TCC09: The Tao of Online Facilitation

Ying Yang
Ying Yang

Liveblogged from the TCC 2009 conference. My comments in italics.

Presenter: Scott Robinson, Kaplan University

Posted summary: This presentation uses principles of Taoism to emphasize the role of the facilitator. The presentation also shows how these principles complement the following adult education theories: constructivism, andragogy, cognitive economy, and asynchronous learning.

This is definitely a different topic than the typical conference fare. A Methodist pastor from Texas presenting on Taoism is not exactly typical either!

Tao = Way

Taoism: Eastern philosophy on the how and why of nature

Ying & Yang: What does it mean?

In the West, we are very dualistic–cosmic struggle of good and evil. Ying & Yang has a little light in the darkness and darkness in the light; natural balance. “Taoism promotes balance through an understanding of the flow of energy within nature.”

Facilitate = Make Easier

Can we find a natural balance between easy and hard? Students and educators see these as polar opposites.

  • “Facilitators direct the flow of energy.”
  • “Positive facilitation directs the energy to make learning easier.”

Ch’i = energy, breath, life force, basic building block of life

Chat comment: Marla Cartwright [remote]: learning can be a flow of energy when it’s ciruclar, flowing from instructor to student and back again

How does energy flow within the learning environment? Discussion, chat. Sometimes the flow is too fast to internalize.

Wu-Wei = “actionless action” or non-action. Western idea of non-action is couch potato, passive, or lazy. Wu-wei is not doing nothing; it’s trusting the flow of energy and going with it rather than trying to control it.

Thinking about big networks and learning–you can’t control it, you can just go along with it–fighting against the network and the trend towards connection and transparency isn’t a good use of effor

Wu-wei: think about escaping a riptide by not fighting it or driving in the direction of a skid on ice

When students disrupt or are on the wrong track, we don’t like to swim parallel to them and nudge them; we want to stop them and fight the flow. What if we are present and can learn together with them? Seems especially relevant for complex and emerging topics

Instructors often serve as judges in the classroom-they evaluate student work. This is a requirement of the job; they can’t get away from it. But it can make them arrogant.

Practice non-judgment: suspending judgment to create space for ch’i

Non-judgment != no judgment; it’s giving space to ponder and reflect in a respectful environment

Stereotypical images of a professor:

  • they have all the answers
  • attached to the answers
  • attached to authority
  • sage on the stage
  • pompous
  • expert
  • lectures at
  • white men

Detachment: “releasing one’s personal attachment to the outcome”–get the facilitator’s ego out of the center of the learning. The idea is the center of the learning, not the instructor.

The Tao and Constructivism: Use the energy in the life experiences of adult learners, learning as meaning-making

The Tao and Andragogy: Energy generated by students, not instructors. Use what adult learners bring to the table.

The Tao and Asynchronous Learning: Keep the energy flowing 24/7; use diverse energy sources at different times and rates.

The Tao and Cognitive Economy:

  • “Cognitive Economy = adult learning invest in an education based on their return on their investment”
  • Reward learning to create positive energy

Make learning easier by

  • Recognize ch’i in every student and class
  • Suspend need to judge everything–look at each contribution to see how it can build learning
  • Allow students to fuel the learning
  • Build from students’ experiences
  • Feed students’ hunger for learning

Q: How do you reward learning? Praise?
A: Learning is rewarding in itself, so create an environment where learning is easy and the aha moments can happen

Interesting ideas. How do you implement this as an instructional designer? I can see this for facilitators in discussion forums etc., but I’m struggling a bit to see how to create a learning environment that makes it easier for facilitators to get out of the way of learning. Need more time to reflect. Maybe more for me personally in terms of helping facilitators learn new tools etc, empowering them to learn and explore on their own?

Image: ‘Ying Yang

4 thoughts on “TCC09: The Tao of Online Facilitation”

  1. Pingback: My History of Live Blogged Notes | Experiencing E-Learning

  2. Pingback: TCC09 Conference Liveblogging | Experiencing E-Learning

  3. I agree; it seems like this is more of a philosophical approach to how you approach relationships and teaching than a specific pedagogy. It can be an underlying premise for everything else that you do.

    That said, although it was interesting and well-presented, it seemed to be more applicable to the facilitators who are really in the classrooms. That was really his audience. Even after having some time to reflect, I’m still not sure that I see how I can apply these ideas from behind the scenes as an instructional designer.

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