In his book, Community: The Structure of Belonging, Peter Block discusses the notion of inversion. Simply put, it is the notion of looking at situations from the alternative standpoint. A classic example is the phrase, “the inmates run the prison” suggesting that the system that was designed for the inmates is actually created by the inmates. Block gives other examples of inversion, such as “the student creates the teacher.” Imagine if this were true.
As the education system continues to move more and more toward becoming a student-centric system, and competency-based education grows in interest and practice, I think it is important to have a dialogue about whether students are starting to create teachers. To be clear, I believe there will always be a need for educators, no matter the progress made in online learning, game-based learning, CBE, or other innovations currently on the horizon. I do think the role of the educator is changing, though. Teachers are becoming learning facilitators. Their role is shifting from ‘instructing’ students to helping students ‘construct’ their own learning. This shift means more and more that the students and their needs are determining the roles and responsibilities of teachers.
Good teachers have always put the needs of students first. Now, professional practice is coming close to requiring all educators to respond the same way. For some, this may cause fear and anxiety. “If students can control their learning, then what will I do?” The truth is students should be more involved and responsible for their learning, and teachers will always have more knowledge of the content and of learning procedures. In truth, I think a student-centric learning system will allow the strengths of all its participants – students, teachers, administrators, parents and community members – to be better utilized.
We need to trust that having students, and their needs, create some of the roles and responsibilities for the teachers (or learning facilitators) of the future may be a great idea. I can think of worse ways to change a profession.