How Important Is A Teacher For Learning?

Researcher Suggests Teachers, Like Mobile Devices, Are Mere Resources

Pedagogy and Learning Comments (1)

Many people associate learning with teaching. But, part of the shift to mobile learning is that learners can teach themselves by looking things up on their devices at the point of need.

So, just how important is a teacher/trainer for learning? According to Grant Wiggins, the author of “Educative Assessment,” teachers are NOT the most important factor in successful learning and are unnecessary at all most times. He writes:

“…the teacher is merely one resource for learning, no different from a book, a peer, an experience, or an experimental result. It is the learner who tries to learn (or not) from what happens. And the learner will only wish to learn and be able to learn if the conditions of learning have been optimized to make sustained engagement and understanding possible.”

What are those conditions? According to Wiggins, they include:

  • Thought-provoking, intellectual challenges
  • Having a clear and intellectually worthy goal
  • Productive goal-focused work
  • and four other states.

Some of Wiggins’ thinking was influenced by a 2003 article by Rachel Lotan on the exciting concept of “group worthy” learning tasks.

Grant Wiggins - Favorite Subject graph

Wiggins backs up his contention about the relative lack of the importance of teachers with data from a survey of more than 1,300 middle and high school students, which found that the teacher is the least important factor in there to liking and disliking of the subject.  Interesting ideas – please check out the links to read more about them.


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Gary Woodill is a senior analyst with Float, as well as CEO of i5 Research. Gary conducts research and market analyses, as well as assessments and forecasting for emerging technologies. Gary is the co-editor of "Mastering Mobile Learning," author of “The Mobile Learning Edge,” and the co-author of “Training and Collaboration with Virtual Worlds.” He also presents at conferences and is the author of numerous articles and research reports on emerging learning technologies. Gary holds a doctor of education degree from the University of Toronto.

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On October 8, 2013
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One Response to How Important Is A Teacher For Learning?

  1. Lee Graham says:

    I’m curious if this view is reflected globally?

    I hear all too often others cultures around the world value in-person teaching more than the western hemisphere. BUT I don’t know if that is just the loudest people who dislike change or is it true?

    Any thoughts on that topic?

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