The Benefits of Facilitation for an Active Learning Community

Some of the best facilitators are not subject matter experts. They don’t have all the answers but they know how to inspire others to be curious, to think and reflect on their experiences, and seek answers for themselves.
Sound familiar?
Whether you’re a teacher or a facilitator – or both – there are many benefits to having a facilitative approach.

So what is facilitation?

In facilitation, the role of a central authority is reduced in favour of giving students more power to direct their own learning.
Students are given the material and tools they need to learn and support is given to them to engage with ideas, understand concepts and apply that knowledge to their own lives.
It marks a shift from simple content delivery to student-directed learning (see Image below) and encourages dialogue, exploration, and curiosity.

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire

– William Butler Yeats

The benefits of facilitation

With less time spent on delivering content, teachers and facilitators can spend more time on building a learning community and setting up the right environment for students to exchange ideas and experiences.
After all, learning is social by nature. We can learn vicariously through others.
Facilitation’s focus on active learning also means students are more likely to engage in deeper learning. They can see the relevance of what they’re learning and can apply that knowledge beyond and across many different contexts.
The best thing about facilitation—fostering a capacity for life-long learning! The skills students gain from managing their own study will help set them up for continuous learning.

“The greatest sign of success for a teacher… is to be able to say, “The children are now working as if I did not exist”

— Maria Montessori

What makes a good facilitator?

A good facilitator knows how to lead without being the leader.
They can show students where to look without telling them what to see.
They give students space to explore their interests and provide opportunities for them to make meaningful connections between the material and their own worlds.
They understand that not everyone learns the same way and can provide tailored support so that everyone can participate and achieve their goals.
Ultimately, they can bring out the best in their students and empower them to make informed choices about their learning.
They let learning happen.

“Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners”

— John Holt.

Do you use a facilitative approach in your teaching practice? Tell us about your experience. 

This is Part 1 in our series on Facilitation. Read Part 2: 5 Ways Facilitation can enhance the online learning experience.