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TCC 2009: The Tao of Online Facilitation

My live notes from TCC 2009

The Tao of Online Facilitation

by Scott Robinson, D.Min., Kaplan Humanities Dept., Chair

Tao = “way” (pronounced dow like how but with d)
an understanding of nature, the way of nature, the flow of nature

the how or the way of online facilitation
– natural order of things
– where would it lead us if we let online learning flow

Yin and Yang symbol
– means to you? peace balance opposites, good and bad, centering, strength/weakness

In the west, very dualistic
tough to get away from the good/bad mentality (good and evil)

In taosim, there are two forces that work together to create a balance
the yin and the yang refers to natural balance in nature
– the more we understand that balance, the better we can work within that flow

For example, the dark side (feminine), a time of rest, yielding, nurturing, restoration
in the light (masculine), doing, work
– always working together: tide coming in and out; seasons

Taosim teaches us to respect that all things have both the light and dark, opposite forces

Define Facilitate

guidance, interaction, guide, lead
facilitate = make easier

easy = four letter word of educators
hard = four letter word for students

What if we could find a natural balance between both of these four letter words?
Perhaps the principles of Taoism can open a door of understanding.

Understanding Facilitation
– think of a conductor; brings various diverse instruments and personalities life experiences together to create one harmonious experience; does that through the knowledge of people, instruments, music; conductor actually works to bring that together to create a positive flow of energy
– facilitation is related to the flow of energy
– facilitator direct the flow of energy
– positive facilitation directs the energy to make learning easier
– negative facilitation makes it harder

The Ch’i of Online Learning

– ch’i = energy, breath, life force – basic building block of life
– more we can work and respect the chi the more we are able to enhance life (learning)
– symbol of windmill – using the flow of wind, create energy; we don’t see the wind, but we get the outcome which is the energy
– chi in terms of learning is the flow of energy in the classroom
– rapid discussion, sparking ideas,
– what are some examples of learning as a flow of energy?

The Wu-Wei of Online Facilitation

– wu-wei = actionless action, non-action
– what does non-action imply in the West?
– in West, that might mean laziness or weakness, losers
– go with the flow
– positive facilitation is working with the energy of the student, or class, to produce the learning outcome
– rather than control to go with the flow
– very difficult to do
– pay attention to the flow and work with it rather than against it
– picture of rapids; can take a scary and difficult ride and turn it into a thrill or positive experience
– the guide is responsible for everybody on the boat
– in many ways, this is what the facilitator does
– if in a riptide, logic says I should swim in because current is pulling me out; swimmer will wear himself out if he does that
– actually, is counter-intuitive; swim parallel to beach and then swim in at an angle
– in classroom, there can be a riptide; as a facilitator, we try to nip the destruction at the bud or clarify the thought or correct the wrong assumption
– so rather than recognizing a learning opportunity, we shut the flow of energy down
– instead, we need to practice wu-wei, there are enormous opportunuites in the situation
– be present, go with the flow, there is a way to manage the flow energy to make sure everyone can learn; learn to recognize the moments to go with the flow

Here comes the judge

How does the instructor serve as a judge in the classroom?
– evaluate student progress
– grades work
– lays down the law with classroom management
We’re paid to be judges; someone has to assess the work, make decisions what is acceptable unacceptable, classroom management
– problem: can become arrogant; addicted to position and power

Practicing Non-Judgment

Non-judgment=suspending judgment to create space for the flow of energy (chi’i); step back and wait and allow the flow of energy to occur
– does not equal no judgment! it is the ability to practice critical thinking and make judgments based on trusting the flow of energy
– positive facilitation creates a respectful environment for learning
– don’t quickly judge student/situation for being wrong or average or inaccurate
– view each contribution as a part of the learning experience

Here Comes the Professor!

Based on this image, what are the stereotypical attachments of a professor? pompous, attached to image, have all the answers, authority, uniform, position

Practicing Detachment

Detachment = releasing one’s personal attachment to the outcome
– we’re attached to our egos and we need to find a way to get it out of the center of the learning
– positive facilitation keeps the learning process at the center by removing the overpowering (arrogant) presence of the facilitator
– for example, in discussion board we have an agenda but the flow of energy is off our agenda but is in the same flow of supporting the learning outcome; we may not have notes to support the excitring discussion; we need to let the discussion drive our learning rather than force our stories or notes to get it back to what we want
-let the students experiences move us

The Tao and Constructivism

– constructivism – adult learners construct meaning from previous life experiences
– positive facilitation uses the energy built into the adult-learners life experiences
– create something synergetically new from life experiences from adult learners int he classroom

The Tao of Andragogy
– andragogy – the art and science of adult learning
– shift of energy generated by the students, rather than energy generated by the instructors
– positive facilitation uses the student’s energy to fuel the learning experience

The Tao and Asynchronous Learning
-asynchronous – diverse energy sources occurring at a variety of times; availability and accessibility
– positive facilitation keeps the energy flowing 24/7 through frequent efforts to validate and generate learning
– learners can learn at their own rate and to their own abilities
– we constantly kindle the fire and bring in new information to fuel the fire

The Tao and Cognitive Economy
– cognitive economy – adult learners invest in an education based on the return on their investment\
– student will take a course if they feel like they’re getting a ROI they will continue to put their energy into course; but if they don’t feel they’re getting an ROI, they’ll give up because they don’t feel like they’re getting anything out of it
– positive facilitation creates positive energy by rewarding learning

The Tao of Online Facilitation
– make learning easier by

The Tao of Online Learning
– make learning easier by
-building meaning from the student’s life experiences
– allowing the student to fuel the learning experience
– frequently kindle the fire of asynchronous learning with affirmations, illustrative stories, and clarifying questions
– feeding the student’s hunger for learning


Be a guide (like the one on rapids) to the students’ Wei, must guide the contributions

In a seminar situation, maintain your own focus, pick specific things that enhance learning outcomes

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