We often hear about the skills of the future, the 21st Century Skills that learners today will need to succeed in their professional and personal lives. Skills such as empathy, adaptability and creativity (see World Economic Forum – 10 21st C Skill every Student needs).
But we do not often hear about the skills that teachers will need in order to teach these 21st Century skills. Arguably, we might say that the educators of the future will need the same skill sets as those they should be teaching their learners to develop today.
According to Chat GPT, the future of teachers and the skills they need are as follows:
In this article, we explore the main skills that the teacher of the future will need to succeed as a valued and effective member of the educational community, making the biggest impact on the lives of their learners.
Before exploring these skills, let’s take a moment to define how the world is changing and why, therefore, the skills that teachers will need in the future may not be the same as those they possess today. To quote Valerie Hannon and Amelia Paterson in their book Thrive: The Purpose of Schools in a Changing World (2022), ‘The disconnect between schooling and today’s world is obvious. But if that disconnect is a fissure, the relationship between today’s education and the needs of the future is a canyon.’ And later, they state ‘we need to begin a debate about our new purposes for education. It is overdue.’
The challenges of modern-day teaching
Let us begin by analyzing the role of the modern-day teacher. Teacher training can be likened to learning to drive.
It all seems so overwhelming at first, with so many things to be done simultaneously and the huge weight of responsibility of being at the steering wheel, and yet, once you have mastered it, it becomes second nature. This is not to say that teaching is easy. Far from it.
As any teacher will know, it is an emotionally-charged roller coaster of a role, with the need for many a skill, both soft and hard, such as adaptability, patience, time management, content knowledge and so many more. As a teacher grapples with the responsibility of driving their learners towards their futures, they are under enormous pressure to produce results and under the constant scrutiny of the parent community and school governance. All the while, they juggle classroom behavior, communicate with parents, stay on top of the newest government policies, and navigate limitations on curriculum content and time.
To add to this, they are supposed to bring energy to the classroom to make teaching fun and engaging. It is no wonder that there is such a high rate of teacher burnout. According to Education Support in the UK, 80% of teachers report feeling negativity towards the teaching profession some or all of the time while 43% report having experienced all components of ‘burnout’ in 2021. In a study carried out by Gallup in the US, it was found that K-12 workers have the highest burnout level of all industries nationally, with 44% saying they feel burnout ‘always or’ ‘very often’ at work.
Preparing our teachers for the future of education
As Hannon and Paterson said, it is time to open the debate about the purpose of education. More and more, thought leaders in education and educational psychology seek to identify the objective of school, why young people should attend, what they should be learning there, how they attend, and using what tools.
And more and more, the skills that learners are learning in school today versus the skills needed to navigate and succeed in both a professional and personal life are being challenged. Where does the role of the teacher fit into this landscape and how can we best prepare our teachers for the future of education?
School of Humanity as a Case Study
Let us turn to School of Humanity as a case study. School of Humanity’s mission is to enable the next generation to create an exciting future for themselves, and for humanity. Instead of teachers we have learning facilitators, and instead of having a fully teacher-led, in-person curriculum, we have both synchronous and asynchronous learning where the learning journey for each learner is structured yet personalized.
Let us explore the skills that our facilitators must possess in order to best ensure that our learners are heading toward the school’s mission. To do so, we must understand the move away from the traditional teacher-led classroom setting and explore this breakthrough, progressive learning methodology.
At School of Humanity, learners learn by tackling real-world challenges that they feel curious and passionate about. The synchronous sessions are facilitated by our team of educators, comprising facilitators, advisors, and mentors. These involve interactive workshops, pathway advisory sessions, skills labs and mentorship sessions.
Asynchronous learning is characterized by the personalized skill development of each learner, the preparation and consolidation of the learning in the live workshops and the challenge project which they work on throughout the term. This learning is self-paced and self-driven. Learners need to learn how to manage their time effectively and how to set milestones and goals.
Coming from a range of different backgrounds with differing previous educational experiences, these new skills often need to be developed. Learners can choose any number of self-paced skill units to help them develop the skills they need to work autonomously. They submit their assignments on a learning management system which the facilitators review and give feedback on. The focus in this article, though, is not so much on what the learners need to do, but rather on the team of educators who support them.
Our facilitators do not have to be subject specialists, although a good background in education does help. More than anything else, they need to be empaths, able to gauge their learners’ needs and adapt their educational support accordingly. They need to be active listeners who can respond to their learners’ feedback and requirements. They also need to be excellent communicators, able to interact both with learners and their parents and with a team of coworkers from around the globe.
Furthermore, as the school is online, our facilitators need to be agile users of technology, as they flit between platforms, guiding the learners through various dynamic and interactive activities.
Finally, as we aim to prepare our learners to be future-ready, it is essential for our team of educators to be well-informed and up-to-date on the latest educational and technological trends from around the world. To this end, an ability to network and build a supportive community is useful in helping the flow of information and the sharing of best practices.
Of course, the School of Humanity model is unique and future-facing. Most schools around the world will have different educational models and different roles and responsibilities for their teams of educators. But there are some key takeaways here from the School of Humanity model, as reflected by the response from ChatGPT. Teachers, or educators, do need to be adaptable, empathetic, good listeners, and good communicators. They need to be up-to-date on modern trends and research, and able to learn new skills such as the application of AI in an educational context. And, as our global community continues to increase in number and become more connected virtually, a keen sense of networking and community building is definitely a plus.
What we are seeing today is a global movement of progressive schools growing and paving the way for traditional educational systems to follow (eventually, hopefully). School of Humanity is one of these pioneers, with its interdisciplinary approach to tackling global challenges and focus on global competencies, preparing learners for an uncertain future.
The learning facilitators at School of Humanity are already demonstrating many of the skills recommended for educators of the future, and as such, we are well placed as a model school for more traditional educational institutions to learn from.