The Changing Role Of Teachers In The K-12 Sector

With education undergoing a metamorphosis, driven by technological advancements—adaptive learning methodologies, augmented and virtual reality is the latest additions to the palate—the role and responsibilities of teachers have also greatly changed.

Today’s students experience technology in all facets of life. They take to the Internet to study; connect with friends and relatives miles away through video-calling; play games on their gaming consoles, etc. In short, they are what Marc Prensky calls ‘“ native speakers” of the digital language of computers, video games, and the Internet,’ in his essay  Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, In addition to the fact that technology already puts a certain degree of responsibility on the student, there is a growing body of literature which gives more agency to students in the learning process; hence the emphasis is on active learning methods through the use of manipulatives and play-based learning. 

With education undergoing a metamorphosis, driven by technological advancements—adaptive learning methodologies, augmented and virtual reality is the latest additions to the palate—the role and responsibilities of teachers have also greatly changed. From being the transmitters of knowledge they are now the facilitators in the learning process. Instead of the blackboard, they are now required to use the digital interactive board. Soon they will have to rely on technological data to provide feedback on students’ performance. While the technological advances have been made to bring about positive changes in the education process—that is knowledge aimed at creating a generation of a successful workforce— the challenges which teachers have to grapple with as a consequence, cannot be ignored.

Teachers’ resistance to changing modes: Underlying cause

Every new change meets with resistance. So is it with the teachers, who like everyone else, are reluctant to open up to technology and embrace newer methods of teaching. Why are the teachers not open to the constantly evolving technology?. What could possibly be the reason behind this reluctance when the positive effects of technology on students have been reiterated time and again? One reason could be the latent fear which gnaws many in the workforce, not just the teachers: the fear of overtime being replaced by technology. This is a subject of much discussion, especially in the context of the growth of artificial intelligence (AI). As AI makes inroads into education, the teachers’ concerns might stand justified. 

The fear of becoming insignificant or being relegated to an inferior level could be another possible reason. This fear is just what Michael Trucano writes in his blog, about the apprehension of an English teacher when he learnt that books could be accessed for free on the internet; that he would become irrelevant. While once they were the ones who imparted knowledge to students, with the coming of technology, they are now the facilitators and also, unlike their students, not the first generation users of technology. On the one hand, it has been the teachers who have been imparting knowledge to students, and are not comfortable with the idea of books being made available online to students. On the other, there are students who have been surrounded by technology from a very early age. Technological competence for teachers involves an entire process of learning from scratch, which requires them to focus on learning the various nuances of technology before they can pass on the knowledge on to students. Their inertia, then, is only natural.

Understanding teachers’ perspective

The situation demands that the challenges faced by the teachers are recognized.  It is advisable to create an environment which encourages teachers to be technically sound and voluntarily embrace new technological advancements.

Bringing teachers in charge- A serious mistake which we might make is to think that as education is backed by technology, teachers are merely the channels through which the benefits reach children. Instead, technology should be perceived as a tool to help teachers discharge their duties with more efficiency. For instance, the data AI generates about the students learning process is not self-sufficient in guiding them towards success. It is the valuable analysis of the students’ learning process which would enable teachers to understand their needs and chalk out the best pedagogies that could help them realize their optimum potential. 

This approach could urge teachers to look at the benefits of technology, thereby dissipating their fear significantly.

Personalizing teachers’ professional development- Personalising teachers’ professional development is a must if they are to meet what is expected of them. Giving them a certain degree of autonomy and involving them in the curriculum building process, in addition to providing peer and instructional coaching, could be ways in which the professional development programmes could be tailored to suit individual teachers’ needs and interests. They should also be encouraged to form and participate in professional learning networks created on the basis of similar needs.

Recognizing their own role (so teaching becomes a process for effective learning to happen)

In addition to creating a favourable environment, it is also necessary that teachers recognize their own role.

Seeking peer and students’ feedback– While the feedback on school management is certainly important, teachers should also seek feedback from their peers and students. Students are the ones at whom all the teaching is directed and therefore it is important that their feedback is taken into account while designing pedagogies and assessments. Such feedback can help teachers gauge themselves.

Growth mindset– Subscribing to Carol Dweck’s idea of growth mindset— that the brain and talent are just the starting points; people’s intelligence or talent can be developed through dedication, hard work and input from others—can do good to teachers. So, if the blackboard in the classroom is replaced by the interactive digital board, students engage in gamification or the classrooms are flipped. Enthusiastically accepting the changes will not only fulfill students’ changing needs but also give them the satisfaction of an effective teaching-learning session. 

Design thinking– Design thinking is a methodology employed by designers to solve complex problems and produce solutions which would be desirable to the customers. It is largely employed in business and also to social issues. This requires the shifting of focus to humans—that is customers or targeted audience. Application of design thinking entails an in-depth analysis and understanding of unmet but desired expectations. and a favorable future, followed by pre-examining the success of prototypes or samples.

Applying design thinking to create a curriculum for students could be a great idea for teachers. The basis of design thinking in education will be empathy towards’ students needs and an understanding of what is expected of them in the future. Furthermore, it would also mean implementing content as well as pedagogy as part of a testing phase and taking students’ feedback into account. Design thinking could, therefore, help teachers personalize the curriculum to students’ learning style and pace. 



Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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