Monday, February 25, 2008

PETE&C Postconference

Wednesday after PETE&C, almost 2 weeks ago now, the PA-TIMs had a professional development session around leadership/coaching lead by Steve Sassaman from Performance Learning Systems. Steve has been with us before and has always enlightened us and given us things to ponder and use in our role as mentors. This session was no different. We started of with a discussion of the differences between presenting, teaching and facilitating. It was a very interesting discussion.

The definitions from
Presenting: Teaching: Facilitating:

Here are my definitions
Presenting: A static "canned" delivering of information to a group, sometimes meant to persuade to take action.
Teaching: To cause information to be learned by a group.
Facilitating: To take an active role in the learning process, were both the "student" and "teacher" learn

If you stop and think about it facilitating requires the most work, but will produce the most learning. It is back to the old adage you get out what you put it, in programing terms it's GIGO. The other thing that really gets in the way sometimes, especially for secondary teachers is the plan. We boiled it down to this, "Plan the teaching, don't teach the plan". That and the Lumberjack story would have been enough, but there was still more.

Facilitation comes in three forms. Facilitate yourself, facilitate others, facilitate a group. Facilitating yourself is about self-awareness and using reflection as tool to better your teaching. As Lao Tsu said "Knowing others is wisdom. Knowing the self is enlightenment". When you facilitate yourself you make choices, either DO choices or BE choices. Making the positive DO and BE choices is the best way of facilitating yourself.

Once you have yourself on the path, then you can facilitate others. This is coaching. The one on one facilitation of others. Taking a person from where they are to where they want to be. I think this one is the easiest. I think facilitating yourself is the hardest, but coaching one-on-one provides a "safe" environment for both persons. It is easy to establish a relationship and trust in this arrangement, thus making it possible for both participants to learn from the interaction.

Facilitating a group is really knowing how to read them and know what they need. Is it time to think and reflect, guidance, motivation, a nudge, or just an okay to express themselves. This is done by establishing a culture in the classroom, one of respect and safety, where learners feel free to express thoughts and views. Where the true feeling is that the sum knowledge of all of us is better than any one of us. Sounds simple, but this is the art of teaching. This is when teaching becomes true facilitation and learning takes place at an astounding rate.

So what are the barriers to reaching this nirvana of teaching? Perception is part of the problem. We want teaching to be neat, orderly, sequential, quiet, managed, reproducible and controllable. Unfortunately learning is often messy, accidental, random, loud and complex. So what we truly want may not look, sound or feel like what we expect it be. Too often we would rather see or are "judged" on the expectation and not the desired outcome, one of the real crimes of teaching.

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