Did you ever wonder about active & passive learning?

Maybe you don’t even need a teacher. You need a facilitator!

“To explain something to someone is first of all to show them they cannot understand it by themselves.” 

So goes the quote by the famous radical French philosopher, Jacques Ranciere.

So, if Ranciere is right, doesn’t that bring almost all teaching into question?

That might seem like a strange thing to write on the blog of a language school that consists almost entirely of teachers. 

Well, it is, and it isn’t. Ranciere is not trying to say that all teachers are patronising and that we’re all better off self-taught. Ranciere is trying to point out the difference between two teaching styles. 

Aside from reminding us of why the term mansplaining exists, what Ranciere is trying to show us is a different understanding of the teacher and student relationship.

Ranciere believes that if students do not have freedom, traditional teaching can hold students back from their full potential.

Ranciere’s views are a good introduction to the topic of this article. We want to highlight the difference between two types of teacher – that of the traditional teacher, and that of the facilitator.

Picture this:

Teacher number one understands learning as a process whereby knowledge is simply imparted, passed down, given to the student to consume, like a piece of chocolate.

In the classroom, teacher number one might tell his class, “This is the grammar, repeat it, learn it by heart, it’s useful, trust me. Oh, and if you don’t learn it and fail the exam, you’ll get detention so you can study more.”

Teacher number two is a facilitator. 

Facilitators understand that the student is partly their own teacher. 

As facilitators of learning at Language and Motivation, we understand that it is not simply the student’s task to learn what they are taught, no more, no less. Rather the student should seek to contribute to their understanding, develop their own opinions, and take part in the creation of their own knowledge.

Teacher number two might say, “You’ve told me that you’re interested in history. Well then, it’s the eve of WW2, you are Winston Churchill, write a speech that you think will rouse the nation and prepare them to sacrifice everything for their country in the tough times to come!”

Teacher number one wishes to be the master of the student’s knowledge. 

Teacher number two wishes to be the master of the student’s curiosity. 

Of course, these are two simplistic explanations of the difference between a teacher and a facilitator. It’s true that different students respond differently to different approaches, and every teacher must be sensitive to this.

However, if you are a student and you are not learning as fast as you would like. Ask yourself the question, “Am I teaching myself anything?” 

The active mind will learn much faster, and more effectively, than the passive mind. In order to learn quickly, students must be prepared to teach themselves, and to do more than what is expected of them. 

This approach requires drive, willpower, curiosity, perseverance and inspiration from the student. It’s not all about the teacher! 

That’s why there is no better match than a motivated student, and a teacher who knows how to use the curiosity of students to maximum effect. 

With this approach, the teacher and the student are, ultimately, equals, working together towards a common goal – learning.

If you’re looking for a language school that will put you at the centre of your learning journey, get in touch!

You can watch the whole intriguing conversation 👇

Jake WieczorekDid you ever wonder about active & passive learning?