Four Principles for Designing the Future of Teaching in 2020

Writing for the Clayton Christensen Institute, Thomas Arnett recently detailed a vision for the redesign of the role of the teacher. Excerpts from the piece appear below:

Given the overflowing demands on teachers’ time, we need to reinvent the classroom and the roles of teachers so that teachers can tackle the meaningful and important work that often gets sidelined amidst the daily hustle. Here are four principles to help guide that work.

1. Teachers’ time is scarce. If we had to account for demands on teacher time similar to how we account for school budgets, we’d be forced to confront a punishing reality: most schools are bankrupt. Decades of new policies, best practices, and rising expectations have saddled teachers with responsibilities that go well beyond the hours in a day. This means we can’t solve the problems in education by just asking teachers to do more or work harder. To really solve these problems, we need more demand for innovations that free up teachers’ time and thereby expand their capacity.

2. Technology can expand teacher capacity. Educators and leaders should hone an instinct to always consider education technology in terms of its impact on teacher capacity, not solely its impact on student learning.

3. Most educational technology only enhances teachers’ practices. The most common technologies—such as interactive whiteboards, digital textbooks, word processors, and presentation software—typically don’t expand teachers’ capacity. Rather, they enhance how teachers deliver conventional instruction. Both types of technologies can be valuable in their own right. But to address the problem of limited teacher capacity, educators need to see the distinction between the two and then focus on finding ways to use technology to expand capacity.

4. Teachers need to see capacity as their core problem of practice. Expanding teachers’ capacity with technology is a sensible idea in principle. But for busy teachers, reinventing your instructional model is a lot harder than adopting a new technology that enhances your current practices. Teachers will reinvent their instruction when they conclude that conventional instruction isn’t good enough. 

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