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Facilitator vs Teacher: Promoting Learning Through Engagement

October 20, 2022

Facilitators and teachers play an invaluable role in our society, passing along a wealth of knowledge to students of all ages and life stages. While the titles are often used interchangeably, the skills and responsibilities of a facilitator vs. teacher can be very different. 

In a traditional classroom setting, a workplace, or an organization, educators require strong leadership and communication skills that can be applied to many roles and challenges. Building those skills takes time and a strong foundation in education. By pursuing an advanced degree rooted in teaching, graduates can learn how to nurture those skills, honing their teaching style and preparing themselves and the next generation for a successful future.

What Is a Facilitator?               

While many types of facilitators work in a variety of settings, they each share a common goal: helping people learn. Many areas of expertise combine to make up what a facilitator is trained to offer. Facilitators focus on easing the learning process, arming students or employees with strategies for cultivating ideas, fostering creativity, improving communication, and deepening comprehension. 

Facilitators can improve a workplace or learning environment by: 

  • Acting as mediators. Facilitators often work in group settings. By acting as mediators and encouraging a healthy discussion, they’re able to increase participation, fostering new ideas or solutions.  
  • Engaging in active listening and problem-solving. Understanding how to best help someone requires reliance on strong active listening skills. By narrowing down the specific challenges an individual is facing, facilitators are able to help find a solution. 
  • Using preparation or engagement techniques. Even though facilitators aren’t required to have background knowledge in a subject, proper preparation is crucial for facilitation. Arriving prepared with activities and strategies to keep students and coworkers engaged can streamline learning or workplace development, encouraging individuals to invest in the process. 

While teachers impart information, facilitators help students absorb that information. By offering skills, strategies, and resources to boost productivity, facilitators make it easier for students or employees to participate in the learning process. Facilitators break down barriers to creativity and communication and encourage success.

What Is a Teacher?             

Teachers are subject matter experts who pay their knowledge forward. The main difference between facilitators and teachers is that teachers use their subject matter expertise to design curricula, presentations, and learning materials. Teachers create and implement learning materials, while facilitators support learners through the process and help maximize their education.

What a teacher is tasked with involves advancing students’ knowledge and skills and understanding the specific subject matter. Through designing lessons and supplying resources, teachers strive to foster their students’ curiosity, creativity, and investment in learning. 

A teacher’s day-to-day duties include the following: 

  • Lesson planning. When planning lessons, teachers look at the long- and short-term goals of their students’ curriculum. To ensure that students meet the education standards for each grade and cover the required subject matter, teachers must plan accordingly, drawing on time management, planning, and organizational skills. 
  • Testing or evaluating. Tests and evaluations allow teachers to get an idea of what content their students have mastered and what they need to review. The process also allows them to give formal grades and prepare students for state-mandated testing.  
  • Giving presentations and communicating. Teaching includes giving presentations and communicating orally and in writing. The more comfortable teachers are with presenting and communicating, the more time and resources they can put toward evaluating and building rapport with students. 

Educators, whether they’re classroom teachers or workplace facilitators, shape the way we learn, see the world, and approach our futures. For educators, developing teaching skills takes time and dedication to their craft. Developing expertise in how to guide that learning and fostering students’ curiosity can be a stimulating and fulfilling career. 

Considering the distinction between a facilitator and a teacher can shed light on the processes these educators use to spark learning in any student. Moreover, the comparison can help aspiring and practicing teachers broaden their perspective on what a teacher is.

Facilitator vs. Teacher: Differences and Similarities

In traditional educational settings, such as a classroom or a lecture hall, most people expect to be taught by teachers: experts in their field who are able to impart a wealth of knowledge on a subject. In contrast, facilitators may not be experts in the content that students are learning, but instead are experts in guiding the learning process. 

Work Environment

The subject matter that teachers specialize in, as well as their personal level of education, can greatly influence their work environment and the career opportunities available to them. Typically, the higher the qualification, the more likely they are to earn a higher salary. While we traditionally think of teachers in the classroom, from elementary schools to postgraduate institutions, they may also work in other settings.

On the other hand, the skills that facilitators cultivate can allow them to work in not only educational settings but also in various industries. 

In education, facilitators can assist students both inside and outside the classroom, giving guidance and supplying resources in the form of one-on-one tutoring or brainstorming. This may include using open discussions or leading questions to help students explore ideas; engaging in strategic planning to get past classroom disagreements; or assisting students in using resources, such as the school library.

In the workplace, organizations turn to facilitators to improve employee efficiency, tasking them with putting strategies in place that encourage cooperation and collaboration on projects. This may involve acting as sounding boards for employees, assisting in delegation or idea generation in work discussions so that each member feels a part of a team, and encouraging participation in projects.  

Salary and Career Opportunities

Factors such as work experience, education, and location can affect the salary of those who pursue the traditional educational route. The mean annual salary for elementary school teachers (not including special education teachers) was $67,080 as of May 2021, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In contrast, the BLS estimated that the mean annual salary for postsecondary teachers—many of these positions require a master’s or doctoral degree to qualify—was $92,200 during the same period. 

Depending on the type of facilitation that graduates would like to pursue, the salary can vary. According to Payscale, the approximate average annual salary for training facilitators was $57,440 as of June 2022, with variables such as education, location, work experience, and bonuses impacting the amount. In education, Payscale reported an approximate average annual salary of $47,170 for education facilitators as of June 2022, with fluctuations depending on the type of facility, experience, education, and location. 

Teachers and Facilitators: Teaching Styles, Skills, and Strategies

Instructing students or employees on how they can explore a topic or build a healthy workplace atmosphere calls for various teaching competencies. Skills such as improving communication, better managing one’s time, and resolving conflicts can make all the difference in the learning or creative process. However, understanding the theory behind a strategy is only half the battle. For facilitators and teachers, choosing the right teaching style and learning how to implement programs are equally important.    

The methods that facilitators and teachers use can vary, with teaching strategies focused more on the best way to share information as opposed to facilitators focusing on ease of learning. Inside and outside the classroom, however, teachers may find that the use of different types of facilitator strategies can streamline their own teaching methods, improving the effectiveness of their lessons. 

The following are some of the skills and strategies that benefit both teachers and facilitators: 

Conflict Resolution

Conflict resolution focuses on improving relationships between students, employees, or employees and their supervisors. This strategy improves learning by minimizing distractions. The more effectively people are able to address and find solutions to their conflicts, the sooner they can return to work or learning, improving overall productivity and engagement. 

Educators often rely on group projects to foster valuable skills, such as teamwork and leadership. For a group project to run smoothly and to build valuable skills for their future, teachers and facilitators can encourage students to apply conflict resolution strategies. 

Active Listening

Active listening is an essential skill for effective teachers and facilitators. Without the ability to listen to their students and narrow down the things that need to be improved, educators would be lost. Additionally, active listening is instrumental in many styles of teaching, allowing educators to relate to their students and build relationships. 

Active listening is a vital life skill across all levels of education and throughout our working lives. Building the patience and empathy required to listen effectively is a hallmark of strong communication, creating lasting relationships and network growth. 


The ability to communicate is essential for all types of educators. Without effective communication skills, teachers aren’t able to pass along information to their students, and facilitators aren’t able to guide learning. Across industries, professions, and learning environments and across day-to-day activities, the ability to communicate effectively is one of the most valuable skills to develop. 

From nonverbal communication to public speaking, or the ability to compile an effective presentation, communication is both how we present ourselves to others, and how we understand the world around us. 

Types of Facilitators: Facilitation Outside the Classroom 

The value of learning and gaining new skills is universal, benefiting professionals across industries and career paths. In the classroom, facilitators help students grasp the information that educators provide them, which can be useful outside the classroom as well. Using the same principles, strategies, and teaching styles used to streamline the academic learning process, facilitators can be equally successful in the training and development of professionals in the workplace. 

For many organizations, facilitators are instrumental in improving the efficiency of the following objectives: 

Employee Training              

Employee training is a crucial and practical aspect of building an organization. Without training standards, systems, and expectations, many companies would struggle. Additionally, proper training can make all the difference in building a safe workplace. Ensuring that employees have a thorough understanding of their roles and responsibilities, as well as the risks associated with those responsibilities, can be the difference between a safe workplace and a hazardous workplace. 

While facilitators may not be subject matter experts, they are experts in communication, leadership, and problem-solving. When facilitators apply that expertise to ensure that employees are properly trained and feel comfortable working as a team, they can greatly improve an organization, minimizing the risk of costly mistakes and protecting the bottom line.

Workforce Development               

Developing a strong, enthusiastic workforce can be beneficial to both the organization and the employees themselves. The teaching styles and programs that different types of facilitators use can assist in the growth and development of a multiskilled workforce. By encouraging a workforce to invest in learning and building new skills, facilitators can propel the success of both the organization and the employees themselves. 

Benefits to the workplace include the following:

  • Efficiency. When tasks and responsibilities become second nature, employees are more efficient and are able to complete tasks more effectively, reducing the costs for the workplace and improving the bottom line. 
  • Reliability. A skilled workforce can improve the reliability of an organization across various industries. With increased reliability, organizations can reduce the frequency of costly errors. Increased employee trust and reliability can also reduce employment overhead, with team members able to take on additional responsibilities. 
  • Upskilling and retraining. Employees who feel valued and gain skills are more likely to be loyal to their companies. By investing in their employees and developing their workforces, organizations encourage their employees to invest in their employers as well. 

Benefits to the employee include the following:

  • Valuable professional development. Building skills in a workplace is a valuable asset to any professional’s career. When prospective employees consider the pros and cons of choosing a workplace, a company’s willingness to develop its employees, adding valuable skills or certifications to their resumes, can weigh heavily in their decision. 
  • Workplace satisfaction. Workplace development can improve employee satisfaction in many ways. Learning new skills can be fulfilling, providing employees with a sense of accomplishment and improving their sense of self. In addition, developing new skills can enable employees to take on additional responsibilities and gain autonomy at work, giving them the freedom to take their future into their own hands. 
  • Career advancement. Building new skills or earning additional certifications or qualifications can add long-term value to an employee’s resume. Those skills can lead to senior roles with higher salaries as well as the opportunity to reach personal and professional goals. 

Employees who are inspired to learn and improve add value to their organizations. By promoting opportunities for education and workplace development, facilitators can assist companies in improving the lives of others, finding success as organizations and allowing employees to reach their goals. 

Improving Workplace Culture               

Outside the classroom, one of the exciting opportunities available to facilitators is the chance to collaborate with their organizations to build a positive and collaborative workplace culture. Much of the foundation of facilitation is based on the principle of helping one another, bouncing ideas off one another, or providing others with the help and resources they need to find success. 

The ways that different types of facilitation strategies can benefit an organization’s workplace culture include the following:

  • Team-building exercises. Team-building exercises are activities that aid in familiarizing employees with one another. These exercises can be “icebreakers” for coworkers, ensuring that they’re less hesitant in working together or providing feedback to one another. 
  • Open communication. At the heart of conflict resolution is the ability to communicate freely and openly with one another. By fostering a workplace that values communication, supervisors are better able to meet the needs of others and eliminate problems before they grow or build within a team. 
  • Leadership and delegation. Passing on the principles of leadership and delegation can improve both the efficiency of a workplace and a team’s ability to work together, ensuring that tasks are divided evenly among team members and reducing burnout. 
  • Task management and accountability. The success or failure of an organization or its projects relies on a leader’s ability to manage tasks effectively. Facilitators can motivate employees to put their best foot forward and take accountability for their responsibilities in an organization.
  • Flexibility. Relying on the principles of learning, facilitators have more freedom in how they steer a program. Incorporating flexibility into both the ways in which employees are taught and the programs that guide an organization provides companies with the ability to respond to their employees’ needs and adapt to changes in the workplace. 

Building a positive and enjoyable workplace culture can have long-term benefits for all varieties of organizations. Through applying strategies designed by facilitators, organizations can make changes that result in increased employee retention, project success, and an improved reputation. 

Shape Education on All Levels

Educators, regardless of if they’re facilitators or teachers, have the opportunity to enrich the lives of their students, inspiring them to learn, build their skills and knowledge, and invest in their education. Using many different strategies and teaching styles, educators promote learning by engaging with their students, fostering creativity, cultivating a positive environment, and helping their students shape an exciting future. 

Pursuing the online MA in Teaching (MAT) from American University can provide future teachers with the foundation they need to enrich the lives of their future students. The fully online program is built on practice-based teacher education; an inclusive and anti-racist pedagogy equips graduates with the practical skills to find success.

American University designed its program to train a capable, inspired generation of educators. Discover how you can help change the lives of others with an advanced degree in teaching.