Facilitating Reflective Learning in Higher Education

By Anne Brockbank; Ian McGill | Go to book overview

9
Becoming a Facilitator: Enabling
Reflective Learning
We explore what facilitation means, why it is needed and how facilitation can be used to encourage reflective learning, through reflective dialogue. We describe the journey of the traditional subject teacher from the exclusively 'expert' role to a more balanced approach, incorporating the role of facilitator, while retaining her subject expertise, and we end the chapter with some of the barriers to, and benefits of, facilitation.
What is facilitation?
For many people facilitation is just another way of teaching. The teacher behaves in a different way, encouraging the class or group to contribute, but ultimately tells them what to learn, how to learn it and how it will be assessed. The recognition and articulation of decisions about learning is part of facilitation and we discuss this below. The word 'facilitate', is defined (in the Shorter Oxford Dictionary) as:
1. to render easier or
2. to promote
and, when asked the questions
'to render what easier?' or
'to promote what?'

for staff in higher education, the answer must be 'learning'. Not just any learning, but reflective learning, defined in Chapter 5, is what is expected now in higher education, whereas traditionally, 'those undergoing higher education of any kind may find that they have learned successfully how to pass written examinations - and nothing else' (Salmon, 1980: 12). Even where exams have been partially replaced by coursework, 'students adjust their study in terms of their understanding of what the assessor requires them to know' (Radley, 1980: 37).

The traditional approach to learning in higher education has ignored the

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