Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Willingness to cede control

       I spent the afternoon getting trained to facilitate a larger Professional Development for Project Based Learning. I am not presenting per se, but will help lead smaller group discussions as well as the practical application of the knowledge presented. I signed up to do this because I am in the first year of doing Project Based Learning with my students. I don't do it all the time, they are smaller in scale, and by no means perfect, but PBL has been exciting for my students and me. I wanted to facilitate so that I could continue to grow and also help introduce colleagues to the advantages of PBL.

         The presenters that were training us to facilitate the discussion were modeling the type of "teaching" it takes to be successful in PBL. It was structured but flexible, it gave ideas but was open-ended, and it called for us to be learners with the people we will be facilitating in smaller groups.  You would have thought the poor presenters were trying to take away the other facilitators' credentials. They were outraged that they were going to be facilitators but they didn't have strict knowledge or handouts to give to their smaller groups. They were concerned when the presenters said you needed to be flexible to the smaller groups’ ideas and wishes. They claimed it was going to be impossible and they were going to look foolish in front of their peers. After this discussion, I reminded the group that this is the way education is going. We do not need to be content masters depositing our "holier than though knowledge" to our students. Instead, we need to learn with them, we need to facilitate discussion and inquiry; we need to be comfortable ceding control to the students. I wondered about some of these educators in the classroom. I am not trying to incite judgments of these teachers or any for that matter. What I am trying to say is that sometimes we need to model real learning with our peers so that we can do so with our students. Allowing ourselves to step outside our comfort zones around our professional peers may help us be more comfortable making education a two-street between teacher and student. 

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