Learning is all about making sense of the world. As educators, we aim to create experiences which challenge and grow our students’ understandings. An important part of learning is that it is social. We make sense of the world by testing our understanding against others’, whether they are our peers or those who have more knowledge than us.
Because learning is social, as teachers we need to arrange learning experiences that build on this fundamental idea. Before even getting to group work and collaborative learning, it is important to establish the classroom as a space where social learning can happen.
Consider these facilitation techniques:
Teacher Facilitation Techniques
- Asking open-ended questions.
- Using Cooperative Structures such as “Turn to Your Partner” or “Think, Pair, Share.”
- Giving students a few moments of wait-time before discussing a question or calling on a student to respond to a question.
- Responding to students in a neutral manner instead of using praise. (“Why do you think that?”, “Tell us about your thinking.” or “Thank you.” instead of “Awesome!” or “Great!”)
- Avoiding repeating or paraphrasing the students’ comments. Encourage them to listen to one another (and not just to you).
- Asking questions that help students respond to one another directly. (“What question do you want to ask ___ about her thinking?”)
- Asking follow-up questions to have students build on one another’s thinking. (What can you add to ___’s thinking?”)
- Having the students turn and look at and listen to the person who is speaking.
- Having students call on one another during discussions.
- Having students use discussion prompts. (“I agree with _____ because… ”I disagree with_____ because…” “In addition to what _____ said, I think…”)