WORKSHOP: Facilitating classrooms: Enhancing skills and expanding toolkits through simulations (40 mins)
Many professors use the skill of professing to translate concepts and encourage learning. Hours are spent preparing for class, organizing a lecture and producing notes, and the ensuing class session follows in a comfortable and predicable mode. But what about professors who release control of class content and process? Can they be equally effective? Can you teach without a prepared lecture? Do you have the courage to teach without a safety net? In this workshop, we discuss the art of classroom facilitation and of having the courage to relinquish control and allow class sessions to evolve naturally. These are skills that are rarely taught in doctoral programs. New and early-career faculty may possess limited awareness of the value of such skills in effective classroom teaching. New faculty often have difficulty in putting these skills into practice, even if they have a desire to do so. Among other benefits, this session will seek to shorten the learning curve, so that faculty will not have to look back in later years and say “I wish I could have mastered facilitation skills early in my teaching experience.” Having an opportunity to practice these skills in a “safe” environment will also help develop the courage to apply them in the classroom. According to Webster, to facilitate means to make easier. In a team setting, facilitators or process consultants are charged with enhancing team processes such as communication, problem solving, decision making and conflict resolution, while simultaneously educating the team on the use of these skills. Given the collective diversity of skills, backgrounds, and experiences that characterize most teams, the application of facilitation skills can mean the difference between a team achieving and not achieving desired outcomes. Is a classroom not a team or a collection of teams? Are teaching and learning not processes? How can we apply to facilitation skills to the classroom to make the process of teaching and learning easier and more effective? To do this, we look at facilitation skills in three broad categories, those that can be used before, during and after class (individual sessions or an entire semester). For example, when a professor takes the time to jointly develop ground rules or behavioral norms, some ineffective classroom behaviors--such as laughing at other students or bringing cellphones to class--may be prevented and reduce the burden of dealing with such behaviors in the future. Facilitative interventions during class, such as using leading questions and the parking lot, can be used to keep discussions on track, or if need be, can be combined with checking for agreement should the class decide to move in a new direction. When allowing the learning process to unfold naturally, it becomes helpful to engage the class in reflecting on the process as well as the key learning points or take-aways.