At Mozilla, we see teaching as mentoring: our facilitators are not just “covering the material,” they’re thinking about meeting learners where they are and moving them forward. Facilitators welcome all questions, encourage risk-taking, and understand the value of mistakes and failures as powerful learning moments. They remember that being a learner (encouraging behaviors such as trying new things, keeping an open mind, taking risks, changing, and iterating) is at the core of being a good facilitator.
1. What does “learner-centered education” mean?
“I can’t teach anybody anything, I can only make them think.” – Socrates
The learner-centered approach shifts the focus from the teacher to the student, in a quest to develop learner’s autonomy and independence. It is based on the constructivist theory that emphasizes the learner’s critical role in constructing meaning from new information and prior experience.
In this video, international adviser on education Sir Ken Robinson explains how the role of the educator is an art that requires creating an engaging, challenging, human and balanced learning process:
2. Key ideas from the learner-centered approach applied to Mozilla Clubs
Here are tips on how to use the learner-centered approach when facilitating a Club event:
- Act as a coach, not an instructor. Your mission as a facilitator in a Mozilla Club event is to motivate, engage and help learners to connect their interests with opportunities in the digital world brings. Your role should be seen as a coach rather than an instructor. Instead of providing a lecture, you will share your knowledge in a way that inspires others to create, make, hack and tweak.
- Get to know your learners. This is a MUST for you as a facilitator. Each learner is unique and can follow different pathways to master the same core skills. Your understanding of their particular talents, interests and abilities will help you to gain students’ full engagement in achieving deeper learning outcomes. Use this knowledge when designing activities and facilitation strategies.
- Encourage peer-to-peer interaction and collaborative thinking. The activities designed at Mozilla often embed constructive conversations among learners, as well as interaction and knowledge sharing. Your challenge as a facilitator is to trigger learner’s contribution during the session. In some cases, there are learners who have a more advanced level. Once you identify them, ask them to perform a mentor role with their peers.
- Let learners choose what they are going to learn based on their interests. A powerful way to connect with learners in a Mozilla Club is to organize brainstorm activities about projects, challenges and interests. Once you know what motivates them draw a plan to connect those interests with the web tools and digital skills you master.
- Design exploration sessions. Let your learners play with various devices (old computers, cellphones, tablets). Encourage them to take the pieces apart and put them together again. Ask questions that trigger their imagination. Don’t give them the answers, but rather assist them in finding the connections and logic themselves. If needed, prepare yourself to understand the anatomy of a computer watching this video. Also, watch this video about exploration sessions.
- Design the physical space and consider time to improve the learning experience. The disposition of the space influences humans behavior. If your learning location is organized in a traditional way, with hierarchies and individual desks, your learners might feel inhibited to interact and share. Watch this video to learn how to organize your learning space:
3. Teachable experience
In this blog post, Andrew Marcinek shares a reflection about a day in his classroom. Read about his attempts to find new ways to connect students, give them more autonomy and remove himself as the focus of the stage.
By the end of the exercise, Andrew realized how teaching some subjects, like grammar, don’t have to be boring. When you allow students to discover these essential skills for themselves “the engagement factor increases. Plus, they are creating their own resource. They own it and they understand that others will view it”.