By Deborah Taylor-Hough (This article appeared in the Bright-Kids email newsletter on July 9th, 2001.) Used with permission. All rights reserved.
I was recently asked what I saw as the difference between teaching and facilitating as it applies to helping children learn. The following explanation is just my personal response to the question and isn’t a reflection on which term is “better” or which way of imparting information is most effective. It’s just my humble opinion.
I personally I see a facilitator as someone who bridges that gap between the student and the material — more of a discussion leader.
I see a teacher as more of a lecturer — less conversation, more talking to (or “at”) the learner.
As a facilitator, I would bring my children in contact with something and help them to relate to it. I’d converse with them. Ask questions. Point out interesting things.
As a teacher, I would sit them down and do more of a lecture-style session with them. Fill their heads with facts and information rather than giving them direct access to the materials themselves.
I’m painting the differences with a broad brush and obviously there are many similarities and cross-over techniques with both methods.
From personal experience, I know there’s a huge difference between “teaching” at something like a ladies’ meeting vs. “facilitating” a discussion group. I’ve done both and it’s an entirely different dynamic. One is mainly information being poured into the hearers (and many times that’s what’s needed to impart quantities of information in a limited amount of time). The facilitating method tends to be more relational.
Charlotte Mason, an educator in England from the early 20th Century said, “Education is the science of relationships.” The children need to build relationships with things, not just learn rote information — although there’s a time and place for rote, as well.
One of the most important things I’ve realized over time is that I can’t really force my children to learn anything. Learning is something that happens within them; it’s an act of “their” will, of “their” mind, of “their” heart. I can teach and/or facilitate until I’m blue in the face, but only “they” can actually “learn” something.
And I think usually they want to learn — unless something happens to kill their natural curiosity about something. But I personally feel that my main role as their parent is probably more of being an
inspiration to them than anything else.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Deborah Taylor-Hough (mother of three) is a free-lance writer, editor of the Simple Times E-zine [ firstname.lastname@example.org ] and author of several popular books including Frozen Assets: How to Cook for a Day and Eat for a Month, Frugal Living For Dummies(r), and A Simple Choice: A Practical Guide to Saving Your Time, Money and Sanity. Visit Debi online at: thesimplemom.wordpress.com