Teaching and facilitation

This essay seeks to compare the information delivery techniques of teaching and facilitation. The purpose of this discourse is to make a post-modern appraisal of both these concepts.

A consultation of the Macquarie Dictionary reveals these definitions of teaching and facilitation:

Teaching: “To impart knowledge of, or skill in”; “To give instruction in”

From the same source, “Facilitate” is defined as follows:

“To make easier or less difficult, help forward” (in actions or process)

Archaic “to assist a person”

Whilst these definitions are necessarily brief they seem to be poles apart in the compass of activity for gaining knowledge and skill. The teaching definition appears to assume that the act of proffering knowledge or instruction has the capacity to induce skill in the recipient. It reads along the lines of a ‘one size fits all’ event.

Defined in brevity, as needs be, with no pretense at pedagogy, the feeling of oversimplification is subliminal in context. However, the definition gives an opportunity for comparison with the process of facilitation defined from the same source. Much valuable insight can be gleaned from the comparisons of teaching and facilitation.

Teaching speaks for itself in what it offers as a teaching process, i.e., imparting knowledge and instructions. Taken literally this definition encapsulates the role of the teacher.

The definition of facilitation is free of ambiguity as to the ongoing activity between facilitator and recipient. “To make easier and less difficult”, “help forward”, provides an insightful reassurance for the learner. This definition reads as a more sensitive approach to the learner and perhaps a more profound understanding of the skill building task confronting the student. The words to “make easier or less difficult”, along with the archaic version, “to assist a person”, fit comfortably with the learning of the given knowledge. Facilitation provides an opportunity for rational reasoning in internalizing the knowledge designed to bring about successful outcomes.

The teaching definition offers knowledge and instruction as a basis for the learning of a specific skill. It is difficult to escape the subliminal assertion that supplying knowledge and instruction will result in the acquisition of skill. This may or may not be the case; however, the over-simplification appears to emasculate the need for thinking and attendant mindsets. To make easier or less difficult addresses the focus and commitment required in the familiarization of information presented in knowledge and instruction.

Perhaps the point worth making here is that teaching covers a very wide and varied part of our daily lives in many fields of human endeavor. Oversimplification of the process, even by definition, may prove counterproductive to skill building.

It may be a false assumption that learning is brought about by teaching.  The definition of facilitate makes an early reference to “make easier or less difficult, to help forward”. The archaic definition is more explicit and simple, to “assist a person”. Facilitation points to understanding as the catalyst rather than the giving of knowledge and instructions as in teaching. Although teaching and facilitation are closely connected, the definitions appear linguistically disparate.

There may be a strong case for more importance to be attached to the process of facilitation, rather than the commonly used term of teaching. The point of this discourse is to draw attention to the linguistic and practical use of the terms teaching and facilitate. In definitive terms, it is apparent that facilitate provides a more appropriate description for the delivery of knowledge and instruction than teaching. However, teaching has the advantage of being specific and to the point, as to the duties and responsibilities of the teacher.

Teaching and facilitation are distinctly separate activities as clearly shown in their respective definitions. Whilst teaching defines the format for the delivery of knowledge and instruction, facilitation deals with the application of these principles. It may be that teaching is causal for facilitation, ensuring that the knowledge and instruction is fully understood by the recipients. That is, the teaching event should be followed by a period of facilitation ensuring effective outcomes in learning for skill building.

Anecdotal evidence supplied by the student population is supporting of the difficulties that are brought about by confusion and low familiarity levels in the learning phase. If teaching by definition, “to impart knowledge of or skill in”, “to give instruction in”, can be viewed as causal, then facilitation follows necessarily for the completion of the teaching phase. It may be that teachers and facilitators could be dealt with as separate skill builders with specialised credentials for each category.  Therefore, teaching, as such, would be extended to encompass understanding and skill acquisition by virtue of the follow-up facilitation in assistance and clarification.

The progress forward to higher learning would seem a worthy recipient of a more soundly based learning methodology. Our post modern society, in the technological and digital age, seems a fertile area for differing concepts on the gathering and delivery of more complex information. Teaching and facilitation as career paths would provide soundly based higher learning pedagogies for both skill builders.




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