Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Moderator, Facilitator or Teacher?


Determine the behaviours for the three roles: teacher; facilitator; moderator: Each of these roles can be interpreted differently in different contexts. A shared meaning of all three terms is between tutor and student is important. I am not certain what is meant by `undermining’ but will endeavor to post my interpretations. .

 The conventional difference between facilitator and teacher is widely accepted. The teacher is an authority figure who imparts wisdom, has a linear approach and tells passive students what to learn. This approach is rarely advocated in the online environment these days.

As I would be the person taking the course I would use the facilitation / e-moderator role, having explained clearly to the students what the approach is, so they understand the learning and teaching style. This would include building in time for  students  to negotiate, discover and interpret their own part in the experience, as well as what they can expect from the facilitator. This is especially if they are returning to study using a changed, online  environment which encourages taking initiative. The concept of the teacher role undermining this is not something I understand in this context.

 The difference between moderator and facilitator may be less than clear when using Salmon’s 5 step model. Salmon’s e-moderation role in her book is similar to facilitation. The facilitator acts as guide and encourages students to take the initiative. If the facilitator takes a Vygotskyan, social constructivist view s/he will scaffold learning through design to extend the learner (zone of proximal development). In teaching adults this may take the shape of have a go yourself, share your expertise with other participants. Later through strategies like expert questioning the facilitator will help to fill in the gaps. Siemen’s notion of the curator concurs with this.


Perhaps the moderation role is not synonymous with that of e-moderator. Without the background situation or a definition, the question is unclear. In my own experience moderation is like `overseeing the quality of’, but that is a peculiarly New Zealand definition. 


  1. Nan
    I realise that words carry culture and expectations. I agree that context is important. I sometimes though despair of the level of discourse analysis that looks for power relationships in every piece of punctuation.
    I actually don't really care what I'm called- what my job title is.
    I have worked now for what seems like a lifetime with people of all ages in educational endeavours (settings formal, informal, paid, unpaid etc). and I have been entitled a Supervisor, a Director, an Officer, a Tutor, a Lecturer and currently a Facilitator.
    In the period I wored in Early Childhood in Childcare as distinct from Kindergarten where staff were called Directors and teachers, we established a National Early Childhood Workers Union. At every large meeting and particularly annual meetings there would be remits about title- why couldn't we be teachers and the union be the ec teachers union? in response some of the more militant members would give us the lecture on valuing work.
    If anyone asks me now what I do I usually say ":I work at Otago Polytechnic", so I have been brainwashed:)

    Look forward to futher discussion.
    Go well.

  2. Hi Willie

    I am also an aging grandmother although pretty active in the study area (PhD). Thank goodness for the sanity that your words convey. Like you I have a lot of teaching experience. One point may be that people do not always understand the different teaching and learning styles and therefore the topic is worthwhile for those who are unsure.

    I also get your point about discourse analysis which has been widely used in the online situation to analyse discussion forums.

    The reality is that most of us in teaching/facilitation choose the appropriate style for the situation. Alternatively there are discipline differences. The literature advocating both sides is quite interesting.

    As a paying customer with limited time I like to have some guidance; this follows the Vygotskyan idea of the `significant other' leading the person into a new experience (zone of proximal development). I also believe that self directed learning is a process where facilitators should help a student to build competency, including at all higher tertiary levels, rather than leave someone to find their own way. That of course is not likely to be popular amongst time pressed academics. They may agree in principle but may have limited time to put beliefs into action.

    In conclusion, I have found that facilitation works well. but happily admit to supplying notes to support those who have had a go first but need more guidance!!
    The use of games/ avatars and problem solving strategies sounds like fun and suits facilitation rather than top down teaching. Also the social networking and distributed learning of web 2 make direct tuition very difficult anyway. On the end scaffolding and focussed learning outcomes give some guidelines.

  3. Nan, thanks..this give more input and perspective to write "To Be Facilitator" in Bahasa Indonesia