Five Guidelines for an Effective Facilitator in a Student-Centered Learning Environment

This post starts the introduction I have created to student-centered education. Every week I will release a post specifically regarding some aspect of creating a student-centered learning environment. This week, it’s all about the teacher’s role as a facilitator.

There are two categories an educator needs to fall within in order to make student-centered learning possible: facilitator and mentor.

As a facilitator, we need to be sure we:

  • Provide our students with a foundation for basic concepts and skills in the topics and areas in which we are teaching. We cannot expect students to come to us knowing anything about anything. Essentially, we need to gauge where each student is at with their background knowledge prior to implementing any foundational knowledge. There is no sense in setting students without background understanding up for failure, and there is no logic in beating the proverbial “dead horse” with information they are already familiar with.
  • Explain expectations. If expectations are not explicit, we are setting our students up for failure. Personally, I always provide students with a rubric of my expectations. I allow groups, or individuals (depending on the assignment), to be as creative as they want to be, as long as they hit the key points I’m looking for based on why I know they should learn.
  • Ask open-ended questions to facilitate higher-order thinking. This is pretty self-explanatory. Simple questions with one-worded answers benefit no one. This is not the world of absolute compliance and rote memorization. We need students to be able to think productively, effectively, and for themselves.
  • Model and demonstrate expectations. This is part of providing foundational information of concepts and ideas. If students do not know how to write a thesis statement, or provide commentary to a claim, then we need to show them how. After showing students how to do something, we need to let them practice and slowly back away and allow them to move forward independently.
  • Introduce discussions and Socratic Seminars while keeping the activity productive and within the area of focus. This can be tricky. Sometimes new ideas pop-up out of discussions and Soc. Sems. The key is to make sure the concentration is maintained. All questions and responses should be productive and serve a purpose.

Please note that this is not an all-inclusive list of how to be a facilitator in a student-centered learning environment. There are plenty of other pieces we need to consider while instructing within the realms of the facilitator role, but these have proven to be the most important in my own experience.

Next week, we take a look at what we need to be in order to be the most effective mentor/coach/guide in a student-centered learning environment!

Stay tuned.

-Ms. Lowe

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