[Editor’s note: This story, originally published on June 13th of this year, was our #1 most popular story of the year. Happy holidays, and thank you for tuning into our 2016 countdown!]
Not long ago, the leadership team of a school district I was working with asked me: “If you were going to hire a new teacher, what would you ask in the interview?” They were concerned that hiring teachers with the right skills now can save a district a lot of money in staff development later. Moreover, they wanted to hire teachers who would be open minded about changes to come. The problem is to balance the reality of today’s pressure for test scores and required teacher evaluation with the changes that can be anticipated during the next two decades.
As I wrote in my last column, the traditional skill we valued in teachers when paper was the dominant media—the ability to transfer knowledge of a subject—is becoming less important. Increasingly, a teacher’s knowledge can be found online and in various learning styles. As the internet drives down the value of a teacher’s knowledge, their ability to personalize learning with resources from around the world will increase. We will have more data generated about our students as we build out our online communities. We will need teachers who understand how to make meaning of this data to personalize learning for every student from a vast digital library of learning resources. Also of increasing value is their ability to teach students to be self-disciplined about how “to learn to learn.” Rather than losing overall value, teachers will be more important than ever.
The big change is not adding technology to the current design of the classroom, but changing the culture of teaching and learning and fundamentally changing the job descriptions of teachers and learners.
I offer seven questions we typically ask of teachers in the interview process, along with corresponding questions I think are geared to align with how the internet will force the redefinition of a teacher’s added value:
Current question: What do you know about your subject?
New question: How do you manage your own professional growth?
We typically hire teachers for what they already know, subject knowledge. But what may become more important is to hire teachers who have a great capacity for continuous learning. How do you find resources around the world that you can share with your students? How do you continuously learn?
I would hope that candidates would be able to demonstrate how they follow critical hashtags on Twitter and how they participate in professional communities online, sharing with other teachers from around the world. Or maybe they’ve taken online courses on their own, from sources such as EDX.org or Coursera.org
Current question: How do you share what you already know with students?
New question: How do you teach students to learn what you don’t know?
A common interview question is to demonstrate a lesson you’ve created. But at a time when knowledge transfer is less important than learning how to learn, we may need to reframe this question to: How can you teach students how you learn?
Increasingly, teachers are going to be in positions where their students will have jumped ahead in the curriculum as they explore YouTube and iTunes U for content in the subject. Increasingly, curious students will come to class asking questions about the subject and the teacher may not know the answer. Teachers can either encourage this spark of curiosity and “awe and wonder,” or not.