Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Facilitating, Moderating, or Teaching

Primarily my job is to teach in a face to face environment. As part of my employment I also mark assessment in a face to face and a blended environment. While the marking criteria is essentially the same, the feedback is completely different. In a face to face environment it is easier for the student to form a relationship with the teacher, ask questions of the teacher and get immediate feedback from the teacher. In the blended (online) environment it appears to take longer to form a relationship with the teacher, get relative and relevant feedback and in some cases create a rapport with the teacher and fellow classmates.
Facilitating, moderating or teaching...hmmmm which is which and what are they exactly? Are they the same online as they are offline or is there a significant difference? There are always going to be a range of answers to the questions posed with diverse opinions coming from the different experiences of the person answering the questions. Here are my opinions:

In a face to face environment I believe the following definitions describe each of the entities well.

A Facilitator is a person who engages students and encourages participation in a chosen area. A facilitator may guide the student in a particular direction allowing the student to find the information on their own or they may demonstrate a particular skill that the student then follows. One of the main skills I believe a facilitator should have is the ability to form a rapport with people. A facilitator doesn’t necessarily have to have the expert knowledge of the subject but should have some knowledge of the subject and critical thinking skills.

A Teacher in my opinion is the subject expert, the person with the knowledge to share, the person who can answer the questions of the students off the top of their heads. The teacher directs the student to the information but doesn’t necessarily always encourage critical thinking (not always the case though!)

A Moderator is the person that oversees and evaluates the content of the course and the assessment.

In an online environment the definitions change a little. A Facilitator still encourages and engages students/participants but also may lead discussions more and ask questions of the participants in order to lead them to the information.

The Teacher is still the subject expert however may not have as much interaction with the students online as they do in the classroom, and of course the delivery of material will be a completely different mode.

The Moderator of an online environment is the person in control of environment. They may be the person that evaluates the content on an online discussion or they may be the administrator of the LMS in terms of what is displayed or available for the participants. The Moderator may not have a lot to do with the participants but will have a”behind the scenes” role to play.


  1. Thanks for this summary, Heather. I was interested in your comment about the facilitator needing to build a rapport with the student. If the teacher and facilitator are the same person, how does assessment effect the rapport/relationship? In case you're interested, we talking about exactly this at the moment on my blog:


    The other thing that interested me is your comment that a teacher does not always encourage critical thinking - what makes you say that?

  2. When I write this stuff I am thinking only of the types of students I teach and the expectation those students have on the teacher to "just give us the answer or show us where the information is". It is a common question of students to ask "Is this in the test?" or " why do we need to know this?". It is less common for students (mine anyway) to question and research information on their own.
    I imagine the type of student you have Sarah is focussed on a goal and therefore is determined to expand their knowledge, mine on the otherhand are more focussed on what is in the test/assignment/assessment, than learning new information.

    And please don't ask me how I can change the attitude of "Is this in the test" in my students to "By researching that topic I found some interesting information" because I don't know how to!!! ;)