How will teachers make a living in the future?

When I was ten years old, I had a brilliant, inspiring teacher. She used to ask us: “Why do you go to school?” After a series of answers, she would give hers: “To learn how to learn”. I knew Miss Blencow (I don’t know the spelling) was a good teacher, because I liked her and we did all sorts of interesting, creative activities. It took me until somewhere around the start of my PhD though to understand fully what she was telling us.

I was reminded of this today when I read a blog post by Damien Walter entitled “How will writers make a living in the future?”. The basic premise is that the increasing availability of free information on the internet is devaluing the written work to a possible future where writers will not earn money from writing anymore, with a comparison to the Dark Ages where reading aloud was a good career for “…the priest who read from the bible only he could translate to his Dark Ages congregation.”

As more and more information fills the internet a proportion of that is well presented and easily used for self-directed learning. It is becoming less and less necessary to go somewhere and be “taught”. Learning how to learn – the new learning to read.

So what future for teaching? The future, surely, must lie in teaching children how to be self-directed learners, and in inspiring, motivating and supporting them as they learn.

I do hope that Miss Blencow, once of Stimpson Avenue Junior School, is around to see the future she helped create.

Paul Rudman, BDRA

The value of good teaching

The value of good teaching

Half-way down this page from the THE (19 February) you’ll find a sub-section entitled GENIUS VALUES TEACHING, SO SHOULD THE REST OF US, in which David Eastwood, HEFCE’s CEO, shares a few insightful comments about teachers and teaching in HE. I’d like to invite readers to reflect on some of his thoughts in the context of what we do at Leicester and at Beyond Distance. For example (please read carefully):

Lives transformed by university teachers, some great, some humble; some intellectual leaders, some accomplished synthesisers. Students anxious to take a particular person’s course; graduates aspire to “study with” – not to have their higher learning in some desiccated way “facilitated by” – a supervisor of repute and standing. […]

[…] a mechanistic language that suffused debates on “learning and teaching”. I thought, symbolically and actually, we lost much in the subtle inversion of “teaching and learning” as it transposed into “learning and teaching”.

Slowly, though, we are revaluing teaching. Teaching and university teachers are better valued: by teaching awards, in promotion and reward procedures, through the work of the Higher Education Academy, and through an acceptance of the legitimacy of student evaluation, partly through the National Student Survey, partly through more locally sensitive processes at institutional, departmental and course level.

Some might want to dismiss the above as backward-looking, as an attempt to castigate learner-centred methods, as out of touch.

I don’t think so. Talking about teaching neither removes nor devalues students or their learning – quite the opposite. In this world obsessed with learners, learning, learner-centredness, learner-facing, learner focus and even ‘designing and delivering learning’ (which I find a most peculiar concept, assuming it actually means anything), it is actually refreshing that the rediscovery of teaching is creeping back into the agenda. Let’s make sure that journey continues.

Alejandro Armellini

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