Teacher of the future

What does the future of teaching look like?

By:

Oct 18, 2018

Over the last few years, the Christensen Institute has written extensively on how innovation in K–12 education will impact teachers. We’ve tackled important questions such as “Will computers replace teachers?”, “How will technology change teaching?”, and “How do you develop teachers for next-gen classrooms?” Below are highlights of our key findings and insights.

Technology will not replace teachers

As artificial intelligence and other technologies transform various professions, the most valued and secure jobs will be those that require complex social skills—such as teaching. Good teachers do more than just dispense information. They provide expert guidance and feedback on student projects, foster students’ motivation to explore real-world problems and issues, and help students develop important social skills and work habits. While technology can replicate teachers’ expertise in explaining content and grading students’ knowledge of rote facts and skills, it is far from replicating the more human-centered aspects of teaching.

Technology can amplify great teaching

For many teachers, the growing mountain of academic and non-academic tasks they tackle each day makes it impossible to faithfully meet the needs of all their students. Fortunately, this is where technology can help. Software and devices can increasingly take on tasks such as marking attendance, grading simple assignments, recommending lesson resources, and tracking students’ progress. This leaves educators more time and energy to focus on the aspects of their work that make the greatest difference for their students: providing mentorship and guidance, offering expert feedback on student work that cannot be graded by machines, and engaging students in critical and analytical thinking.

Teachers’ strengths can also be stumbling blocks to innovation

Sometimes the skills that make a teacher effective at her job in one setting can make it difficult for her to adapt to new roles in next-generation teaching environments. For example, when a teacher’s experiences have convinced her that good teachers are engaging presenters who are always in control, the notion of letting students learn from online content and giving them autonomy to choose their own learning path will feel absolutely wrong-headed. The first step to helping teachers adapt to new instructional models is to help them recognize the need for change and then give them opportunities to experiment with new approaches and iterate on what they learn.

Innovative schools should build their own teacher development pipelines

A huge problem slowing innovation in personalized learning is that we don’t have a clear pipeline for preparing and developing personalized learning teachers. Given the current circumstances in the field, Modularity Theory suggests that the best solutions to this problem will come from helping innovative schools develop their own integrated talent pipelines to meet the needs of their particular contexts and instructional models.

Looking to the future, we can see that many of the instructional innovations that come with blended learning can have a powerful and positive impact on the teaching profession. But to fully realize the opportunities innovation offers, teachers and school leaders will need to proactively manage how innovations unfold. We hope the insights above help them do just that. For a more detailed explanation of these insights, make sure to check out our blog posts and papers found at the links above.

Thomas’ research focuses on the changing roles of teachers in blended-learning environments and other innovative educational models. He also examines how teacher education and professional development are shifting to support the evolving needs of teachers and school systems.