Academic journal article The Agricultural Education Magazine

Are You in the Zone?

Academic journal article The Agricultural Education Magazine

Are You in the Zone?

Article excerpt

The role of the teacher in facilitating learning always seems to generate lots of discussion. The word "facilitator" seems to mean different things to different people. For some teachers "facilitating the learning process" sounds lame. They say it appears to be something that people in the ivory tower dreamed up to make life miserable for teachers. Real teachers teach, they don't facilitate!! Get real! On the other hand, many teachers would argue that "all" teachers facilitate learning. That is their job. After all, they welcome students into their classrooms and laboratories with open arms, don't they? However, upon closer examination, facilitating the learning process is a lot more than opening our classrooms and laboratories and filling students' minds with subject matter delivered by the agriculture expert.

Being a facilitator of learning requires great skill in analyzing and being aware of the learner's needs. To accomplish this level of performance the teacher must be highly competent in both the subject matter and the processes of learning and teaching. Those teachers who know and understand the learning processes spend at least an equal amount of time and energy on planning the "processes" to occur in the learning situation as they spend on the preparation of the content or subject matter. Some teachers become quite good at this process planning because they have learned a lot about their students and can manipulate the learning situation to the point that students are not realizing at first how much they are learning. Facilitation is often a "state of mind" or "mindset" but there is one approach to facilitation that seems to speak volumes about the process. The "zone of proximal development" provides a good explanation for the facilitation process in the study of agriculture. According to Wertsch (1991) "the zone of proximal development is the phase in a learning task when a learner can benefit from assistance" (In Wloakowski, 1999, p. 145). Wertsch goes on to say that "the upper limit of the zone is the place at which the learner can learn independently, the lower limit is the place where the learner needs assistance" (In Wlodkowski, 1999, p. 145).

Facilitators of learning are sensitive to where the learners are in the "zone". Facilitators of learning actually think and carefully plan how they will approach the learning process. …

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