This week I was confronted with a new means of teaching: discursive teaching. First I attended a brilliant training session by Bill Heacock’s Train the Trainer workshop. In my 15 years in education and training I have never had a better teacher present so much pertinent information in a perfect manner. Second, I have been taking a look at case studies. The literature suggests that facilitator type teaching works best for presenting case studies. Both of these suggest that for better learner engagement and learning that I should quit teaching and start facilitating: Basically quit pushing information to the students, rather start pulling it from them gently.
Here is an example of the difference between pushing and pulling. Take a look at this graph from Before It’s News.
There are two ways to present this- a pusher will tell: “You can see that 1.7 billion work in services.” Meanwhile, a puller will ask: “How many people work in services?” The first statement does not engage the student, rather it suggests he/she should be passive and let the expert (teacher) tell. On the other hand, the second makes the student think and use their senses to engage with the information. Obviously, the second way is more engaging for the learner.
If you want more details of the characteristics of a pusher or puller teacher, there is a nice PDF from, of all places) The Food and Agriculture Administration of the United Nations. It contrasts the differences between teaching and facilitating, and how the facilitator has a closer relationship with the students and is able to draw information from the students.
Are we talking about an old way of teaching? The Socratic Method encourages the asking of questions to guide learning. According to Critical Thinking.Org, “The Socratic questioner acts as the logical equivalent of the inner critical voice which the mind develops when it develops critical thinking abilities.” They go on to give this list of best practices for a Socratic questioner:
1) Keep the discussion focused
2) Keep the discussion intellectually responsible
3) Stimulate the discussion with probing questions
4) Periodically summarize what has and what has not been dealt with and/or resolved
5) Draw as many students as possible into the discussion.
Is this not how someone leading a case study should behave? Isn’t this a pretty good list of goals for a facilitator?
Perhaps our use of words like facilitator, interpretive or discursive teaching is because if we call it the Socratic Method then it’s not new and cool (nor likely to be taken seriously on a grant proposal).
I found another nice way to view the relationship between teaching and facilitating. Below is a diagram from Apin Talisayon’s Weblog:
This shows the relationship between expert and learner driven forms of instruction. But guess what, the workshop on teach the trainer was by a consultant and the presentations were learner driven.
Style of Preference or Role?
I am interested in what others think of this topic. I have a hunch that the style a teacher presents in is because of the role model in their head of what a teacher is. I know that is how it was when I started. I also think there is a relationship with caring. The push teachers have to show they care for the students and do this by pushing the learning. What do you think?