Saturday, August 22, 2009

FOCO9 Teacher, Facilitator & Moderator

For this blog post we have been asked to try to determine what the different roles and behaviours are for facilitator, moderator and teacher. Following that to answer three questions:
· When might the role of a teacher undermine the role of a facilitator?
· When might the role of a moderator undermine the role of a facilitator?
· When might the role of a facilitator undermine the role of a teacher or moderator?

Teachers tend to play an active role throughout the learning process of any student. Their role may be seen as making links to their learning and help make the learning process authentic. Teachers try to instil knowledge, and an interest of learning, engage with their students.

Wikipedia’s defines ‘facilitator’ as someone who helps a group of people understand their common objectives and assists them to plan to achieve them without taking a particular position in the discussion. Therefore a facilitator is someone that helps to manage a process of information exchange, guide and manage a group to ensure that the group’s objectives are met effectively.

A moderator is given authority to ensure and enforce forum rules and maybe conduct administrative tasks that may not be entrusted amongst other users. I did need to think more carefully about this as in my area of education it means something different from the role and context that we are looking at here. At the moment, I would not say that I am engaged in being a moderator or how that role really works.

I would consider myself a teacher, I present information in the classroom, passing on as much knowledge to my students as I can, in the hope that the information will be retained, digested and used. Having reviewed Kemshal-Bell’s (2001) three main categories of skills and attributes of a good facilitator, then I would also consider myself as a facilitator (especially in a couple of my courses that are not delivered face to face). I encourage students in their learning process, provide feedback along the way and support their learning. Although the courses I am involved in at present are not fully on-line, I can see that there are areas of facilitation that are important, such as the skills involved in managing online discussion, the ability to build online teams and keeping everyone motivated.

I read with interest Leigh Blackall’s ( blogpost “To Facilitate or Teach” and the subsequent comments. One comment made my Blackall was the “problem of needing self motivated learners to participate in a facilitated learning environment”. This comes back to the role of the facilitator and how they would encourage these learners.

As a teacher you tend to be in control of the classroom situation, the lesson being taught, timing, discussions you may have in class, whereas as a facilitator you have to learn to let go a little, you cannot assume that same control of the participants (online community). You can give them guidance on how to reach their end goals, but they may achieve these at their own pace, they may wander on a tangent before being guided back to the original task. Learning may be less structured, but nonetheless rewarding. The facilitator encourages with comments on the way. It may also depend on the independence of the students learning as well. There tends to be a role shift between teacher and facilitator dependent on the student’s learning ability, problems they may encounter, etc. For many students they are not familiar with the self learning environment and therefore need to be taught basic concepts before they can become more independent learners.

Overlaps in the roles of teaching, facilitating and moderating may be seen in online community. In many cases both teacher and facilitator roles are used as well as moderating.
Still much to ponder…. Hopefully it will all become clearer.

Kemshal-Bell, G. (2001). The Online Teacher - Final report prepared for the Project Steering Committee of the VET Teachers and Online learning Project. Retrieved 20 August, 2009, from


  1. Rachel
    I find the online facilitation quite challengin, as the sues come from different sources that when you work f2f, and indeed the very technology that5 enables this to take place can also be profoundly unreliable and futrstrating.
    I find two useful sources when I am thinking about this:
    1) the australian Felxible learning network
    materials, designed for people with diverse skills;
    2) Gilly Salmond's 5 step model of moderating Computer Mediated Communication

    Looking forward to the online discussion around this.

  2. Thanks Willie for your comments and resources. I did have a look at Gilly Salmonds 5 step model and found it to be useful. But as you have stated that it is often the 'technology' itself that makes online learning and facilitation frustrating. I have encountered this (both as a student & teacher/facilitator) and have learnt that you really need to have a fall back plan, but all too often that fallback plan also requires technology. At least f2f, you can always resort to other means. So much to consider:)

  3. I am interested to know (because I'm still trying to get my head around the differences)where assessment fits into our discussions - can we be facilitators if we are also assessing students?

  4. Interesting comment Sarah, does this mean that if we are facilitators of learning then there is not necessarily any form of formal assessment of the process or does this mean that this is covered by the 'teacher'. In a sense this is what you were saying in one of our elluminate sessions where you are facilitating this course, but will not be involved in the marking, that will be covered by Leigh. Now you really have me thinking about whether the role of facilitator is used where there are not the requirements to be assessed.... need to think some more about this.

  5. I enjoy reading your posts Rachel, you write ideas using clear explanations and this has helped my learning.

    Thank you.

  6. Just need to check with you - don't forget we have the week '31st August' coming up, not the blogging activity.