Teaching is Changing

Contributed by Marie Alcock, PhD.

The truth is that teaching is changing in America.  As a profession we have been in a state of flux for more than 20 years.  In the big picture that is not much time and we can all agree that one day we will look back and note this period and the changes that resulted from it.  Here are our top ten things about teaching that have changed.

We made this movie as a way to note the key characteristics of this change. Teaching is Changing.


5) Teachers have to work with four different generations in the American workforce for the first time.
This is a big deal.  As technology develops faster the range of years between generations gets shorter.  It is possible that teachers may have three different generations of students in a K-12 school system.  Right now we have matures, boomers, gen X, and gen Y all working together on the same Professional Learning Community.  That is NEW for us.

4) Teaching got STANDARDS
With the release of “A Nation at Risk” report came a flood of standards.  Today, we have the CCSSO release of the Common CORE which has an interdisciplinary expectation to it.  The idea of standards is an evolving and growing trend to help set consistent goals for education.  We have had to figure out the relationship between our curriculum, our texts and materials, the art of our craft, and these standards.  We come to understand that teachers must hone our craft to deliver a curriculum that nurtures these standards.  The standards and our texts are NOT our curriculum, rather they are the targets and the resources we use.

I heard a great analogy at CMI 2012 about this topic.  There are common standards in building codes.  You never hear an architect or builder talk about how they will craft a building to illustrate the building codes.  No, they craft a building and make sure that it meets or surpasses the codes. So it is with teachers and their curriculum.  We must build a beautiful curriculum and make sure that it meets or surpasses the standards.

3) Teachers have to be FACILITATORS of learning and guide students to Take Action
There was a time when teachers were the givers of knowledge.  As the world evolved and skills were needed more than specific content, the goals shifted.  Teachers are now guiding students to master the content and skills they need to take action in their own worlds.  Groups like Asia Society, edsteps, and countless others are big into supporting this shift.  Teachers are now facilitators of learning rather than the controllers of learning.  It is generally accepted that the only one who can help a student learn anything at all, is the student – teachers are there to provide opportunity and support the process.

So today, the desks of a classroom no longer face the all-knowing teacher.  Rather, there is a buzz in the room as students and teachers alike work together to compete a task, publish reports, create information, evaluate knowledge, take action.

2) Teaching and learning went DIGITAL
First is was the computer in the classroom – now it is the classroom through the computer. I remember the first “computer classes” where we learned about logo and programming.  Now, I teach online courses and students are accessing and enhancing their learning through online networks.  Digital boards came into the classrooms and now we have the evolution of touch technologies.

No digital change is greater than the coming of the internet into the classrooms.  Teachers are working to develop a curriculum that can guide students to navigate the Internet safely, ethically, and efficiently.

Classroom lessons have had to evolve and so have the forms of the “classroom” for that matter.  This shift in our thinking about “school” has not finished its course…I can’t wait to see where the new forms land.

1) Teachers have to maintain Learning Networks and be Public Learners
There is one thing that teachers should model most to all students today – how to learn.  Teachers cannot hope to help modern students navigate the real world if they are not navigating learning networks on their own.  How can I teach a student to nurture and maintain a learning network if I am not actively working on it professionally?  This is the current shift in teaching today that has organizations like Curriculum21 and PD360 jumping to support teachers.

It wasn’t enough that we had to embrace that we didn’t know everything…  Now teachers must model the learning process right in the classroom for students to watch, note, and learn what processes work best for them.  That is the way of the future.