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Facilitating teachers

The Difference Between Teaching and Facilitating


Teachers should understand and master the art of facilitating learning. This is necessary for a *learning approach that is Student Driven, Teacher Facilitated, SME (Subject Matter Expert) Inspired and Informed. 


When a teacher walks into a classroom, they take charge of the learning environment. Clear and concise objectives delineate what the student learns on any given day. The teacher is responsible for measuring how much information the student learns. Evaluation is often in the form of tests, but the teacher may use other measurement tools to determine if the student met the teacher’s learning objectives. (Does this sound familiar?)


Facilitators may or may not be subject area experts. They do have the ability to support group learning and team building. In any group setting, a facilitator can quickly determine what the group knows so the group can proceed to build on that knowledge and questions. By asking questions (open-ended and probing questions) and keeping the group focused, a facilitator helps the group establish a set of ground rules, as well as its own learning objectives.

The facilitator also helps the group determine and summarize what group members learned from their research and activities. (How is this different and how does a facilitator do it?) Remember that the Martian Greenhouse project is student-directed and teacher/mentor facilitated so we need to be mindful of how to support the students! 


Solving the unknown vs the known creates an environment where all parties build relationships by taking risks, failing, redesigning, and discovering how teams work to solve real problems. Students, teachers, and mentors are having to think in real time.

An agile approach means that all parties take part in the design of the project.  Experiential learning is a priority as students actively participate, create solutions, take initiative, and apply what they learn to the real world.

Benefits Provided by Facilitation

Facilitation offers everyone in the group the chance to express their ideas and to feel as if they are part of a team. Since the group arrives at a mutual conclusion, it’s easier for individual members to carry out the group’s goals and to feel less inclined to work on individual agendas. A facilitator helps individuals build on their skills and learn new ones. Facilitation serves as a positive way to clarify misunderstandings among a diverse group of individuals.

Active Listeners

Teachers often act as facilitators, and facilitators sometimes teach. In order for either to be successful, they must be an active listener. Facilitators in particular make use of this skill. They listen to an entire statement made by a group member before responding. They try to understand the group member’s point of view in a nonjudgmental way. Active listeners often ask questions of the group to clarify what group members are saying. Active listeners are slow to jump to conclusions and keep the group focused on the subject of discussion.

Tools of a Facilitator

  1. Invite everyone to share their ideas and their thinking to support the ideas

  2. Provide wait time for group members to think about their ideas

  3. Respond to the group to keep the discussion focused on the goals

  4. Provide feedback to keep the learning moving forward

  5. Ask open (probing) questions that have multiple possible solutions

  6. Suggest a resource or a mentor that could help

  7. Suggest a thinking skill they could use

    1.  Let’s compare these two ideas…

    2. What do you predict will happen…

    3. Let’s analyze this problem.

    4. What evidence do we have…

    5. What do you speculate might happen if…

    6. What conclusions might you draw… 

    7. In what situation might you apply this solution

    8. As you evaluate these alternatives…

Thinking Skills Applied to Solving a Problem

A.   Generate possible solutions

B.   Evaluate possible options

C.   Predict consequences

D.   Apply best possible solution

*Learning Approach

Student Driven / Teacher Facilitated / Aerospace Industry Inspired and Informed

Students will do the work via experiential, hands-on, and applied learning.

Facilitating Teachers are not expected to be subject matter experts. Subject Matter Experts (MENTORS) will be available to answer questions and help your students learn necessary skills, concepts, and content.  The combined network of our mentors and teams will ensure that all parties are supported. Teams are highly encouraged to share solutions and help other teams. 

Mentors will be provided with resources for "Best Practices" and encouraged to communicate with other mentors to give our teams a global network of support. 

Collaboration Between Teams: Teachers will communicate in order to build a digital community and share, catalog, and record successes and ideas.  (message board/slack, shared docs, wiki setup, tutorials, technical drawings, files, etc.)  

QUEST Approach & Teacher Facilitation Ideas 

Another helpful approach is called QUEST.

Working together, you can use a QUEST approach that offers a hybrid project- and problem-based learning pathway to explore the issues.  Quests empower students to investigate issues relevant to them with the goal of being a problem-solver.  This Quest process includes five Stages - Question, Uncover, Explore, Solve, and Teach. This culminates with students’ designing and implementing a positive solution that makes a difference that they can share with others. 


The QUEST Approach was created by Captain Planet ©2020​

Getting ready for the QUEST may require adding an "R."

  • R-Quest begins with YOUR Readiness

  • Readiness Requires that you Read

  • Read the Project Overview

  • Read these Resources 

  • Research on your own, Research links, Research articles, Research videos, Research anything you can to inform your interests, your passions, inspiration.

Now you’re Ready for the QUEST

What is the QUEST?

From your Reading and Research comes Questions.​

  • Who answers the questions? (not Dr. Cannady)

  • The MENTORS answer the questions. They help you connect the dots from all your Reading and Research.

  • Ask a LOT of questions. Then discuss with other students. 

  • MENTORS can ask guiding questions to the students to flush out students Understanding of Systems and Subsystems.


  • Understanding is going to come out of the actions students take. 

  • This is a Student-Driven adventure. 

  • Students have to do the work. It is from students' thoughts and ideas that mentors can begin to inspire and inform student interests.


  • After you understand, student form ideas.

  • That's where you're going to Explore your ideas. 

  • You and your mentors can now narrow the scope and define the deliverables that Reflect your interests and passions Related to growing plants on Mars. 


  • Once you Explore your ideas with your Mentors, you begin to Solve the problems that are important to you.

  • You solve them with a TEAM.

  • Your focus can be a Call to Action, and a Process of Applied and Experiential Learning that matters to you. 


  • The "T" is the final stage. TEACH

  • During the final presentation you're going to Teach us all what you learned.

  • What are your ideas for things you want to do after the final presentation?

  • How can you inspire other students and the next generation to go on their learning adventure?

  • Tell Us: What will you do, or say, or solve that inspires other students to connect with mentors in order to discover their passions?   

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