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NYC Helpline: How To: Develop as a Professional

Teacher As Facilitator
Theresa London Cooper

Teachers, especially new teachers, so desperately want their students to learn that they often end up doing most of the work.  The truth is we must see ourselves as facilitators of learning who possess knowledge, not as the keepers of knowledge.  We must provide students with opportunities to be in charge of their learning, discover new ideas, gain insight, and make connections.  How do we accomplish this task?  During my time as a classroom teacher, I found the following tips helpful.

  1. Plan ahead and think about the needs of your students.  We know students have various strengths and challenges. We gather this information by collecting informal and formal data to inform our instruction.  As we plan ahead, we must consider how to use their strengths to address their challenges.  For example, students who don’t seem to be interested in reading often require material that focuses on their interests.

  2. Model what you want students to do.  Before we can hold students accountable, we must provide explicit instruction using “I do, we do and you do” model. Model for student with one focus in mind. Give them the necessary guided practice until they are able to navigate their way independently. 

  3. Monitor the amount of talking you do.  Students need time to articulate their thoughts.  Therefore, it is important that we provide directions and then give students time to work through them.  They may work through them by writing, talking, or creating a product.

  4. Give student opportunities to take responsibility for maintaining their classroom. Establishing routines that help students maintain their classroom is essential to creating a learning community.  Many teachers spend a great deal of time staying after school or coming in early to clean up after students.  But  with routines and time they can maintain an organized, learning environment. 

  5. Teach students how to use classroom materials.  Students should know how to use materials that will facilitate their learning.  Tape recorders, overhead projectors, and dry erase boards are all typical items that students have in their classrooms, and students benefit from knowing how to use and return them to their proper place.

  6. Implement a workstation management board.  Management boards are very effective in helping students know where they are supposed to be when the teacher is working with a small group of students.  It gives students an opportunity to work independently and manage their learning experience.

  7. Teach students to ask questions to acquire information.  Students spend a great deal of time answering questions.  They need more time creating questions and discussing answers with their peers.  “Ask three before me” is a great routine to implement to get students to move toward greater independence.  It requires students to speak to or try three strategies to solve a problem before coming to the teacher.

If we are to move students toward independence, we must take the position of coach and facilitator, helping students use what they know to learn what they need to know. We must give them opportunities for meaningful conversations that support their thinking, hold them accountable for their learning, and be thoughtful with our questions. 

Are you a facilitator or a dispenser of information?

E-mail Theresa.


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