Sunday, January 29, 2012
Facilitative versus Traditional Teaching
I've been working on an academic paper recently about facilitative versus traditional lecture-style teaching. Anyone who has studied teaching methods recently knows that facilitative teaching is widely accepted as the better learning method. Paulo Freire's writings on the "banking" method, where the teacher sees the students as empty vessels waiting to filled, and thus projects ignorance on students, makes it clear that this is not an ideal learning, or teaching, situation. I'm no extremist, and I think that traditional lecturing is appropriate under certain circumstances, as long as the power differential doesn't suggest "I'm all-knowing and you are not," but why do some teachers still rely heavily on lecturing rather than facilitating when circumstances permit?
I've been thinking about this a lot lately, and for me, there are a lot of reasons, but I think the time I fall back on lectures when I shouldn't is because facilitation introduces risk, and a lack of control in the classroom. If I'm lecturing, I have my notes; I know how long it will take; I can direct questions and answers. If I'm facilitating a group discussion, I don't have this control. I have to admit, that I am sometimes uncomfortable leaving a chunk of time to be directed by the students, because it leaves open the possibility of all kinds of risk and even "chaos" as some theorists call it.
Of course one of the great things about facilitation is that the teacher learns right along with the students, but sometimes this also, pardon my French, scares the crap out of me. What if I learn something that changes the way I think about the topic at hand? I'm not afraid to learn new things and change my thinking, in fact, I welcome it, but having this happen in front of an entire classroom makes me wonder if I'll have the wherewithal to be able to keep my wits about me, articulate what I mean, and not be a stuttering idiot in front of my students. I was never afraid to explore brand new thought processes out loud as a student, but as a teacher, it seems like there's much more at stake.
The times when I have taken the plunge for facilitative teaching when I've been tempted to lecture have all well been worth it. In fact, after a recent class period, I had several students comment on what a great class it was that day. I said "thank you," but the truth is, I hadn't said much of anything at all, or prepared much of anything besides a facilitative-type activity. They had done the work and had been fully invested. They were satisfied, and had a successful experience. So what I should have said, was, "No, thank YOU!"