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Professional Development for Innovative Schools

Posts tagged facilitation

Facilitation: It’s Not Data Gathering; It’s Teaching

What does the term “teacher as facilitator” really mean? Facilitating learning is what adults do naturally with young children. The parent observes the child and starts asking questions and making connections. When a child grabs a blue block, the parent says, “blue” perhaps followed by “what else is blue?” pointing to multiple items that are blue. Then the parent moves on to another color. Meanwhile the child is grappling with what makes those blue items different from these red items, and learning follows. If the sky grows dark with clouds, the parent may ask what that means and then follow with the idea that it means rain may be coming. The next time dark clouds appear, the parent prompts the child with a question as to what that means. Teachers need to mirror this process while facilitating learning at all levels.

While teachers will gather formative assessment data during facilitation and ensure that students are on task, the most important role in the facilitation process is helping students to learn. In the Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom, much of the facilitation process involves teaching! When you enter the room, it should be difficult to find the teacher, who is invariably sitting among the students teaching through facilitation.

The “learning hourglass” (introduced in It’s Not What You Teach But How) depicts three stages of learning that should be addressed during facilitation.

Creating a “Felt Need” to learn: The first step is to ensure the student is motivated to learn the content. We learn best when we feel a need for a skill or concept. When you sit next to a student to facilitate learning, determine if s/he is ready to learn the next skill or concept. If so, you might ask a “what if?” question to trigger awareness on the part of students. For example, if a student is adding up pennies, you might ask what would happen if you took ten pennies and gave him a dime? He wants to make sure he’s not being cheated, so he has a “felt need” to figure out if it will be the same or not. If a student has determined that photosynthesis is the process through which plants produce energy, you could ask, “So how do you think the process is affected when you have a pine needle versus an oak leaf?” The key to teaching is to trigger a felt need so that the student’s brain is more likely to engage in learning.

Acquisition: The brain learns by making connections to existing knowledge. If I know how to add, then successive addition of the same number of items leads me to the concept of multiplication. In order to construct meaning, students need to “grapple” with content, exploring in terms of what they already know, identifying gaps in what they know, and figuring out what they don’t know. For example, if you understand the economic concepts of supply and demand, you might engage in a simulation where you realize that some product sales remain steady in spite of price changes (such as food and gas) while for other products, a price increase causes a drop in demand, because people view these products as a luxury. Thus you begin to understand the concept of elasticity. It’s important to lead students to grapple with content by asking them questions, for example: “Even though the price of milk went up by fifty cents a gallon, the store is selling just as much. Why do you think that is?” If a student is struggling with a skill or concept, you might suggest other learning resources such as a video, a learning center, or attending a small-group lesson. IDE Corp.’s Five Levels of Facilitation Questions can offer suggestions for asking questions that move toward higher academic rigor. The key is to help lead the student to learning.

Retention: Once the student “gets” a skill or concept, it’s important to ensure s/he engages in practice and application in order to increase retention. Ask questions that prompt applying content to a different situation. Look for opportunities to refer back to previously learned content. For example, as students learn about literary devices and find out that metaphors and similes are examples, ask to what other category they belong, to reinforce the concept of figurative language. The key is to help ensure that the learning is retained.

Print out a copy of this Guide to Facilitating Lasting Learning to use as a reminder during facilitation. The Facilitation Roadmap is also a helpful tool for identifying how to help a student learn.

So, sit down with a student, facilitate learning, and change the world!


Three Levels of #LATIC Implementation

I have great respect and appreciation for teachers who work hard to shift their paradigms and practices to design Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classrooms. The multi-year process requires that they move through three levels of innovation implementation:

Level I) The Framework

As a foundation, the Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom is a combination of Authentic Learning Units (ALUs) and a collection of structures. The first step in design is to create a compelling problem-based task for the unit, followed by a rubric to provide clearly-articulated expectations. Creating activity lists of required, choice, and optional activities builds student responsibility for learning, as do structures, such as: the Help Board, Peer Expert Board, and Resource Area. All of this becomes the first level of design in shifting to a Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom.

However, students may not show the desired achievement gains without . . .

Level II) Purposeful Learning Activities

As students encounter an unknown skill or concept on the rubric, they should be able to look at the activity list and find a variety of ways to learn, such as through: videos, how-to sheets, learning centers, and more. The challenge is that conventionally, a teacher presents the content to the whole class and then assigns activities to practice what they’ve learned. In Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classrooms, teachers minimize the amount of whole-class instruction; however, they must still provide direct instruction through a variety of venues, Therefore, once teachers have the foundation, they turn to creating and improving upon their library of learning activities. This improves student achievement, however, to raise the level of academic rigor so that students build deep understanding of content and can apply it to new situations, you need . . .

Level III) Masterful Teacher Facilitation

The role of teachers in Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classrooms shifts to engaging with students “in-the-moment” as they pursue learning goals. Teachers help students learn to self-assess, set goals, manage time, and select appropriate learning resources. They work from the Help Board to assist those in need of help. Most importantly, they probe students’ thinking through “what if?” questions and content-rich conversations. They observe and listen to students, synthesize the data, determine the natural next step for a student, and then provide guidance. It’s difficult to locate teachers because they’re sitting down with students.


It’s important to move through to include all three levels of implementation. Take the worthy journey to design classrooms that are the embodiment of Students Taking Charge, and change the world!

Leveraging Myers-Briggs Personality Types While Facilitating Learning

As you move to a more student-centered learning environment, the role of teacher as facilitator becomes critically important. If you honor the reality that not all students are ready to learn the same content at the same time in the same way, you have to vacate the front of the room and get elbow-deep in the learning experience with your students. While you can find many perspectives and tools for facilitation on the IDEportal and in my books Students Taking Charge (ch. 8) and It’s Not What You Teach But How (ch. 7), here’s a more advanced perspective on facilitation: leveraging your and your students’ Myers-Briggs types in the process.

Note: Type Talk is a great book for understanding the individual type letters and the sixteen personality types. You can use this to build your skills in typing the people around you. While it is best to have a trained test administrator administer the test, here is a free online survey that seems to provide fairly accurate results for adults. For children, this free online tool can help you assess the child’s type. Children seem to develop their energy (E/I) and structural (J/P) preferences first, then their information (N/S) preference, and lastly, their decision-making (F/T) preference.



Let’s consider the energy lens of the E and the I, as the differences can significantly affect facilitation of learning.

The E gains energy from being involved with others and objects in the external world; the I gains energy from being involved in the inner world of thoughts and mental images. E’s, therefore, tend to “think with their mouths,” often speaking immediately after a question or point is presented. I’s like to think through their response before they speak. This can lead I’s to think that E’s are loudmouths that monopolize conversations, while the wait time that is characteristic of the I personality can make the E’s feel like the I is being critical, not liking what the E just said. Now translate that interaction to the classroom.

An E teacher with an I student: During facilitation, the I’s wait time might make the E teacher think the student is incapable or does not understand the work. If the E teacher jumps in with an explanation or answer, the I student might become frustrated, feeling that s/he didn’t get the chance to present the solution or answer. If you’re an E teacher facilitating an I student, take a few seconds to pause before responding, allowing the I student to take a few seconds to pause before responding.

An I teacher with an E student: During facilitation, the I teacher might feel that the E student is jumping to conclusions or lacks thoughtfulness. When the E student asks a question or offers an answer, the I teacher’s wait time might make the E student feel that the teacher didn’t like the question or answer, causing the student to second guess or begin offering a different question or answer. If you’re an I teacher facilitating an E student, use cue words to allow yourself the processing time you like, such as, “let me think on that,” or simply summarizing back the question or answer.

As you learn more about Myers-Briggs personality types:

  1. Consider how the letter holder might perceive the opposite letter.
  2. Be mindful of your letters and those of your students.
  3. Take deliberate steps to minimize the differences in your facilitation.