In an article by BIE Institute, Teachers as Guides and Facilitators, research conducted just 20 years ago, by Walter Doyle, found that learning elements that required higher order thinking, collaboration and freedom of choice and mobility require “more direct control and management”.In my classroom, I seek to provide exactly these elements but with less control and with facilitation that is nurturing and coaching and less managerial in nature. I want my students to learn to manage themselves, not be managed.
I would argue that today’s students do not need to become vessels of knowledge but analyzer of information and able to use their findings to problem solve in collaborative environments. By giving them the steering wheel, we allow them to truly encounter struggles and work through the solutions, thereby, developing these important skills. Of course, they are children and will need the teacher to scaffold and encourage. The teacher’s role is evolving into facilitator, cheerleader, sounding board, red flagger, guide, and safety net. The teacher establishes working classroom norms and expectations of the process and results. She or he is must assure the students reflect on their learning throughout the process and help with teaching students to learn how to learn when they need task specific help.
The environment of PBL along with successful facilitation by the teacher does develop the deeper learning and 21st century skills. You can not learn what you do not do and PBL by design immerse students into a real world work environment.
Personally, I love being the facilitator, but I need to be less rushed and more patient. Sometimes as a teacher we are watching the clock on getting it done. Although time management is also part of the facilitation process, sometimes allowing for the deviations is when new discoveries and ideas will unfold. Sometimes, we have to also allow our students to fail. I always want to rescue them when I know it’s the wrong path. There is much to learn from failure and we must be sure to present that with a positive mindset and classroom culture. But most importantly, I must not be to self critical because PBL is a learning process for students and teachers alike.