In this opinion professor Leila E. Ferguson provides five research-based suggestions from educational psychology that teachers can implement to motivate and empower their students, and themselves.(Photo: Shutterstock / NTB)
Teaching is a profession in crisis
OPINION: Teachers need help to regain pride, status and professionalism around the world. This article offers 5 steps to help teachers as well as students meet changing society.
Leila E.FergusonProfessor, School of Health Sciences, Kristiania University College
«Lack of training, unattractive working
conditions and inadequate funding all undermine the teaching profession and
aggravate the global learning crisis. UNESCO has always placed teachers at the
heart of the fight for the right to inclusive and quality education. There is
an urgent need to better recognise this profession on which the future of our
children depends.» - UNESCO's Director-General (2022), Audrey Azoulay
teaching profession was previously held in high regard, teachers in many
countries are no longer privy to such respect. Teacher education programmes and
schools around the world are struggling to recruit and UNESCO has sounded the
alarm on the global teacher shortage crisis.
multifarious explanations for the current lack of qualified teachers and high
dropout rates from teacher education and the teaching profession. In the digital
age acknowledge building is de-valued and students may have illusions
of expertise and skewed views of knowledge.
Teachers need help to regain pride, status
and professionalism around the world. This article offers 5 steps to help teachers as well as
students meet changing society.
The de-valuing of knowledge building and
the rise of information managing
A key characteristic
of the digital age, in general, and the smart phone in particular, has been the
proliferation and ease of access to information. Given the convenience, speed
and relative cheapness of smart phones, the need to ponder over tricky quandaries,
or take the time to jog one’s memory, have been virtually eliminated: «Google
it» has become the solution to almost every possible imaginable problem.
Let’s face it, if all opinions are equal, then why should students listen to their teachers – what do they have to teach them?
follows that young people question the value of struggling to comprehend and
build a knowledge base (knowledge building) over accessing, using and,
ultimately forgetting snippets of information. The relative value of knowledge
acquisition, elaboration and deep understanding has been eroded.
This initial decline,
plummeted even more steeply with the advent of artificial intelligence
solutions like ChatGPT, which
has left academics around the world struggling to keep up with how to test
students’ ability to understand, analyse and apply what they are supposed to
learn through their studies, and students struggling to comprehend why they
trends in educational approaches, including inquiry- and problem-based
learning, aim to maximize student activity, and perhaps counter passivity. They
emphasise students’ ability to ask novel questions, gather relevant information
and use it to present innovative solutions. These are twenty-first century
skills that may help young people to engage in lifelong learning.
But there are
empirical and theoretical reasons to critique this kind of didactic approach,
and these student-centred methods have been heavily criticized for downplaying
the importance of knowledge. Coupled with omni-present, ever-alluring online resources
like Khan Academy and YouTube tutorials, that explain complex phenomena in
simple steps, digital technology may be contributing to young people assuming
expertise, or falling for the «easiness effect».
This means that people feel
like experts without really understanding complex issues or phenomenon, and,
once again, reducing their experienced need (and motivation) for schooling.
opinions are equal
When «everyone’s an expert» and «facts are lies», it can be tempting to believe that
facts and opinions are the same thing, and that they are constantly evolving,
at neck-break speed. In our «post-truth era», it has become difficult,
exhausting even, for laypeople to judge the veracity of information.
indeed, everyone is an expert, then it becomes tempting for individuals to
discount scientific research in light of their own «theories and research»,
often conducted on social media and available to them because algorithms are
trained to give the reader more of what they already «know».
And let’s face it,
if all opinions are equal, then why should students listen to their teachers –
what do they have to teach them?
All of the
above can lead to apathy and confusion in students, and teachers who struggle
to motivate them.
suggestions for change
are going to rely on solutions from artificial intelligence and search engines,
they need to be able to make judgements about what they read and who has
written it. In today’s world that also includes knowledge about how knowledge
is produced and made available to us.
Here are some research-based suggestions
from educational psychology that teachers can implement to motivate and empower
their students, and themselves.
Teach critical thinking. Since information is always at the tip of their fingers, students need
deep knowledge in order to judge other knowledge claims and their validity. Furthermore,
they need to be wary of echo chambers and willing to engage with views that
conflict with their own. They need help from teachers to become critical
Build advanced views of knowledge , anything goes, views of knowledge and science-skepticism
that plague students in the digital world- are actually a necessary stage of
young people’s developing views of knowledge. To help students to move beyond
this and develop more advanced views of knowledge, teachers can open up
scientific and argumentative methods and processes for students, showing them
how science and its discourse evolves over time.
Teach sourcing skills. To help students, teachers can stress the importance of checking the source
of information. Sourcing skills like checking authors’ motives, credentials and
perspective, can be taught in schools by teachers with deep knowledge of their
Teach knowledge building practices. Teachers can combine inquiry and direct
learning, so that students have the knowledge they need to ask good questions
and to realise what knowledge they lack, or the motivation to do so. Everyone
who has ever immersed themselves in a larger task knows that learning more
ultimately leads to realizing how much they do not understand. However, the
greatest predictor of students’ learning is precisely that – the prior
knowledge that they have when they start working with a topic.
Teacher educators and researchers also have a role to play in conducting rigorous
and relevant research that they communicate, and raising teachers’ awareness of
the importance of using evidence-based practices and teaching them how they can
integrate this into their practice (Ferguson, 2021).
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(2022). World Teachers’ Day: UNESCO sounds the alarm on the global teacher
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