10 Facilitator Moves for Adult Learning

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Word association quiz.

When someone pairs “School” and “Learning” who is the first learner you think of?

A student? A class of students? If so, you are like the majority of people. And for good reason — the student learner is the most important point of focus for schools.

However, capitalizing on the unique interests, affinities, and personalities of students to cultivate a rich learning environment isn’t an accident. It requires a focus on the ecosystem of learning at the adult level as well as at the student level. Fortunately, nurturing vigorous learning at the adult level has a mutually beneficial impact on the student learners.

Leading_for_Powerful_LearningWhile numerous tomes offer recipes for mining student data, creating professional learning communities, and implementing data driven instruction, fewer focus on the culture of learning or how to foster a culture that endures, inspires, and develops internal leadership. Authors Angela Breidenstein, Kevin Fahey, Carl Glickman, and Grances Hensley have filled this void with “Leading for Powerful Learning, A Guide for Instructional Leaders” from Teachers College Press.

The book identifies three types of adult learners (Instrumental, Socializing, and Self-Authoring) as well as methods and practices for facilitating authentic learning for each of these types (with a goal of helping them move toward Self-Authoring).  The book includes some protocols for use in meetings.

The entire book is well worth the read, however, of particular interest are 10 facilitator moves that “influence how teams, departments, and faculties learn.” Below are the 10 moves as stated in the book without the accompanying descriptions. For a more in-depth analysis check out the book. You won’t be disappointed.

Facilitator Move 1: Openings are important.

Facilitator Move 2: Closings are also important.

Facilitator Move 3: Understand why you are using a particular protocol.

Facilitator Move 4: Plan the protocol.

Facilitator Move 5: Explain the protocol.

Facilitator Move 6: Facilitate the entire protocol. 

Facilitator Move 7: Don’t be afraid to facilitate.

Facilitator Move 8: Never forget to debrief the process. 

Facilitator Move 9: Find a place for negative questions and comments. 

Facilitator Move 10: Trust the process and trust the group. 

Education: A “Putting People First” Endeavor

What makes an educator an educator? Or, more importantly, where does “effective teaching” begin? Is it with standards, content, and resources? Or with relationships, connections, and shared experiences? Or perhaps some combination thereof?

The New York times recently featured a short award winning documentary about Jeffery Wright, a physics teacher in Louisville, KY. The video is moving, not just because he is clearly an inspired and passionate educator, but also because his “antics” stem from someplace deeper than scope and sequence charts, pacing guides, and textbook-based objectives.

While his experiments are entertaining and engage the attention of his students, it is the story behind the man — as a father — that sheds light on what lies beneath simply “teaching” students. Wright says,

“When you look at physics, it’s all about laws and how the world works . . . But if you don’t tie those laws into a much bigger purpose, the purpose in your heart, then (the students) are going to sit there and ask the question ‘Who cares?’”

It is this framing that speaks to the larger challenges of standardized reform — how can we ensure each and every student has access to educational experiences that speak to them individually within the context of a community who cares for them personally? Attentiveness to the people in education systems — and equity for each and every one — is the frontier for achieving the greatest short and long term gains.

At the heart of learning is relationships. To the material, peers, oneself and the lesson provider — whoever that may be: a 4-year old girl, a son with severe special needs, or a teacher. We must cultivate and tend to these relationships lest we forget what is most important — each other.

Side note: The documentary was filmed by 22 year-old photojournalist and filmmaker, Zack Conkle, one of Mr. Wright’s former students.

Image: From Zack Conkle’s “Wrights Law” documentary

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