Monday, August 24, 2009


I was doing some reading in preparation for this weeks topic- and came across this link-
Nancy White's glossary is mentioned in the extra resources on the Wiki for the previous topic (Online Communities), and the new book she is co-author on looks very interesting, Digital Habitats: stewarding technology for communities. Have a look at her blog, anyway, looks like some good reading there.

It's been interesting to read some of the blog entries, while I try and determine the roles/skills of teacher, facilitator or moderator. Krishan and Rosceli have captured some great definitions.

To teach is to provide instruction, to impart knowledge, but I also note that Webster also tells us that to teach is also to 'guide us' in the studies of.....

'To be taught' is to acquire knowledge or skill, to know how to do something.

How is this different from the role of a facilitator? i.e one that helps bring about an 'outcome', by providing assistance or guidance?

Could a teacher guide us in our studies by facilitating our learning?

To facilitate then, suggests that the process is more informal than the formal imparting of knowledge. A facilitator I believe is more like the 'guide on the side', rather than the 'sage on the stage'. However the roles seem to overlap, and interpretation differs ( Mark Nicols explains this well-as a reply post in Leigh Blackall's blog " be a good teacher is to be a flexible and committed agent dedicated to student's learning, and multiple strategies will be applied. Sometimes you just have to tell (them-to teach). other times, suggest and explore (facilitate their learning)..."

There is a huge amount of comment on Leigh's blog, and I am still working my way through it all. A particpant in last year FOC08 came up with a great thought ( that the meanings will be different depending on the context (as with our own evolving FOC09 community).
Like Daryl, I find the shift in a teacher's role-to being one of a facilitator (see above) as noted in the Australian Flexible Learning Quick Guide to Effective Online facilitation- to be changing in our e-learning environment. In a f2f environment, the role of teacher and facilitator can be seperated, (i.e teacher-lecture versus tutor-tutorial) but I am starting to think that the terms (or roles?) maybe merging together in an online environment. Online facilitation is the act of managing learners and their learning through the online medium, as we ourselves are discovering, this is most importantly managing our communication as well. It may be a teacher performing the role, but the role they perform is that of a facilitator. More guiding is needed online to bring out the best in us (so to speak). Our communication is managed, but also we get direction, support and motivation by the facilitator.

I feel like the definitions are merging further when I now think about the term 'moderator' . A teacher who facilitates, can also moderate (or mediate).

To moderate=to arbitrate.

A moderator is a term widely used as well, and means different things in different contexts. Rosceli's diagram at the end of the blog is like a light at the end of the tunnel.

Moderator- an elected presiding official, a presenter, a person who is given special powers to enforce rules (wikipedia). My first thoughts in trying to define a moderator don't come from an education slant, more from someone who makes the checks and keeps the time, prepares the meetings and in a way acts in an administrative manner. Not instinctively related to an e-learning environment, until I read about "e-moderation" in Gilly Salmon's model and while I have seen this model before, I never appreaciated that her term appears to be synonomous to that of teacher-facilitator in an online environment, but also in an almost administrative role as well, especially initially (Stages 1 and 2).

I read in the Flexible Learning Quick Guide that there is another model (Collison, Elbaum, Haavind and Tinker's Facilitation Model), which is based on techniques used by the moderator to guide and facilitate the learning. The terms are merging again
Oh dear.

Skills Mini summary-

Teacher:- Traditionally a subject expert and qualified or trained appropriately in the manner of teaching.
Facilitator: Nutures rather than teaches, guides and encourages participation, not neccessarily a subject expert, but most importantly, able to foster and encourage communication.
Moderator: Maybe more of an organisational role, setting boundaries, acts as mediator, unbiased.

In terms of when the roles might 'undermine each other', my inital thoughts are along the lines of what is the context, and what is the means of communication (delivery). I could imagine that the roles cross over more so in the e-learning environment, as already discussed (and as this is a big topic, I am only touching on the surface, more thinking to do). Student-centered versus teacher-centred will influence the use of the roles, as will level of expertise and experience of the people fulfilling the roles.

An an environment such as one in which this course exists (as an example), a 'teacher' might undermine the 'facilitator' if experience or opinions start to over-rule. The teacher may not 'approve' of the direction of the communication that the facilitator is leading, for example.

A moderator could "squash" a facilitated forum envionment by being too restrictive. Where a facilitator could provoke, and prompt, a moderator with too much 'power' may have a negative effect.

And, the role of facilitator could undermine the roles of teacher or moderator by the reverse: an experienced facilitator could possibly be more 'tuned into' the students, via their various conversations and communications, than the teacher- perhaps the teacher prefers to remain as the "sage on the stage", and doesn't see things the same way that the facilitator does.

Of course, as Leigh suggests in his blog, the expectations of the students also play an important part. Teaching infers structure and knowledge being imparted by the sage; facilitating infers guiding and drawing out the inherent knowledge of the learners (by the guide); and moderation infers the controlled atmosphere this occurs in. If a student has different expectations that any of the role players have, then undermining could also occur.
I don't think I have finished with this topic at all, but I need to connect with some of the blogs.



Stephen said...

Just wanted to say I really reckon it's worth following Nancy White's work.... what struck me most when I was first introduced (virtually of course), is that she describes herself as a learner. The online learning/ communicating environment is so dynamic this attitude fits perfectly.

I've ordered a copy of the the book Nancy has co-authored. A couple of early released chapters and some other stuff the authors have shared has proved valuable in some of my work. I'll post a review/ precise on my blog when it arrives.

Stoneleigh31 said...

Thanks for that Stephen- that will encourage me to read further. I'll look forward to the review!

Hilary said...

Hi Debra

Read your blog with interest and that I was not the only one to find that there's more. I do not feel any closure on the definitions/descriptions so am following up the leads from your blog. I was rivetted by the content of Leigh Blackalls discussion thread that started in October 2007. It says alot about the interest in this. Must follow up on Stephen's suggestion of following Nancy White's work

Stoneleigh31 said...

Yes, do have a look at Stephen blog posting as well. Some more links from Nancy.