How is the Role of the Teacher Changing?

In today’s digital world, learning has become more mobile, individualized and student-centered. And now learning also happens in a virtual environment. So how do these new developments affect the role of the teacher? Boring lectures must become a thing of the past as educational trends, like online learning and the flipped classroom, gradually shift the teacher’s role from one of lecturer, to one of a coach, or guide.

In flipped learning, students watch short, recorded lectures (often quite entertaining) on their own time, in place of homework. Students can review the videos as often as needed in order to understand difficult concepts, and class time (virtual or not) can then be used to work on collaborative projects and asking questions. The teacher is then able to troubleshoot, answer questions, and help students to apply what they have learned.

This relatively new style of learning continues to gain momentum. It’s become increasingly widespread, particularly due to the popularity of Salman Khan’s Khan Academy videos, an extensive library of more than 2,000 videos explaining everything from physics, to civics, to finance.

Likewise, in a online school setting, students read and digest the material on their own time, and the teacher’s time is spent helping with problem areas, facilitating online discussions, grading assignments and helping students to set their schedules. Just as in the flipped classroom model, a student can slow down and get extra help in areas where he or she struggles, or move on to something more challenging if he already mastered the material. This method of learning allows students to progress at their own pace and in a manner that best suits their individual learning styles.

The teacher’s role is shifting, but it is no less important—just different.  At NBC’s  Education Nation summit, a panel of students talked about education, their concerns, and what they need in a teacher. The following is excerpted from the Innovative Educators’ post on the panel, The 20 Things Students Want the Nation to Know About Education.

  • We learn in different ways at different rates.
  • I can’t learn from you if you are not willing to connect with me.
  • Teaching by the book is not teaching. It’s just talking.
  • Caring about each student is more important than teaching the class.
  • Every young person has a dream. Your job is to help bring us closer to our dreams.
  • We need more than teachers. We need life coaches.
  • Us youth love all the new technologies that come out. When you acknowledge this and use technology in your teaching it makes learning much more interesting.
  • You should be trained not just in teaching but also in counseling.

Do you agree with the students’ idea of an ideal teacher? Should teachers shift from a lecturing, imparter-of-wisdom role, to one of a guide or coach?

This is an updated version of an article originally published on K12‘s thinktanK¹².


Image credit: “Ashs-teacher-and-students” by Mosborne01. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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