Teachers as a facilitator

Mukunda Kumar Giri
SOS Hermann Gmeiner School Surkhet

According to Piagetian theory, humans cannot be ‘given’ information which they immediately understand and use; they must ‘construct’ their own knowledge through experience. To this end, they need to have interactions with other people and social factors. In the Vedic teaching method, teachers deliver lectures on a topic standing at the front where students are considered as passive listeners. But as the time passed, people developed different concepts regarding teaching learning theories. Now it is believed, “there is no lesson [which] can be done without an interaction in the classroom.” An old Chinese proverb resonates the importance of interaction: if you listen you forget; if you see, you remember; and if you do, you learn. Hence the modern academic world has introduced constructivism – inquiry based learning – which believes in the learner-centeredness in education. With the assumption, students or learners have become a prime focus of all the teaching learning activities in the classroom.

Now learners play the role of active participant in the teaching learning process and teachers  conduct classes based on experiment and practice using simulation, role-play, dramatization, strip story, group work, pair work, elicitation and project work, instead of simply giving speeches (Subedi, 2005). Therefore, teachers are more popularly known as facilitators, managers, and inspirers rather than a mere classroom teacher.

Teaching and learning in the old paradigm was considered as a task in which instructors were assumes as an expert and they were supposed to transfer knowledge to students. But at present, it is considered differently; teaching/learning is a complex job (Cooper, 1994). Now a teacher is not a source of knowledge, but a facilitator. These days, an instructor is also considered as an inspirer who is supposed to inspire learners by creating a favorable environment. Now as it is believed that knowledge is constructed by learners from experience, the instructor needs to “be a guide on the side, rather than a sage on the stage.” If teaching is a professional job, facilitating is the role of the teacher.

According to constructivists, who believe in the Vygotsky’s Social Development Theory, learners play an active role in learning. It indicates that now the focus of teaching has been shifted from a teacher-centered environment of “transmitting” to a more collaborative student-centered learning environment where discovery and inquiry are key strategies for learning. Teachers’ role is to help students to construct meaning rather than provide the meaning they know or familiar with. As there are students having mixed ability in a single classroom, interaction is essential, especially in EFL classroom, where one can help others learn. For this purpose, cooperative learning, constructivism, collaborative learning and learning community are some essential theories proved to be applicable.

In cooperative learning (CL) students work together in small groups to achieve a common goal of learning. It has become increasingly popular as a feature of Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) due to its focus on cooperative tasks, critical thinking ability, and providing opportunity to practice both the productive and receptive skills in a natural context. The studies have shown that the benefits of CL extends beyond increased language learning to increased self-esteem and tolerance of diverse points of view (Johnson and Johnson 1989; Kagan 1995; McCafferty, Jacobs, and Iddings 2006; Slavin 1995). Although CL has numerous variations, Johnson and Johnson (1999) provide five features fpr successful CL activity: (1) Students learn that their success depends upon working together interdependently; (2) students are individually accountable while achieving group goals; (3) students support and assist one another’s success through face-to-face interaction; (4) students develop social skills by cooperative and working together effectively; and (5) students as a group have the opportunity to reflect on the effectiveness of working together.

Moreover, in CL, cooperative groups work face-to-face and learn to work as a team; they are individually accountable for their work, and the work of the group as a whole is also assessed. Mickel (1993) says that “Each group operates as a team and the teammates are responsible for their own learning as well as that of their teammates…. Everyone has a task and is actively involved…. students must feel that they need each other in order to carry out the group’s task” (p. 659). On the other hand, CL is also a method of teaching and learning in which students learn together by exploring a significant questions or creating a meaningful project. These two theories are widely implied in EFL classroom as teaching English is more concerned with t application and use rather than knowledge of content unlike other subjects. It clearly indicates that the more students interact, the better they learn the English language through a dynamic process of discovery, inquiry, investigation, discussion, and reflection. On the contrary, the more teachers talk, the less will the students be given the opportunity of expressing themselves.  Hence, teachers should, ideally, be stimulator who gets their students to talk. They need to  provide learners with opportunities for a naturalistic second language acquisition through the use of interactive pair and group activities. The  goal  of teaching English, in this sense, is to enable focused attention to particular lexical items, language structures, and communicative function through use of interactive tasks which enhance learner motivation and reduce stress and create a positive classroom climate. (Richards and Rodgers 1986:193)

In this regards, both theories have great implications as these take interactions as the best technique for language learning. According to these theories, interaction is the authentic communication because “the language used in the classroom when giving instructions is very similar to real life, basic everyday English”(Willis, 1981, p. 30). It gives students the opportunity to “notice the gap” between their comprehension of input and their ability to produce comprehensible output. This helps students be familiarize with using English and helps them feel comfortable interacting in English. It also motivates them to learn English to communicate more effectively and builds students’ confidence in using English in everyday communication. Cooperative efforts result in participants striving for mutual benefit so that all group members learn from each other’s efforts, recognize that all group members share a common fate, know that one’s performance is mutually caused by oneself and one’s team members, and jointly celebrate when a group members are recognized for their achievement. This theory follows some Classroom Interaction Techniques, for example KWL, JIGSAW, TPS, TPR, PD/Debate and Four Corners. KWL provides a defined structure for recalling and stating; what the students know regarding a concept or a topic; what the student wants to know, and finally lists what has been learned and what is yet to be learned. In JIGSAW, everyone becomes an “expert” about a topic or sub-topic, and shares his or her learning within a group setting so that eventually all members learn the content. TPS helps students develop their own ideas as well as build on ideas that originated from co-learners. After reflecting on a topic, students form pairs and discuss, review, and revise their ideas, and eventually share them with the class. In TPR, teachers interact with students by delivering commands, and students demonstrate comprehension through physical response. Four Corners is also a cooperative learning strategy, designed to optimize the learning of the assigned task, and sharing that learning with other students. The teacher needs to assign small groups of students to different corners of the classroom. They discuss various solutions, perspectives and points of view concerning a pre-selected issue, and decide on a presentation format. Finally, small groups present to the class.

In a constructivist classroom, Students’ autonomy and initiative are accepted and encouraged. By respecting students’ ideas and encouraging independent thinking, teachers help students attain their own intellectual identity. The teacher asks open-ended questions and allows wait time for responses. This encourages higher-level thinking. The constructivist teacher challenges students to reach beyond the simple factual response. He encourages students to connect and summarize concepts by analyzing, predicting, justifying, and defending their ideas. For this, students are engaged in dialogue with the teacher and with each other. Social discourse helps students change or reinforce their ideas. Moreover, students are engaged in sharing experiences that challenge hypotheses and encourage discussions. The constructivist teacher provides ample opportunities for students to test their hypotheses, especially through group discussions by using raw data, primary sources, manipulatives, physical, and interactive materials. The constructivist approach involves students in real-world possibilities, and then helps them generate the abstractions that bind phenomena together. (Alexandria,  1993)

In such a class, do you think a teacher simply imparts knowledge? No, certainly not. He rather provides authentic language situations and materials; he creates a non-threatening environment; he makes sure each student has the opportunity to interact during class; he “pushes” students into producing output that is concise, coherent and appropriate; and he provides students with feedback on their output. On the other hand, students also participate and cooperate with others in classroom activities; interact in each class. They risk making mistakes; try out experiment, and create with the language. They learn to use language learning strategies that enable them to continue learning English outside of the classroom. They ask for help and correction and they also provide feedback to teacher about progress.

Therefore, it is true that if teaching is meant for imparting knowledge or skill to learners through instruction or to provide  content of  a subject, learning or to learn is meant for acquiring knowledge. In this sense, teachers and facilitators are different concepts. Teachers  impart knowledge or skill through instruction while facilitators create an environment where students acquire knowledge by doing activities themselves.

References:

Haycraft, John (1997). Some Basic Principles in An Introduction to English Language Teaching. (Revised Impression): Longman

Johnson, D. W., and R. T. Johnson. 1989. Cooperation and competition: Theory and research. Edina, MN: Interaction Book Co.
Kagan, S. (1995).We can talk: Cooperative learning in the elementary ESL Classroom. Washington, DC: ERIC Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics. ERIC Digest ED 382035.
McCafferty, S.G., G. M. Jacobs, and A. C. D. Iddings, eds. (2006). Cooperative learning and second language teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Richards, J. Rodgers, T.S. (1986). Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching: Cambridge University Press.
Salivin, R. E. (1995). Cooperative learning: Theory, research, and practice. 2nd ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Subedi Hira Lal (2005). English Language Teaching Method: Pradhan Book House

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One Response to Teachers as a facilitator

  1. […] Teachers as a facilitator « Nelta Choutari TPS helps students develop their own ideas as well as build on ideas that originated from co-learners. After reflecting on a topic, students form pairs and discuss, review, and revise their ideas, and eventually share them with the . […]

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