Sage on the Stage or Guide on the Side? The Changing Role of Teachers with the Rise of Personalized Learning



Last week I had a great conversation with one of my teachers who had recently started incorporating the flipped classroom model into her classroom. We talked about how her role as a teacher looks very different today than it did just a few years ago. The flipped classroom is just one way schools are trying to personalize education for students. It is a topic that I wrote more about recently for MultiBriefs Education, in an article entitled How do you Personalize Learning at Your School? Strategies like the flipped classroom or blended learning have done quite a bit to promote more personalization in schools today, but they have also shifted the role of a teacher from one who used to serve as the expert delivering content and instruction in front of a room to one who facilitates learning on an individual basis for students as they move at their own pace through a curriculum or a course.

At my New Hampshire high school where we are heavily invested in a form of personalization known as competency education, we often equate preparing for this shift to taking a whole new teacher preparation program. In many cases, our teachers have felt that they have had to relearn their teaching skills to be successful in our new personalized model. Administrators should take note: If you are looking to incorporate more personalization into your schools, be mindful that you are also preparing your teachers to handle this shift in philosophy and approach to education.

The Atlantic’s Michael Godsey discussed this shift in a recent article entitled The Deconstruction of the K-12 Teacher. Godsey poses an interesting question to readers: “When kids can get their lessons from the Internet, what’s left for classroom instructors to do?” He goes on to discuss a vision for the future of education that used to be an exaggeration to him, but now he wonders if it might actually be closer to the truth than he would care to imagine. His prediction might scare many traditionalists in our country today. A “super teacher” will deliver a prepared virtual class to a large audience of students around the country. The class may include professionally produced footage of current events, interactive games students can play against other students nationwide, and a formal assessment that the computer will immediately score and record. From there, it will be the job of a lesser “teacher tech” to make sure the technology equipment is working and that students are staying engaged throughout the lesson.

With the rise of the Internet as a knowledge-sharing medium, Godsey has continued to research how it is transforming the role of the teacher. He writes, “The relatively recent emergence of the Internet, and the ever-increasing ease of access to web, has unmistakably usurped the teacher from the former role as dictator of subject content. These days, teachers are expected to concentrate on the "facilitation" of factual knowledge that is suddenly widely accessible.”

This is not a new concept. Back in 2012, Mind/Shift blogger Tina Barseghian asked readers, Amidst a Mobile Revolution in Schools, Will Old Teaching Tactics Work?  Barseghian recognized that in classrooms at the time, 80 percent of teens had access to cell phone technology and teachers were starting to make use of them as learning tools in the classroom. Schools were abandoning their “no cell phones in schools” policies in droves in an effort to take advantage of the mobile learning revolution. She brought up an excellent point: “The opportunity of using mobile devices and all of its utilities allows educators to reconsider: What do we want students to know, and how do we help them? And what additional benefit does using a mobile device bring to the equation? This gets to the heart of the mobile learning issue: beyond fact-finding and game-playing – even if it’s educational — how can mobile devices add relevance and value to how kids learn?”

In a follow up article earlier this year, Mind/Shift blogger Katrina Schwartz identified some Unexpected Tools That are Influencing the Future of Education. In this article, Schwartz notes that while big initiatives such as Common Core are making all of the headlines for their potential to influence the future of education, “many educators continue to focus on the more personal issues behind these headlines: how to improve their craft, serve students better, nurture well-rounded, emotionally intelligent students and make educational change in more fundamental ways.” Schwartz goes on to talk about ways in which schools like Monument Mountain Regional High School in Massachusetts have changed their teaching practices in an effort to create a personalized student designed school.

Education is changing. Schools are evolving into places where students can choose their learning pathway and build their own personalized and customized program that will fit their learning goals and needs. Gone are the days when the one-size-fits-all stand and deliver approach to instruction was appropriate. Today’s teachers are coming to recognize their new role as a learning facilitator or coach. From sage on the stage to guide on the side, America’s teachers have entered into a new era in their profession.

 This article was written originally for MultiBriefs Education.

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