Project learning can inspire the best of high-performance teamwork, or it can be devolve into unfocused chaos. How can we support each other to keep our eye on the prize? Share your project ideas, questions, and implementation experiences.

How do teachers become facilitators?

Malaika Costello-Dougherty Former senior editor at Edutopia.

I'm really interested in how project learning changes the traditional role of teachers. Now they must not only lecture, but also facilitate group work and deal with group dynamics. What secrets of success have you found?

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Principal of a Secondary School in Bristol, UK

Teachers as Facilitators

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This has perhaps been the hardest thing we have faced in our long journey towards creating PBL school. Teachers are used to being the arbiter of all knowledge, behind closed doors in their classroom, but obviously the technology revolution happening all around us has meant that the teacher no longer has the monopoly on information. In my opinion this is a good thing because it refocus our profession towards what makes us professionals - i.e. our understanding of pedagogy; how people learn.
Taking teachers out of their silos (subject areas) and putting them into a multi-discipled setting where their main role is facilitation is a scary notion to say the least for many teachers. Teachers need differentiation like students. Many thrived in a facilitation role in our school, but many more are struggling. This week we have introduced a script/crib sheet for teachers lacking confidence to follow. I will post this on my blog site in a few days (I have not kept this up to date recently, but if you read it in a few days you will be able to find out more about what we are doing). Hopefully this will help. Team teaching has also helped us; linking confident teachers with those less confident. In the UK we practice 'Assessment For Learning'. The core of this is around good questioning techniques. We have spent a lot of professional development time on this to some effect, but there's still a long way to go. The blog site is: www.armandod.typepad.com Best wishes

Former senior editor at Edutopia.

Thanks!

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Hi Armando,

Thanks for posting your thoughts. It's great to know there's project learning schools in England. I appreciate how you document what's difficult. I'm looking forward to other Edutopia community members suggestions on how they deal with this challenge.

My best,

Malaika

Consultant

I've been doing lots of

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I've been doing lots of classroom observations lately... setting up opportunities for teacher to observe students learning in other teachers' classrooms. A personal discovery... in AP classes where teachers did not know the solution to the problem being explored, it was easier for the teacher to be facilitator.... I think that is the value of real problems for PBL... then teachers don't have an answer it is easier to model key learning behaviors.

Project Learning Consultant for PBL Associates

Facilitating High Performance Teamwork

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Armando, I have not seen your crib sheet on your blog site. If you posted it, I am sure our group would like to have access to it, if you don't mind letting us know where it is.
I am glad that Steve has pointed out that when teachers do not know the answer to the problem, it is easier for them to model 'being a learner.'
One of the best math projects that I had my Trigonometry students do occured when a problem of the week was posted by the old Ask Dr. Math. I initially did not know the solution myself, but it seemed like an interesting, authentic, and do-able problem. The question was "If you travel over the surface of the earth in a direct line from 1 Main St. Honolulu to 1 Main St. San Francisco, how far will you travel?" My students found the 'pilot formula' (they have to figure out how much gas they need in their plane), and the 'spherical geometry distance formula' in about 10 minutes and had the answer.....but then they all looked at me with knowing eyes and said, "But we have to explain it, don't we?"
We ended up exploring this through models in Play-do, and with string and cardboard and spaghetti, and 3-D drawings, and even computer animation. By the time we were done, many of my students had proven the formulas that they had discovered, and they had put together Law of Sines, Law of Cosines, and gorgeous 3-D renderings to 'explain' their solutions.

My favorite two books on facilitating Teamwork are "Designing Groupwork" by Elizabeth Cohen, and "Radical Collaboration: Five Essential Skills to Overcome Defensiveness and Build Successful Relationships" by James W. Tamm and Ronald J. Luyet.

Let me also quickly post my 5 'rules for collaboration.' They may be out of context and need explaining, so feel free to ask me any questions you might have. A complete page of suggestions for coaching high performance collaboration is called "Rules for High Performance Collaboration" and can be found here.

Rules for High Performance Collaboration
1. Each person in the team is responsible for his or her own behavior and learning.

2. Each member of the team should be willing to help any other team member who asks for help.

3. You can only ask the teacher for help when all members of the team have the same question.

4. It is critical to work, think about, and engage in the work that you are asked to do. Any time that you think your team is done with the task you were asked to do, immediately find me wherever I am in the classroom and send a member of your team over to tell me that you think you are done with the task. I will come over and confirm that you have completed it.

5. You will often be asked to work quietly by yourself on a problem in preparation for working with your team. This is so that you can develop confidence in your abilities to tackle problems alone. Whenever possible, this will be followed by an opportunity to share your work with your teammates and to get help from them where you need it.

Project Foundry Guru

Structural changes

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The right structural pieces are needed in order to change the role of teachers to anything beyond one or a few good examples of facilitators within a school.

1. Different schedule- block or something else allowing time for a true advisory model so that teachers can have the conversations and followup needed to be more than just deliverers of content.

2. Commitment and Courage to Report Student Academic Success Differently- Course-based reports and transcripts are legacy tools that continue to bat us back into the industrial model. We need to have proficiency-based reports and reports that more concrete feedback to parents about their children.

3. Administrative philosophy that embraces the fact that students can learn everywhere, not just in front of an adult lecturer with an adult's predetermined sequencing.

4. Freedom to de-aggregate learning outcomes from courses- Too often the 'course' and the inherent bureaucracy in how courses come to being create superficial categories of information and separation of skills that minimize the value to facilitate a learner.

Without these kinds of structural changes in schools, you'll continue to see glimpses of great facilitation in traditional environments, but nothing that amounts to a systemic change.

Shane Krukowski
Project Foundry
http://www.projectfoundry.org

Principal of a Secondary School in Bristol, UK

Facilitator crib sheet

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Apologies for not attaching it sooner. It is there now. We have given this sheet to all staff who are now using it. They have found it useful and are using it regularly in our focus sessions. The boxes in grey have been expanded and put on the walls of each learning space. This is what is expected to happen in every session. I realize this may sound a bit didactic, but when you have so many teachers reliant on other teachers it is necessary to have some consistency in approach.

Let me know if you have difficulty accessing it and I'll e-mail it

Former senior editor at Edutopia.

Quote:Apologies for not

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Quote:

Apologies for not attaching it sooner. It is there now. We have given this sheet to all staff who are now using it. They have found it useful and are using it regularly in our focus sessions. The boxes in grey have been expanded and put on the walls of each learning space. This is what is expected to happen in every session. I realize this may sound a bit didactic, but when you have so many teachers reliant on other teachers it is necessary to have some consistency in approach.

Let me know if you have difficulty accessing it and I'll e-mail it

Thanks Armando! I visited your blog and read through this information and it is very helpful. I appreciate you sharing it. Please keep your thoughts coming.

My best,

Malaika

Former senior editor at Edutopia.

Quote:The right structural

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Quote:

The right structural pieces are needed in order to change the role of teachers to anything beyond one or a few good examples of facilitators within a school.

1. Different schedule- block or something else allowing time for a true advisory model so that teachers can have the conversations and followup needed to be more than just deliverers of content.

2. Commitment and Courage to Report Student Academic Success Differently- Course-based reports and transcripts are legacy tools that continue to bat us back into the industrial model. We need to have proficiency-based reports and reports that more concrete feedback to parents about their children.

3. Administrative philosophy that embraces the fact that students can learn everywhere, not just in front of an adult lecturer with an adult's predetermined sequencing.

4. Freedom to de-aggregate learning outcomes from courses- Too often the 'course' and the inherent bureaucracy in how courses come to being create superficial categories of information and separation of skills that minimize the value to facilitate a learner.

Without these kinds of structural changes in schools, you'll continue to see glimpses of great facilitation in traditional environments, but nothing that amounts to a systemic change.

Shane Krukowski

Again, a very helpful list. Thanks for sharing Shane!

10th & 11th Grade PBL English Teacher at the METSA Academy in Carrollton,TX

Change in Mindset

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When creating lesssons, instead of asking the question "How do I teach this information to my students?" (the emphasis on the 'I'), the question should be more along the lines of "How do I design the lesson so students are discovering the information on their own?" Once you put students in a discovery mode, then you move into the role of a facilitator because students can get started on something without the teacher having to step in...at least not yet and it puts the students in the position to ask for your help because they need it.

6th-8th Special Ed, LS & Mentally Gifted teacher

"Mind Coach"

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I've used PBL from the very beginning of my MG/Enrichment class and then started using it in my learning support classes. I tell my students that I'm their "mind coach". Just as a sports coach can help an athlete discover, improve, and refine his/her talent but cannot play the game for them or GIVE them talent, as their "mind coach" I can help them discover, improve, and refine their mind/thinking but I cannot learn the material for them or give it to them. They have to discover it themselves. I just give them a good workout!

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