The Uncertain Future of Teaching

Writing for CRPE’s Thinking Forward collection of essays, authors Michael DeArmond, Christine Campbell and Paul Hill have published a piece that explores new teacher roles that enable teachers to focus on soft skills and personalization. Excerpts of the piece appear below:

Above all, emerging ideas from the field about how to make teaching more doable challenge the one-teacher, one-classroom model that dominates most schools today.

KnowledgeWorks, a nonprofit organization that advocates for personalized learning, has suggested making personalization more doable by creating a new role called a “learning pathway designer.” Rather than provide any instruction themselves, the pathway designer would act as a curator, dedicated to planning and designing individual student learning experiences.

The key point is that making teaching more doable may require creating new roles with specialized skills, rather than layering new responsibilities on top of regular teaching positions. The big ideas associated with personalization will clearly multiply and amplify the most complex parts of a teacher’s job: diagnosing student needs and interests, curating coherent learning activities, and assessing student learning.

Beyond new roles, the career path for teachers might also need to change. Expanding who works with students and in what ways might make the teaching profession more inviting. Of course, alternative routes to teaching have, with mixed results, existed for a long time. But beyond those alternative routes, schools might do more to enlist people in communities and small business to support student learning in nontraditional ways. Through mentorships, internships, and other out-of-school activities, community members could contribute not only expertise but also diverse experiences that resonate with students in ways that the experiences of the traditional teacher workforce do not.

To take another example, teachers might work part time in many schools or offer virtual courses in technical subjects, like physics or genetics. Other possibilities include enlisting community college faculty to provide up-to-date training in career pathways, or teachers joining together in a collaborative to design and provide a range of courses to students. New arrangements would not, of course, simply be a matter of making teaching easier in a complex world. These changes would also be a response to the inevitable new learning experiences that go beyond conventional schools: for example, schools that provide some instruction directly but curate other learning experiences, and organizations or individuals who provide supplementary experiences (such as a moot court or musical events) or specialized instruction (such as a graduate student who offers physics classes or paid tutoring).

Viewed either way—making the job more doable or embracing new learning experiences—more adults who do not have a conventional teaching career may be involved in teaching in the future. Regardless of the details, the institutions surrounding teaching and teacher training must change to keep up.

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