Facilitated Learning

Facilitated Learning

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Facilitated Learning is an approach characterized by a high degree of involvement by learners in all aspects of their own learning (e.g. researching knowledge, setting objectives, assessment etc.). The trainer adopts the role of a guide who provides resources and support to learners. [1]


Facilitated learning defines itself in contrast to traditional teacher-led approaches to learning, where students depend on their teacher for the acquisition of knowledge. In a teacher-led learning environment, a teacher is seen as a repository (store) of information whose role is to pass on knowledge to their students. This can be symbolized through a ‘jug and mug’ typology, where the teacher is seen to hold the jug of knowledge, which they pour into a student’s mind (the mug). The student is seen as a ‘passive recipient’ of this knowledge, with very little involvement or control in their learning process. While the teacher-led learning approach certainly has usefulness in some educational contexts (lectures, briefings etc.), it has been heavily criticized. It is seen to result in ‘surface learning’. This means learning of only ‘facts’ or the performance of narrow and isolated skills, without students truly understanding and knowing how to apply acquired knowledge and skills in practice.

In contrast, the facilitated learning approach attempts to encourage ‘deep learning’, understanding and the ability to practically apply knowledge and skills, through actively involving the learner in his/her learning process. This is done through activities and exercises designed to ‘bring out’ learners’ existing knowledge and apply it to target subject matter. The teacher/trainer/facilitator takes on the role of ‘guide’ who helps and supports students in achieving their own learning objectives, and developing their own knowledge, usually through asking questions, providing ideas, and identifying possible resources. Furthermore, the trainer encourages their students to learn with and from their peers, instead of looking to the teacher as the only knowledge authority.

Common Features and Methodology:

A facilitated learning setting will incorporate some or all of the following:

1. Individually Driven Learning – At the heart of facilitated learning is the belief that students teach themselves, instead of the teacher teaching them. The teacher is seen as one of numerous resources a student can exploit for advancing their own learning, in addition to the internet, audio material, newspapers, other students etc. Further, students are called to set their own goals and objectives (instead of the teacher), and can even be asked to conduct their own self-assessment.

2. Use of Information Technology and Web 2.0 Tools – Students are encouraged to conduct their own research and internet searches, instead of waiting for the teacher to provide information. Students are encouraged to use computer generated learning packages/software, with the teacher stepping in as an assistant and guide to help students when they encounter difficulty. In more recent times with the proliferation of e-learning courses, facilitated e-learning have become more and more common.

3. Student-Student Interaction – Students are encouraged to interact and discuss subjects with other students. Through sharing and re-considering opinions and other points of views, students develop deep knowledge and grounding in their subject matter. Thus pair-work, group work and role-plays are common features of a facilitated learning classroom. In the virtual classroom, moderated internet chat forums, where students post ideas and comment on those of their peers, are also seen as an effective means of providing group student interaction for the purpose of learning.

4. Teacher/Trainer as a:

a) Leader – Provides discussion direction, stimulates discussion and debate through asking effective questions, refocuses discussion when it ‘goes off track’, supports learners through assisting them and suggesting useful resources, summarises discussion and provides feedback. b) Referee – Maintaining order in group discussion, protecting learners from abuse, encouraging participation from all group members, managing time. c) Neutral – Detached and unbiased look at discussion.

5. Decentralised Knowledge Authority – Teachers often take the observer role and allow their students to take the lead in educating fellow classmates about important subject areas, as teachers are not the only authority on knowledge in the classroom. This results in common use of : a) Presentations – where students become the knowledge authority informing fellow class members. b) Peer-assessment and feedback – where students are asked to comment on the work of their fellow students in addition to the teacher.


I) The success of the facilitated learning approach depends on strong student motivation. Thus it will not be appropriate with unmotivated classroom groups.

II) Importantly, effective facilitated learning does not necessitate the complete avoidance of traditional teacher-led learning approaches. For example, a short lecture/talk providing background knowledge about a pertinent subject area, may be helpful in facilitating student progress in their learning objectives. What is key for the facilitator, is that he/she use this methodology, along with all other student-centered and collaborative methodologies for the purpose of assisting students to advance in their learning journey.


http://www.nald.ca www.nald.ca (13 March 2008), http://www.ica-sae.org/trainer/english/p13.htm (15 November 2012), http://visioncoachinginc.com/facilitated-learning_1.html (15 November 2012), http://learnline.cdu.edu.au/t4l/teachinglearning/facilitating.html (15 November 2012)