Typhani Harris | April 2015

Coach’s Corner: Preacher or Facilitator

Preacher Or Facilitator

As an instructional coach, I worked with teachers to step out of the role of preacher or facilitator. Which, is so difficult when we take into account how we were taught, the needs of standardized testing, and the expectations of departments.  If we think back to how most of us were taught, especially if we have just come out of college, it is traditional for class to run much like a Sunday afternoon in church.  A leader standing in front of a congregation, and the participants sitting in rows attentively listening to to the message of the day.  However, if we want to build 21st century classrooms, it’s time for us to step away from the podium. And ultimately, it is our job to place the learning in the hands of the students.

The largest resistance comes from the impeding need to cover a large amount of information in order to make sure students are prepared for a culminating exam.  When I am faced with a teacher concerned about this issue, I am always curious as to how students will retain all of that information anyway?  If you think about it, we can stand in front of our students and impart a 100% of the content information. However, it will result in the students actually retaining maybe 10%.   Or, we could build on 21st century skills by creating an interactive learning environment and project-based assignments. It may result in only getting through 70% of the information, but the students retain most of it. Why? Because they are engaged, involved, and are owners of their knowledge (the percentages are merely hypothetical).

So, which is better?  Just because we stand before our proverbial congregation and give them all of the information, doesn’t mean they remember it or that they know how to apply it.  So how do we walk away from the podium, and place the learning into the hands of the students?

There is plenty of information circulating about the characteristics of a 21st century classroom, and recently I read a piece by Patrick Goertz on Edutopia 10 Signs of a 21st Century Classroom

Goertz provides the following characteristics:

1.  Technology Integration
2.  Collaborative Environment
3.  Opportunities for Creative Expression
4.  Inquiry-based Approach
5.  Justification for Answers
6.  Writing for Reflection
7.  Use of Problem Solving Methodology
8.  Hands-on Learning
9.  Teacher as Preacher or Facilitator
10. Transparent Assessments

Looking at the list may cause anxiety for teachers. As we realize there is much we need to change and this really puts education in the hands of the students. Ultimately, that means we have to relinquish control.  However, this is what is exciting about education! We are offered so many opportunities to learn and grow.  Obviously, since we are nearing the end of the school year it is difficult to make large content and systematic changes within our classrooms. However, the upcoming summer is a great time for us to take this list and design our curriculum maps and lesson plans that build 21st century classrooms.

However, there are a couple things we can implement now to ease into the transition and start practicing facilitating instead of preaching.

Don’t do for the students that which they can do themselves

Plenty of things that we do on a daily basis can be handed over to the students.  Have a student stand with you at the door, and check off attendance while students enter.  Give up the marker, and have a student write on the board.  Have students pass out, or collect papers.  If you need to work with a lecture environment, do so from the back of the room.  Not only will this put students in charge, it reduces the stress that comes with the feeling of having to do everything.

Designate Student Leaders

Student leaders are a quick and easy way to get students involved, and hold them responsible for their learning.  This relieves us from having to remember everything. In addition, it makes students feel they have a purpose in the class beyond simply listening.  This is especially helpful for our outgoing students.  Tap into those students who love to talk, or be the center of attention.  Channel those personalities and give them perimeters by designating certain roles.

Student Choice

Once you presented content, allow students to choose their own adventure.  Ask students to design their own assignments/projects demonstrating their knowledge of the content.   Include the process of designing the rubric, ask them how to evaluate their assignment/project, and follow their lead.  This gives them a greater sense of ownership of their learning, and a democratic way for them to share their knowledge.  As the teacher, you still have the last word.  If you feel their project is not an adequate demonstration of knowledge, help students develop the project so it fits expectations.

It can be scary to relinquish control to the students, but placing them in charge of their classrooms will build ownership in learning.  It also relieves much of teacher stress freeing us to facilitate and monitor. Additionally, it places the responsibility of learning into the hands of the students.

Next Week: Secrets of a Dance Teacher

History of Dance Part II
Teaching history and theory of dance within our dance classes is so important.  However, with the multitude of things we need to complete, how do we fit it in and how do we determine what is most important to teach?  Over the next couple months, I will be sharing full lesson plans with assessments for history of Ballet, Jazz, and Modern that can be used immediately.  These plans take roughly a week to complete so the students get an opportunity to learn about the history without taking too much time from the practicum of the studio environment.

About the Author

Dr. Typhani Harris, author of Putting the Performance in Performance Task and Stop Teaching, brings over 2 decades of educational experience to The Institute. Originally a high school English Language Arts teacher, Dr. Harris transitioned into a dance educator who cultivated an award-winning collegiate style dance education program at a public school in California. Prior to joining the Institute, she was an educational leader and instructional coach specializing in preparing new teachers in secondary urban schools.  As the Chief Academics Officer, Dr. Harris maintains courses, conferences, and the accredited certification program at The Institute.