Teaching V Facilitating

Written by Dan

Last updated

As we all know, teaching and facilitating are incredibly important to students’ success. But what is the difference between them?

Both are great ways to get your point across, but each has its unique style – so how do you decide which one works best for you as a teacher?

In this blog post, we will explore the key differences between teaching and facilitating (in a fun way!), highlighting when it’s best to teach versus facilitate and why.

Let’s dive into the world of teaching vs facilitating without further ado!

Related: For more, check out our article on Teaching V Coaching  here.

1. Understanding the Difference Between Teaching and Facilitating

What is Teaching?

Teaching is a traditional form of imparting knowledge where the teacher is the primary source of information. In this approach, the teacher presents a set of pre-determined materials and concepts to the students, often in a lecture format.

The focus is on transmitting knowledge from the teacher to the student, with the student usually playing a more passive role in the learning process.

What is Facilitating?

Facilitating, on the other hand, is a more modern approach to education. Instead of being the main source of information, the facilitator guides and assists students in their learning process.

This approach encourages students to take active roles in their learning, fostering critical thinking, problem-solving, and self-learning skills. Facilitation often involves group activities, discussions, and projects that allow students to learn from each other as well as from the facilitator.

Key Differences

The key difference between teaching and facilitating lies in the role of the educator and the student in the learning process. In teaching, the educator is the authority, and the student is the receiver of knowledge.

In facilitation, the educator is a guide, and the student actively participates in their own learning. Both methods have their merits and can be effective depending on the learning objectives, the subject matter, and the needs of the students.

RoleInstructor, ExpertGuide, SupporterTeaching involves delivering content with the teacher as the knowledge expert, whereas facilitating is about guiding students to discover and understand the content for themselves.
FocusCurriculum and content deliveryLearning process and group dynamicsTeaching is content-driven with a focus on the curriculum, while facilitating emphasizes the learning process and collaboration among learners.
MethodologyDirect instruction, lectures, demonstrationsGroup discussions, activities, problem-solvingTeachers use direct methods to impart knowledge, while facilitators encourage active learning through discussions and activities.
InteractionTeacher-centeredLearner-centeredIn teaching, the teacher is the central figure, while facilitating places the learner at the center of the process.
GoalsKnowledge acquisition, mastery of subject matterCritical thinking, personal growth, social developmentTeaching aims for students to acquire specific knowledge, while facilitating aims to develop broader skills like critical thinking and collaboration.
AssessmentTests, quizzes, gradingSelf-assessment, peer feedback, reflectionTeaching often uses formal assessments, while facilitating relies more on informal methods like self-assessment and reflection.
EnvironmentStructured, controlledFlexible, open-endedThe teaching environment is typically more structured, whereas facilitating provides a more open-ended and flexible setting.
AdaptabilityLess adaptable, follows a set planMore adaptable, responsive to group needsTeaching tends to stick to a predetermined plan, while facilitating is more responsive to the needs and dynamics of the group.

This table outlines the distinctions between teaching and facilitating, comparing their roles, focus, methodologies, interaction styles, goals, assessment methods, environments, and adaptability.

This information can help clarify the differences and potential applications of each approach in an educational context.

2. Types of Facilitation Techniques


This is a common facilitation technique where the facilitator encourages everyone to share their ideas on a particular topic. The main goal is to generate as many ideas as possible, promoting creativity and out-of-the-box thinking.


In this technique, participants are given roles to play in a scenario related to the topic of discussion. This can help them understand different perspectives and develop empathy. It’s beneficial in subjects like sociology or psychology but can also be applied in other areas.

Group Discussions

This is a direct and effective way to facilitate learning. The facilitator introduces a topic and allows the group to discuss it. This helps in understanding the subject matter and fosters skills such as critical thinking, communication, and teamwork.

Case Studies

Using real-world examples or case studies can be an excellent way to facilitate learning. Students analyze the situation, discuss possible solutions, and learn from the outcomes of the case.

Reflection Activities

Reflection activities encourage students to reflect on what they’ve learned, how they’ve learned it, and how it applies to their lives. This can enhance their understanding and retention of the material.

Each of these techniques fosters active learning and encourages students to take responsibility for their own education. They can be used alone or in combination, depending on the students’ needs and the lesson’s goals.

Related: For more, check out our article on Teaching V Educating here.

3. Advantages and Disadvantages of Facilitation

Advantages of Facilitation

Encourages Active Learning

Facilitation encourages students to take an active role in their learning process. This can lead to a deeper understanding of the material, as students are not just passively receiving information but are actively engaged in understanding it.

Fosters Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Skills

Through discussions, group activities, and other facilitation techniques, students are encouraged to think critically and solve problems. These skills are invaluable today and can be applied in many areas of life beyond the classroom.

Promotes Collaboration and Teamwork

Facilitation often involves group work, which can help students learn to work effectively in teams. This is another skill that is highly valued in many professions.

Disadvantages of Facilitation


Facilitation can be more time-consuming than traditional teaching methods. Preparing for a facilitation session often requires more planning and preparation than a lecture, and the session can take longer.

Requires Skilled Facilitator

Not everyone can facilitate effectively. It requires a certain set of skills, including the ability to guide discussions, manage group dynamics, and handle conflicts. A facilitator who lacks these skills can hinder rather than help the learning process.

Not Suitable for All Subjects

While facilitation can be very effective for certain subjects, it may not be the best approach for all. For example, subjects that require the memorization of large amounts of information might be better suited to traditional teaching methods.

While facilitation has some potential disadvantages, the advantages often outweigh them. With a skilled facilitator and well-planned sessions, facilitation can greatly enhance the learning experience.

Related: For more, check out our article on Teaching V Mentoring here.

4. Key Components of Effective Facilitation 

Clear Goals and Objectives

An effective facilitation process should have clear goals and objectives. These should be communicated to the participants at the beginning of the session, so everyone understands what they’re working towards.

Active Listening

The facilitator must be an active listener. This means not just hearing what participants say, but understanding it, considering it, and responding appropriately. This shows respect for the participants’ ideas and encourages open communication.

Encouraging Participation

A good facilitator encourages everyone to participate. This might involve asking open-ended questions, inviting quiet participants to share their thoughts, or using activities that require everyone’s involvement.

Handling Group Dynamics

Managing group dynamics is a crucial part of facilitation. This involves dealing with conflicts, ensuring everyone has an equal opportunity to participate, and creating a safe and respectful environment for discussion.

Providing Feedback

Feedback is an essential component of the learning process. The facilitator should provide constructive feedback to participants, helping them understand what they’re doing well and where they can improve.


Finally, an effective facilitator must be flexible. This means being able to adapt the session as needed, based on the group’s responses, the time available, and any other factors that may arise.

By incorporating these components into their practice, facilitators can create a more engaging, productive, and enjoyable learning experience for their students.

5. Strategies for Increasing Engagement in Group Work 

Here are some effective strategies for increasing engagement in group work:

1. Establish Clear Goals and Expectations

Before the group work begins, make sure everyone understands the project’s goal and what is expected of them. This clarity can help keep everyone focused and motivated.

2. Create Diverse Groups

A group with diverse skills and perspectives can be more engaging as members can learn from each other. Mix up your groups to include a range of abilities and backgrounds.

3. Encourage Communication

Promote open and respectful communication within the group. This might involve setting some ground rules for discussion or using icebreaker activities to get people talking.

4. Provide Regular Feedback

Feedback can help group members know how they’re doing and where they can improve. It can be motivating to see progress and can help address any issues before they become bigger problems.

5. Incorporate Team-Building Activities

Team-building activities can help group members get to know each other better, build trust, and work more effectively together.

6. Use Technology

There are many tools available that can facilitate group work, from project management apps to collaborative document editing software. These tools can make group work easier and more engaging.

7. Give Autonomy

Allowing the group some autonomy in approaching the task can increase their engagement. This could involve letting them choose their roles within the group or decide on their own work processes.

By implementing these strategies, you can help ensure your group work is engaging and productive.

6. How to Balance Direct Instruction with Open Discussion

Balancing direct instruction with open discussion is critical to creating a dynamic and effective learning environment. Here’s how you can achieve this balance:

Start with Direct Instruction

Begin the lesson with direct instruction to introduce new concepts or information. This provides a foundation of knowledge that students can then build on during the discussion.

Encourage Questions

After presenting the material, encourage students to ask questions. This can help clarify any points of confusion and can also segue into a more open discussion.

Use Guided Discussion

Instead of moving straight into an open discussion, you might use a guided discussion first. This involves asking specific questions related to the material you’ve just presented. This helps ensure the discussion stays focused and relevant.

Transition to Open Discussion

Once you’ve guided the discussion, you can transition to a more open format. This allows students to explore the topic more freely and bring up interesting points or ideas.

Wrap Up with a Summary

After the discussion, summarize the main points that were brought up. This helps reinforce the material and ensures everyone understands the key takeaways.

Provide Opportunities for Reflection

Finally, provide opportunities for students to reflect on what they’ve learned. This could involve writing a short reflection, discussing their thoughts with a partner, or thinking about how they can apply the material in their own lives.

Using this approach, you can balance direct instruction and open discussion, promoting active learning and deep understanding.

Understanding the difference between teaching and facilitation is crucial in creating an effective learning environment. While teaching is a more traditional method where the teacher imparts knowledge, facilitation guides students in their learning process, encouraging active participation.

This approach has advantages, such as fostering critical thinking and promoting collaboration, but it also has potential disadvantages, like being time-consuming and requiring skilled facilitators.

However, with clear goals, active listening, and flexibility, effective facilitation can significantly enhance the learning experience. Strategies to increase engagement in group work and balancing direct instruction with open discussion further contribute to an engaging and productive learning environment.

Therefore, striking a balance between these different methods and adapting to the needs of the students can lead to a more enriching educational experience.

About The Author

I'm Dan Higgins, one of the faces behind The Teaching Couple. With 15 years in the education sector and a decade as a teacher, I've witnessed the highs and lows of school life. Over the years, my passion for supporting fellow teachers and making school more bearable has grown. The Teaching Couple is my platform to share strategies, tips, and insights from my journey. Together, we can shape a better school experience for all.






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