image credit:

The way we work is changing.  In Time magazine’s series on the future of work, Seth Godin wrote “Work will mean managing a tribe, creating a movement and operating in teams to change the world.”  Say sayonara to cubicles, data entry, and answering phones and hello to collaborating in teams to solve problems in a knowledge-driven economy.

Normally in this blog we talk about these issues as they relate to students, but this week we’re talking about teachers and asking two questions:

1) What will the work of teachers look like in the future?

2) What are the implications for teacher preparation programs?  

To think about how the role of the teacher will change, we need to consider both how the world of work is changing and how education is changing.

So first for the world of work changes:

  • De-centralized; more free agents: People will work less in a series of positions at one organization and more on a series of projects.

  • Focus on collaboration: Teams, both in-person and online, will be the entity for getting work done.  

  • Increased mobility: Technology means where you work will matter less.

Okay now for the education trends:

  • Technology = personalization: New technology will allow education to be more and more personalized to the specific needs of each individual learner.

  • New types of school: Brick-and-mortar schools won’t be the only game in town.  Rise of blended learning schools and the emergence of MOOCs will diversify the ways students learn.

  • Schools focus on developing innovators: More and more of the skills students need to find jobs (and save the world) will be the entrepreneurial and innovative ways of thinking.  

What these trends mean for the future of teaching:

  • Less Delivery, More Coaching: Teachers will focus on facilitating students’ interaction with resources that fit their individualized learning plans.  Teachers will coach teams of students in applying this learning.  The role of the teacher will shift from delivering of information to coaching knowledge application.  

  • Increased Teamwork: Teachers will work more and more in teams.  Teams will include both long term planning and co-teaching teams as well as more ad hoc teams developed in response to specific needs (e.g. designing a new curriculum on social media).   Collaboration both in and out of the classroom will increase.

  • Rise of Teacherpreneurs: More and more teachers will design hybrid roles that allow them to both remain in the classroom and work on projects outside of what we have thought of as the traditional role of the teacher.  In AdvancED, Barnett Berry explains “teacherpreneurs may mentor new teachers, design new instructional programs based on gaming technologies, orchestrate community partnerships, or advance new policies and practices.”

(For more on this, check out Teaching 2030 – great info on the future of teaching)

For starters teacher preparation is currently in a bit of a pickle  The National Council on Teacher Quality’s June 2013 Teacher Prep Review referred to teacher preparation as “an industry of mediocrity, churning out first-year teachers with classroom management skills and content knowledge inadequate to thrive in classrooms with ever-increasing ethnic and socioeconomic student diversity.”

An article in the 2013 Summer Edition of EducationNext quoted Reid Lyon, who headed a 30-year study at the National Institutes of Health of how people best learn to read, saying, “If there was any piece of legislation that I could pass it would be to blow up colleges of education.”

Given those shifts, we could look at the current status of teacher education in two ways:

  •  Hit the panic button!  Teacher ed isn’t doing what it should be even in our current reality.  How will it adapt to the changing role of the teacher and provide the innovative education necessary for the future of the profession?
  • Perfect timing!  Teacher education is already undergoing a period of reflection and growth.  We can harnass the energy focused on improving teacher preparation to ensure that the sector re-invents itself in a way that will align with the changing role of the teacher.

Let’s agree to choose the latter.

It’s clear that teacher preparation is ripe for reinvention.  As Secretary of Education Arne Duncan stated, “America’s university-based teacher preparation programs need revolutionary change, not evolutionary thinking.”

The time for change is now.  Have a great week.