TEFL The Changing Role of a Teacher

The role of a teacher has changed more dramatically in the past half century then in anytime in previous history. Schools are changing from a period where information was held by few to dispense to many, to a period where the flow of information freely exchanges between all varieties of media, most noticeably TV and the Internet. Therefore teachers are no longer needed as the supreme dispenser of knowledge but rather as a guide to learning who understands their student?s unique needs and barriers to learning.

Traditionally, teachers have had the responsibility to dispense historically relevant information to students sitting obediently in rows. Although this model has worked in the past it often creates a distant relationship between student and teacher and places the bulk of the responsibility of success or failure on the teacher. Today many schools still operate in this ?power over? method in which a teachers is ?the king or queen of a classroom, a benevolent dictator deciding what?s best for the powerless underlings in their care.?

However, because today?s students live in an information heavy environment schools are finally beginning to see their role change. The buildings haven?t changed but rather than creating schools that dispense information using a trickle down method many schools are beginning to see that their ?most important responsibility is to search out and construct meaningful educational experiences that allow students to solve real-world problems and show they have learned the big ideas, powerful skills, and habits of mind that meet agreed-on educational standards.?

Teachers are the facilitator of this new method of education and must see that their primary role is to understand the ?unique needs, learning styles, social and cultural background, interests and abilities,? of their students. Then use this knowledge to create opportunities for each student to learn and make students passionate participants in the instructional process.

This process is already beginning to happen more often in the elementary and primary schools as students are being encouraged to play a larger role in their education. As these students reach the next level of education more schools will need to be restructured to continue this process. Furthermore, as teachers who struggle to change to these teaching methods age and retire, room will be made for the next generation of teachers.

These new teaching methods and roles for the teacher can be transferred across all subjects including foreign language instructions, TESOL and TEFL. In fact languages have the capability of holding more practical impact then most subjects. As teachers and students work together to find practical methods of learning and create new materials needed to bridge language barriers.

In order for the new role of a teacher to be successful teachers and students must create a new dynamic and respectful relationship that allows teachers to explore the obstacles in students learning as well as allow students to be ultimately in charge of their own learning. Lastly, structure must be established to allow for a consistent and safe learning environment.

Currently, the new role of a teacher continues to change, flexing between the needs of students and the slow change of large educational institutes. Creating closer relationships between students and teachers and shifting the teacher?s role to an educational advisor rather than a supreme dispenser of information is the next big step in educational philosophy. However, this relationship also requires higher expectations of learners as well as teachers, yet there are still many areas in the world and primarily the United States that struggle with greater problems then the teacher-student relationship. Because of this school boards and voters will steer away from this holistic approach and only patch obvious flaws in modern education.


Amjad. Moiz, ?Role of the Teacher? Internet Dec 2995 accessed 11/5/06

Crosby. J.R., ?The Good Teacher is More than a lecturer-the Twelve Roles of the Teacher? Medical Teacher, 2000 (22) pp 334-347

Lanier. Judith Taack, ?Redfining the Role of the Teacher? edutopia online, 2005

Author: Andy Aldrich

Date of post: 2006-11-20