telling students what they need to know. While adults should be encouraged to participate in the class and be held accountable for their involvement, the idea of what it means to teach a student should still not be overlooked or discounted.
For those schools that ask instructors to consider their work as that of a facilitator, the emphasis is on guiding students as they interact with the classroom environment. It is believed that by showing students the way, which means that they are being provided with the tools and resources necessary to acquire knowledge and skills; they will become involved and not need direct teaching from their instructor. Facilitators are still expected to be actively involved in the class, lead meaningful interactions through class discussions, and provide feedback that is focused on students’ developmental needs. Here are questions to consider: If a facilitator is this actively engaged in the class does it not involve any form of teaching? Should the word teacher be avoided because it has a strong connotation with primary school teaching?
Whether instructors are called teachers, facilitators, or any other related word, teaching will always be part of the process of learning. Students are taught through the example that their instructor sets, which would include their active participation and classroom performance that serves as a model for students to follow. Teaching can also occur in subtle ways. An instructor can teach students to be self-motivated by encouraging their continued progress and growth. Students can also be taught responsibility for their involvement in the class by being held accountable for meeting assignment criteria and instructor expectations, along with maintaining compliance with all required school policies. Students need guidance from instructors throughout their entire academic journey as the process of learning is continuous. They may not need instructors to teach what to do; however, they can be taught how to learn and how to continually improve. Regardless of your title, teaching will always be a component of the work that you do.