1. Education

How to Facilitate Learning

Helping Students Succeed

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One of the main roles that teachers should fulfill is to facilitate learning. In other words, our task is to make the process of learning easier for students to accomplish. This does not mean that our curriculum should be watered down or our standards should be lowered. Neither does it mean that we spoon feed information to our students. Instead, we need to make it easier for students to learn how to think critically and understand how the learning process works.

Facilitating learning goes beyond our own classroom doors. If we as teachers spend our time delivering material without an eye towards how what they are learning fits into the student's overall educational experience, our results will be sub-par. Students will leave our class little better than when the year began. Instead, we want students to leave use with a greater capacity and desire to learn on their own.

Ways to Facilitate Learning

Following are a number of methods that can help teachers move away from standard lesson delivery and towards facilitating a true learning experience:
  • Varying instructional methods to try and meet different learning styles.
  • Providing students with choice to build a greater interest in the topics being taught.
  • Making real world connections to make the learning more meaningful.
  • Making cross-curricular connections so the information is not learned in isolation.
We will look at each of these methods in depth to gain insight on how we can better achieve our goals.

Varying Instruction

Varying instruction means using different instructional methods to implement lesson for students. Possible methods for delivery include:
  • Lecture
  • Whole Group Discussion
  • Small Group Discussion
  • Role Play
  • Simulations
  • Debates
  • Multimedia Presentations
  • Outside Speakers
Providing variation serves a number of important purposes:
  1. Meeting different learning style needs. For example, role-playing an aspect of 1960s protest movements in an American History class would help kinesthetic learners make connections with the lesson.
  2. Increasing engagement because different students are interested in different types of learning activities.
  3. Combating for both students and teacher.
  4. Providing unique learning experiences, especially when having students participate in more immersive experiences such as a Model Legislature.

Providing Students With Choice

When students feel empowered in their learning, they are more likely to accept ownership of it. If a teacher simply 'delivers' the material to the students, there is no real reason for the student to feel any special attachment to it. Choice allows students to get involved in their learning. Following are a few examples of how teachers can include choice for students in their lessons:
  • Allow students to choose from a number of topics for essay writing assignments.
  • Provide students with a choice of books for book reports and reading assignments.
  • Allow students to complete research on a topic of their choosing within the area you are currently teaching that they will then report back to the class.
  • Create a class-wide assignment such as a historical newspaper and allow students to pick the section and topic on which they wish to work.

Making Real World Connections

According to the White Paper "Authentic Learning for the 21st Century: An Overview" by Marilyn Lombardi, cognitive research has shown the connecting learning to real world experiences and information helps form those important connections necessary for learning. For example, if you are teaching about Supply and Demand from a textbook, students may learn the information for the moment. However, if you provide them with examples that relate to purchases they make all the time, the information suddenly becomes important and applicable to their own lives.

Making Cross-Curricular Connections

In addition to connecting curriculum to the real world, you can also facilitate student learning by making connections between different classes. These cross-curricular connections help students see that learning is not done in isolation. For example, an American History teacher and a Chemistry teacher could work together to deliver a lesson about the development of the atomic bombs that were dropped Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II. It is easy to see how this lesson could be extended into English by including a creative writing assignment on the topic and also into Environmental Science to look at the effects in the two cities after the bomb was dropped.

Conclusion

Teachers today realize the importance of helping students reach their full potential. This can never be achieved by simply presenting students with information to be learned. Instead, it is our job to facilitate their own learning experience. The goal is to create independent learners who not only know how to go about learning, but also have a desire to learn new things.

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