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Teacher Title; Obstruction or Advantage?

"In learning, you will teach, and in teaching, you will learn." - Phil Collins


What comes to mind when you hear the word, teacher? Do you picture Albert Einstein at the chalkboard feverishly writing equations for a room full of glassy-eyed students? Systems thinker, Russell Ackoff, challenges our traditional cognitions by asking, "who in the classroom learns the most?" In the spirit of trying to do the wrong things right, Ackoff explains, "Schools are upside down. The way students should learn is by teaching others, not by being taught."

Referencing one of Will Richardson's recent Change.School provocations, "does your school or classroom apprise a culture of teaching or a culture of learning? "Many organizations are pursuing objectives contrary to their intention. It's not a matter of efficiency, it's a matter of effectiveness.", concludes Ackoff.

During last week's Change.School exploration we discussed the changing role of teachers. Some districts are removing the title of "teacher" from their official documents choosing terms such as "lead learner" or "learning professional" instead. Regarding effectiveness in a modern learning context, the word teacher is likely a misnomer. An often unrecognized paradox, with a growing emphasis on student-centered classrooms and so-called personalized learning, the effectiveness of the instructor increases when the amount of teaching decreases. Is the job title of teacher suppressing advances in professional education?

"I never teach my pupils, I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn." - Albert Einstein

Sometimes called peer teaching or peer-assisted learning, many advantages come to light when students teach other students. These include the development of collaboration skills, increased activity and engagement, increased opportunity for individualized instruction, and progress towards mastery learning. Recent research identifies a positive correlation between peer tutoring and academic achievement. On target with cultivating a learning culture and positive school climate, students report increased motivation, better socialization, and high satisfaction with their school experience. 

What do you think? Is the title of teacher an obstruction to the intention of school? In our modern context of ubiquitous information and limitless connectivity, the lines between instructor and pupil are unquestionably blurred. When students do the teaching, there is seemingly much to be gained by turning classroom instruction upside-down to create and sustain cultures of learning. 


photo credit: byronv2 Canal Festival 2017 042 via photopin (license)

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