The chief duty of the teacher in these activities is that of facilitator. As facilitator, the teacher needs to encourage honest responses, to establish a climate of trust, to listen with genuine interest to what the students say, and to invite sharing amongst the students, but only when they want to share. The teacher should clarify what they say by responding with questions such as “Is this what you are saying?” by paraphrasing what has been said with statements such as “I think you are saying . . . ” In addition, the teacher should be free to reveal her or his feelings and opinions in the discussion. It is thought by educators that the teacher should only do so toward the end, after the students have had a chance to think things through for themselves and express their own points of view. The teacher shares her/his values but does not impose them. In this way, the teacher models an adult who prizes, chooses, and acts according to those values. The weight of the teacher’s values and opinions holds no more weight than would anyone else’s.
It may be naïve to think that the teacher’s point of view can be downplayed to the extent that it holds no more weight than anyone else’s. The problem often is how the teacher can make it known that they too are refining and developing their own opinions and values just like the students. As a facilitator, the teacher should remain as objective as possible throughout the activity. It is the facilitator’s job to prepare and lead the students in a particular activity, to enforce the ground rules, to listen thoughtfully and non-judgmentally, to clarify, to accept each student as he or she wants to be accepted, and to provide closure at the end of each activity.
The students’ role also includes listening thoughtfully and non-judgmentally and accepting others on their own ground, but it does not require that one remain impartial. A participant has the right to state his or her opinions and feelings about the subject as long as others’ rights are respected.