Historical background John Dewey and the primacy of experience



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MA in ELT

Methodology Lecture Series



Lecture 3: Teacher as Facilitator
Before we get started ...

What does ’facilitation’ mean to you?



Historical background
1. John Dewey and the primacy of experience

Dewey believed that education is not fundamentally the transmission of knowledge, but rather it is the …’ intelligently directed discovery of the meanings inherent in ordinary experience’. (1938, Experience and Education)


Teacher: intelligent direction giver

works with students’ experience
2. Abraham Maslow and humanistic psychology

Humanistic psychologists believe that in every person there is a strong desire to realize his or her full potential, to reach a level of self-actualization. Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) was one of the founders of humanistic psychology.


Teacher: needs to create opportunities for learning, remove ‘learning blocks’ -

the desire to learn, develop is innate
3. Carl Rogers and humanistic education

“When I have been able to transform a group … into a community of learners, then the excitement has been almost beyond belief. To free curiosity, to permit individuals to go charging off in new directions dictated by their own interest, to unleash the sense of inquiry, to open everything to questioning and exploration … - here is an experience I can never forget.” (Rogers, Freedom to Learn for the 80s, 1983:120)


Core qualities of a facilitator

(a) genuineness: means being yourself, not playing a role in front of your learners

Rogers sometimes referred to this quality as authenticity, and yet other times as congruence.

(b) acceptance: means prizing the learner, prizing her feelings, her opinions her person

Rogers sometimes referred to this quality as unconditional positive regard. It implies a basic trust, a belief that this other person is fundamentally trustworthy.

(c) empathy, or empathic understanding: being able to put yourself into someone else’s shoes

“This kind of understanding is sharply different from the usual evaluative understanding which

follows the pattern of ‘I understand what is wrong with you.’” (ibid, p. 125)


4. Adrian Underhill’s framework of lecturer, teacher, facilitator. (See compulsory reading.)

presence: The unique psychological climate or atmosphere that a teacher creates in the classroom.
5 Earl Stevick: relationships in the classroom and group dynamics

"Success depends less on materials, techniques and linguistic analysis, and more on what goes on inside and between people in the classroom.“ (Stevick, Memory, Meaning and Method: A View of Language Teaching,1996)


“... a language class in an arena in which a number of private universes intersect one another. Each person is at the center of his or her own universe of perceptions and values, and each is affected by what the others do ...” (Stevick, Teaching Languages: A way and ways,1980)
6 Facilitation: the challenge

“The trick for the teacher is … to provide just the right amount of learning space.

If there is too little, the students will be stifled. If there is too much, the students will feel that the teacher has abandoned him.” (Stevick, Teaching Languages: A way and ways.1980)
Facilitation in practice
7 Getting the balance right

Stres-free environment - Keeping students on their toes

Telling - Discovery

Lecture mode - Group interaction



Control, no student choice - Freedom, offering students choice
8 Facilitation roles: leading a discussion

  • Find a good trigger.

  • Individual investment at the beginning pays off.

  • Move into discussion after a high energy activity.

  • Don’t let the discussion get too general, or too abstract.

  • Help maintain focus and clarity.

  • Keep an eye on group energies.

  • Work against ‘solidified patterns of interaction’.

  • Ask probing questions.

  • Don’t be afraid of silence.

  • Try to involve everyone.

  • Make sure minority voices are heard. ‘Amplify’ if necessary.


9. Facilitation … the bottom line

  • Make the language come alive!

  • Make the students come alive!

  • Be alive yourself!



Compulsory reading:

Adrian Underhill (1996) ‘Facilitation in Language Teaching’ in Affect in Language Learning (1996) Jane Arnold Ed.

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