In my research into the role that adult educators play, it has become clear that they have a myriad of role expectations. As our world shrinks and students engage from all over the planet using new and emerging technology, educators must keep pace with all of the trends, the shift in the environment, the shift in delivery mechanisms, the sophistication of the learners, the age of the learner, their cultural norms and expectations along with the need for facilitators to continue their own practice of life-long learning to maintain their relevance and keep pace with the changes; it becomes apparent that the role of a 21st century facilitator is mufti-dimensional.
Add to this, the business paradigm that is incumbent to any professional role and the responsibilities and requirements of teachers becomes two-fold. Not only do facilitators need to stay current in the trends of teaching but they must also be politically savvy to deal with the ongoing day-to-day business of being a teacher. Organizational skills, time management skills, planning and communications skills are important factors necessary to the business of being a teacher.
On the learning side of the equation, one of the most prevalent threads I have read, is how the instructor no longer “teaches” the students but actively works as a bridge between the students and the knowledge. Following upon what I have learned about constructivism, the time for Socratic teaching methods has passed. Instructors no longer stand up in front of the class and pontificate for hours on end. They have become not only a teacher but a participant in the learning environment; equally learning along with the students as they learn. In bridging the gap and assisting participants to self-direct their learning, they in turn learn, inspire, teach, promote and foster life-long learning which in turn perpetuates the cycle.
Instructors must be able to promote thoughtfulness and reflection, assess the understanding of the students, change direction if required, orchestrate discussion and scaffold the student to the next level of awareness and understanding, while at the same time, maintaining the integrity of the lesson and ensuring that the thrust of the content is delivered and assimilated. Quite the job!
Facilitators must be willing to utilize new and emerging trends to keep the interest of the learner whose sophistication grows exponentially at pace with the technology. A willingness to bring in virtual components to the classroom, such as social media platforms, apps, tablets, and other electronic media engages the learner and makes the session feel relevant and fresh. Facilitators must always be looking ahead – keeping pace with emerging technology and how it will relate to their subject matter and work for the delivery in their classroom.
The role of the facilitator is a complex one. Not only must they be well versed in the foundations of learning, but they must also be trend savvy, politically adept, agents of change acting as a collaborator, orchestrator and conductor of the content and the session. They must be flexible, sociable, subject matter experts while at the same time maintaining an open collaborative environment. A challenging but rewarding experience for any individual willing and capable of taking on the delivery of the content and the responsibility of the role.