Freedom to Learn Section III: For the Teacher (part two) – Becoming a Facilitator

This chapter explores the facilitator role in greater depth.

1.  A magic Wand

"Suppose I had a magic wand that could produce only one change in our educational systems. What would that change be?" The wand would cause every teacher to forget that they are a teacher, forget their teaching skills so that they found themselves unable to teach. Thus they would find themselves holding the attitudes - genuineness, prizing and empathy - and possesed of the skills of a facilitator of learning. And there is no resemblance between teaching and facilitation, they are at opposite poles. 

2.   What is the way?

There are many ways by which one may change - asking questions might be a start...

1. What is it like?

What is it like to be a child who is learning something significant? Rogers recounts his own experience by way of an answer. He explored a fascination with moths in his youth and became quite expert in their behaviour and development - however, this was at home and he said nothing of it to his teachers because this was not part of 'school', of 'education' - however, it was real learning, significant learning. And this is what he would try to help the child to do - "I would try very hard to find out what it like to be a child who is learning. I would try to get inside the child's world to see what is of significance for them."

2. Can I risk myself in a relationship?

"Do I dare to let myself deal with this boy or girl as a person, as someone I respect? Do I dare reveal myself to him and let him reveal himself to me? Do I dare to recognise that he may know more than I do in certain areas - or may in general be more gifted than I?" These questions centrally involve risk and raise questions about how to bring about such a relationship.  Rogers believes that some kind of group experience might provide the answer.

3. What are the students' interests?

"What are the interests, goals, aims, purposes, passions of these students?" The answer to this one is easy - "If I genuinely wish to discover a student's interest, I can do so." - just ask (something so easy is yet not done very often). "It might be by creating a climate in which it is natural for interests to emerge."

4. How can I unleash the inquiring mind?

"How can I preserve and unleash curiosity?" Create a climate in which students have freedom to be themselves and to learn.

5. Resources

"How can I imaginatively provide resources for learning - resources that are both physically and psychologically available?" "I believe that a good facilitator of learning should spend the majority of preparation time in making resources available ... it is not necessary to teach ... but they do need resources to feed their interests."

6. Creativity

"Do i have the courage and the humility to nurture creative ideas in my students? Do I have the tolerance and humanity to accept the annoying, occasionally defiant, occasionally oddball questions of some of those who have creative ideas? Can I make a place for the creative person?" Education does not have a good record in this regard - for instance, Thomas Edison was regarded as dull and stupid. "I would hope that perhaps in my classroom I could create an atmosphere of a kind often greatly feared by educators, of mutual respect and mutual freedom of expression. That, I think, might permit the creative individual to write poetry, paint pictures, produce inventions, try out new ventures, without fear of being squashed. I would like to be able to do that."

7. Is there room for the soma?

"Can I help the student develop a feeling life as well as a cognitive life? Can I help him or her to become what Thomas Hanna calls a soma - body and mind, feelings and intellect?" The focus on cognitive learning in modern education is a tragedy. "I would hope very much that the learning that took place in my classroom might be learning by the whole person - something difficult to achieve, but highly rewarding in its end product."

3.   An Example

Rogers relates an example of one school where teachers could give generally positive answers to these questions.

High School for the Performing and Visual Arts

The school's ethos is both humane and academically successful. Students report being allowed to be and to grow without coercion, learning how to learn, of a place, an experience in which "the basic foundation of creativity, growth and learning is there for everyone."


Rogers points out that none of the students mention their teachers, but highlight the psychological climate in which they were enveloped.