Enhancing Teacher Value by Spending More Time in Higher-Value Roles

Enhancing Teacher Value by Spending More Time in Higher-Value Roles

Some thoughts on how to enhance the value of teachers by spending more time in higher-value roles.

One of the topics which has arisen during the JSRCC Virtual Conference 2011 is how to enhance teacher value by spending more time in higher-value roles -- guide, coach, facilitator, contextualizer, role model, knowledge ambassador. To me, spending more time in higher-value roles means recognizing several things:

1) Faculty fill multiple roles -- for example, Stephen Downes identified 23 different roles for educators. May be obvious to some, but it's not at all obvious to others -- and much of what passes for educational reform more or less totally ignores the importance of most of these roles in the drive to standardize and simplify.

2) Some roles are higher value than others -- for instance, simple information transmission is not a particularly fulfilling or valuable role in an age where this can be done by other means. Some people consider the "guide on the side"-type roles to be of higher value, and sometimes they are. But IMO there are other roles which are often even more valuable such as contextualizers, role models, and knowledge ambassadors, which is why I highlighted those in the presentation.

3) The value of a role depends on the context -- This can be a challenge for community college faculty because classes are often composed of two different very types of students: older, more mature ones, some of whom may already have degrees, and younger, first-time students, many of whom lack the 'social capital' which enables educational success. So if you have a class with a lot of first-generation college students or ones with weaker academic skills, for instance, the faculty's role as role model may have higher value, whereas this role might not be so valuable to some 'career changer' students depending on the course.

4) Being able to unbundle and outsource certain roles. For example, automated grading programs, well-constructed test banks, and well-designed rubrics can save time for teachers which they can spend doing higher-value things like guiding, coaching, mentoring, etc. instead of composing test questions, grading exams, etc. Instead of setting oneself up as "command central" for class discussion, teachers can 'outsource' this role to students to a large extent through strategies such as peer review, peer assessment, or cooperative learning techniques such as jigsaw.

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