Sunday, August 16, 2009

Teaching, Facilitating and Moderating

To begin with I sought the help of Uncle Webster to help me define these three words.
Teacher: one that teaches; especially : one whose occupation is to instruct
Teaches: to show, instruct
Instruct: 1 : to give knowledge to : teach, train2 : to provide with authoritative information or advice 3 : to give an order or command to : direct

Facilitator: one that facilitates; especially : one that helps to bring about an outcome (as learning, productivity, or communication) by providing indirect or unobtrusive assistance, guidance, or supervision
Facilitates: to make easier : help bring about

Moderator: 1 : one who arbitrates : mediator2 : one who presides over an assembly, meeting, or discussion: as a : the presiding officer of a Presbyterian governing body b : the nonpartisan presiding officer of a town meeting c : the chairman of a discussion group
Arbitrates: 1 archaic : decide, determine2 : to act as arbiter upon3 : to submit or refer for decision to an arbiter
Mediator: 1 : one that mediates; especially : one that mediates between parties at variance2 : a mediating agent in a physical, chemical, or biological process
mediate: acting through an intervening agency : exhibiting indirect causation, connection, or relation

The definition of these word by Uncle Webster seems is very to traditional learning, so I sought the help of Auntie Wikipedia to shade me lights on these words thru the retrospect of innovative learning.

In education, a teacher is a person who educates others. A teacher who educates an individual student may also be described as a personal tutor. The role of teacher is often formal and ongoing, carried out by way of occupation or profession at a school or other place of formal education. In many countries, a person wishing to become a teacher at state-funded schools must first obtain professional qualifications or credentials from a university or college. These professional qualifications may include the study of pedagogy, the science of teaching. Teachers may use a lesson plan to facilitate student learning, providing a course of study which covers a standardized curriculum. A teacher's role may vary between cultures. Teachers teach literacy and numeracy, or some of the other school subjects. Other teachers may provide instruction in craftsmanship or vocational training, the Arts, religion or spirituality, civics, community roles, or life skills. In some countries, formal education can take place through home schooling.
Informal learning may be assisted by a teacher occupying a transient or ongoing role, such as a parent or sibling or within a family, or by anyone with knowledge or skills in the wider community setting.
There are a variety of definitions for facilitator:
"An individual who enables groups and organizations to work more effectively; to collaborate and achieve synergy. She or he is a 'content neutral' party who by not taking sides or expressing or advocating a point of view during the meeting, can advocate for fair, open, and inclusive procedures to accomplish the group's work" - Doyle[1]
"One who contributes structure and process to interactions so groups are able to function effectively and make high-quality decisions. A helper and enabler whose goal is to support others as they achieve exceptional performance" - Bens[2]
"The facilitator's job is to support everyone to do their best thinking. To do this, the facilitator encourages full participation, promotes mutual understanding and cultivates shared responsibility. By supporting everyone to do their best thinking, a facilitator enables group members to search for inclusive solutions and build sustainable agreements" - Kaner[3]
^ Michael Doyle, quoted in Kaner, et al., 2007, p. xiii.
^ Bens, 2000, p. 5.
^ Sam Kaner and colleagues (2007) p. 32.
Forum moderator, a person given special powers to enforce the rules on an Internet forum or newsgroup



The role of the Moderator

The moderator role requires an active presence in the conference. Ideally as moderator you would check / monitor the activity in your conference several times a day.
The role of the moderator is to set the tone of the conference so that it is a place that feels welcoming.
The moderator needs to state clearly what the conference is for, keep the group focussed on this, whilst encouraging the hesitant to participate and keeping a check on the more enthusiastic contributors.
The following are the general roles and responsibilities of a moderator:
· have a clear understanding of what the conference is for and make sure everyone know what the objectives are
· be flexible
· Encourage participation
· talk to, rather than at learners
· acknowledge and welcome everyone, especially lurkers and latecomers
· respond quickly to people's first contributions
· provide and create opportunities for introductions
· reinforce good manners, and make sure you informally encourage good spelling and grammar
· handle poor netiquette privately and as soon as possible
· refer to learners by name
· invite responses from participants to express how they feel about the conference
· pace the conference, and make sure learners are aware of the time plan
· be clear about when conferences end
· Provide swift feedback

Facilitator Roles & Responsibilities
These are the general roles and responsibilities for the session facilitator:
As a session facilitator you are responsible for the process, not necessarily the content. Your overall objective is to accomplish the learning objectives for the session. This is accomplished through the use of the questions and other material contained in the learning plan for the session you are facilitating. Content questions from the community should be reflected back to the community to have them find their own answers. This is consistent with the peer-learning process being utilized. Recognize that facilitation, like any other skill, takes practice. We are all learners in this process. Seek support from others, and offer them support when they serve as group facilitators.
Review the learning plan associated with the session you are to facilitate. Pay particular attention to the learning objectives and organization of the group session. Determine if there are any areas where clarification is required.
Schedule the session when as many community members can be present as possible. Verify that the meeting room has a flipchart with sufficient paper and markers. A PC, projector, and screen may also be needed for some sessions.
Contact all community members prior to the session to verify they understand and are working toward completing the pre-session assignment.
Make sure that all new members or guests are introduced. This would be a good time for everyone to do a round of introductions. This process also needs to be repeated a number of times for new groups, until relationships begin to form.
As part of the opening introductions or as a stand alone icebreaker, pose a Question of the Day. The purpose is to focus everyone's attention while creating a relaxed environment.
Facilitate the session using the learning plan and other necessary material. It is recommended that you read Meeting Management to gain some understanding of this role.
After the session, follow up with all community members to verify they understand and are working toward completing the post-session assignment.
If there is a change of facilitators, assist the next facilitator in making a seamless transition. Offer suggestions that would benefit the next facilitator.

Teachers Roles & Responsibilities
The teacher's role is somewhat more complicated. There are several elements of responsibility that the teacher owes the students. One is in technical areas. The instructor is responsible for all the technical elements of the course design. If a student cannot download a particular graphic that the teacher has designed for a unit topic, then the instructor must be available within a timely manner (usually via email) to assist the student in diagnosing the problem and/or giving proper and specific instructions for the download and viewing. A further responsibility of the teacher is to make sure that the technical elements of the course design are not too advanced for the students' currently available technology. If students are using older computers and 56K modems, then it does the teacher no good at all to design complicated graphics (for example streaming video) that students will not be able to download and/or view. In essence, it is the teacher's responsibility to match the course design technology with the students' technical capabilities.
Another area of responsibility for the teacher is in management of the online class. This involves planning and organization tasks very similar to that of traditional f2f teaching. The course objectives, syllabus, assignments, grading policies, rules and expectations, as well as managing the text-based interaction among the students. This is not so different from the f2f classroom in the type of planning and organization that are required before the course ever begins. Lesson planning in an online class differs significantly however. Planning by the day or week is not good practice in an online class; all planning and organization must be completed and placed in the online format well before the first day of class.
Another area of responsibility in the online classroom is the instructional element of teaching. Experienced teachers use many different strategies to encourage learning through the development of different learning styles in everyday teaching/learning. There are additional strategies and skills involved in teaching online. One of the biggest challenges in making the transition from traditional to online teaching is learning new skills that are necessary for facilitating learning in a text-based environment. Those of us here at have an advantage in that we are skilled in computer-mediated communication through our use of the chatboards, chatrooms, and various meetings and conferences. I would strongly suggest that anyone considering online teaching make use of the wonderful resources here to hone CMC skills in moderating both synchronous and asynchronous learning environments. Having the opportunity to moderate and conduct online meetings here at gave me some valuable skills that I have continued to improve upon with each online class I teach.
The final responsibility that belongs to the online teacher is one that we use in traditional classrooms as well. Online teachers are responsible for the social interactions among students in an online class. Just as we do in a f2f classroom, we need to make the online learning environment friendly and inviting. Online teachers need to encourage interaction, group cohesiveness, and communication among students and between student and teacher. There are so many kinds of interaction in an online class, between student and student, student and group, student and teacher and all of this communication takes place in a text-based medium. This will be new for many students and a teacher skilled in facilitating online communication and interaction is invaluable in the online classroom.

Is there a distict dividing line between Teacher, Facilitator and Moderator.
As I read browse on the different roles of the 3 functions the more I got confused….it seems that the function overlaps with each other…
Let me illustrate it with the following image:

Moderator overlaps with the function of Facilitator as in the case of synergy. Facilitator overlaps with the function of a teacher as both are responsible with the physical attribute
of the Class virtual or not. Teacher overlaps with the function of moderator as to communication both are responsible for the viscous flow of communication all the elements(Teacher, Facilitator,Moderator and learners).
The core of the matter is the Learner . All function or responsibilities is geared to the Learning of an individual.


  1. wow
    what a thorough look at these roles.
    Certainly your notions of overlap make such good sense. I suspect that a skilled "educator" someone we aren't looking at will include all three roles as situation demands according to their profession al toolkit.
    That is the critical aspect of working to support/scaffold someone's learning experience and success.

  2. Hi, yes I thought the diagram made sense as well, and I haven't looked at the website that you refer to Roscelli, but I tend to agree with Willie's comments about the sense that the term "educator" emcompassed all three roles. I looked at the definition of 'education' then thought a bit about the "act or process of educating or being educated", and the fact that that process could be a 'facilitated' process, the students can be 'taught, and the process should be 'moderated' in some way (especially if it is a formal process). So yes, the roles can be interchanged, depending on the demands of the process , the forum for learning (f2f cf. online), whether the situation is formal or otherwise, the experience/ level of the students and the capability facilitator/teacher/moderator. This certianly is a huge topic.....


  3. Great post!

    How does facilitation work in a community that is not education-driven?

  4. An impressive piece of work!
    In your definition for the role of the moderator you are mentioning “provide and create opportunities for introductions". Wouldn’t this be the role of a facilitator? I have seldom seen an online moderator doing this. I think that the role of the moderator is more about levelling the excess and staying focused on the subject of discussion (like Sarah today on the online meeting ;-) ).
    Like Debra, I think that the diagram make sense.

  5. You have ansered these questions thoroughly, I really like your visual and you comment about Synergy. We all strive for group synergy.