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Challenges of Teaching in the 21st Century

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Maria Carmen Tavares Cristovão, Master in Innovation Management, Educational Executive, and Consultant in Educational Innovation for the magazine “Linha Direta”

by Maria Carmen Tavares Cristovão

During this period when Teacher’s Day is celebrated, we focus our reflection on the questions regarding facing the roadblocks to teaching in the present day.

Recently, the University 42 was inaugurated in Silicon Valley, where students learn through collaborative teaching and projects, giving priority to sharing information among students. In this model there is no teacher figure, which introduces new elements of discussion about the role of the teacher in the academic universe.

The creation of University 42 and other institutions that have the same configuration makes the figure of the teacher unnecessary, reminding us that we must be attentive to changing dynamics, because the future of professionals and organizations depends on them.

After all, will universities tend to be transformed into spaces where processes do not depend on the teacher? Or will they emphasize the training of a good faculty believing that such a strategy can help us solve the main training challenges for the 21st Century?

It is known that the university is no longer the only learning environment. It is also noticed that the teacher is no longer the holder of knowledge, but only a facilitator of the learning process.

From these approaches new elements are introduced to foster discussions about the profile of the teacher, requiring a more critical, creative, participative, entrepreneurial vision with the skills and competencies to act dynamically and compatibly with this new reality where all the necessary information is available making cumulative knowledge dispensable.

On the other hand, it is emphasized that only technological and methodological adaptations are not sufficient to respond to the challenges of a wide formation required in the educational institutions around the world. Quality remains the best business plan for universities.

The differential of a dynamic teaching model that assures quality, fosters creativity, provides an innovative environment in the construction of knowledge is the result of the actions of the professionals who lead them, which obviously includes the figure of the teacher, therefore, teachers need to be good. Processes are not enough to ensure the success of good training, good professionals become indispensable when the goal is not just the transmission of information.

Universities, like all other entities and organizations, are in the world, are part of this large global context of change. This is the great vision that emerges in the educational setting: teachers need to be attentive to change rather than being led by them.

Thus, the path goes through the awareness that the teacher is not simply an agent of change, but an agent in the changes as part of them, not just a catalyst for the process. This requires a reformulation in their pedagogical practice and in the conception of the collective construction of knowledge.

If, in the emerging philosophy of education, the action of educating can be conceived as a means of integral development of the student, the teacher should be the stimulating element of the multiple languages ​​and intelligences, perceiving knowledge in a non-linear way, since construction of knowledge no longer occurs in a linear fashion. This is one of the aspects observed in universities that abolished the figure of the teacher.

If seen as the agent that forms the critical consciousness, it will first of all have to give itself critical treatment in the face of its practices and postures with the student. I also remember that in the traditional school environment, the teacher’s major commitment was with the work itself, with the transmission of information, not with its result. The teacher had to dwell on a cumulative knowledge to convey it, not to think about its practice. Reflect on action, stimulate creativity, pursue innovation through experiences, experimentation, practical applications and investment in human relationships, these are important assets to sustain the teaching activity.

In this new context, the concern for the permanent formation of the educator must, in its more specific action, get the whole group to commit itself to the quality and goals of a contemporary education. Having highly qualified human capital means that every institution has the desire to invest in continuing education programs in order to formulate systemic solutions to the complex problems of teaching in the 21st Century.

It is therefore up to the teachers and HEIs to follow the historical step. With institutions, it is the duty to establish continuing education programs, emphasizing their importance to the current world that is being reconfigured. In addition, it will have to involve the teacher in the formulation of the development objectives and in the ways of achieving them.

The formulation of strategies for this training is a great challenge. It is the responsibility of good managers to ensure that the implementation of actions consistent with the strategies has meaning. To propose changes in a creative context, to unveil a new way of thinking about the profession, to generate in the group their vision, their dream, their way of walking, more than to train, to develop or to qualify, is to realize that the quality of which we speak so much is situated in the relationship between man and the world. I mean that it is not centered either on man or on objects, but presents itself as a mediator in all spheres in the life of man and the educator, continually charging him with an attitude of coherence and respect in all his acts of interrelation with other men and with the world.

The mandate of HEIs will therefore be to promote a culture that keeps the vision of all employees clear, including the teaching staff, which we have honored this month, even though they are often inspired to engage in proposals that they cannot yet envision. A culture that will survive the founders of institutions, enabling universities to continue to train with excellence, teachers and students, contributing positively to the changing world.

Although the institutions fulfill their role, the problem of knowledge appropriation is not solved, both in models where there is the figure of the teacher and in which the learning takes place by methodologies elaborated for the work by the student cohorts. In both situations the systemic vision and the interdisciplinary approach point to a more assertive and permeable direction to the new modes and rhythms of knowledge appropriation.

The teacher of today is led to understand that his formation occurred in a society in which human knowledge had an essentially cumulative dynamic. With the advancement of Science and Technology there is a dynamic of its own, which characterizes the evolution of knowledge. Obsolescence stopped being an accident, and happened to be an expected fact, and even programmed. This is true for products, services, institutions and even professions, which will lead us to an ongoing process of cognitive renewal, known as continuing education, in which the teacher will renew his knowledge throughout his career.

Finally, the emphasis is on preparation to face new challenges, not cumulative knowledge to be applied in repetitive situations.

Maria Carmen Tavares Master in Innovation Management, Educational Executive, and Consultant in Educational Innovation for the magazine “Linha Direta”