Teaching Roles

I am trying something new.  Today in class I explained an activity that I wanted my class to do.  After the activity, one of the students asked me what I would be doing during the activity.  I responded with, "observing, and then giving advice at the end".  This got me thinking of the explicit role of the teacher in the lesson.  Of course, we float between different roles at different times under different circumstances.  As teaching is a complex phenomenon, we are playing roles at the same time while balancing many different ways of thinking.  My kids are used to me playing many different roles, though we don't articulate what I am doing in regards to the learning environment.  The reflection and meta-skills tend to be focused on what they are doing, rightly so.  Yet, at the same time, I am a part of the system (collective), and maybe that explicit understanding could be used to make new insights.

What if the teachers role was determined before the lesson began?  What if the students determined the teachers role?  Would this lead students to interact differently with the problem/activity?  Would an awareness of my role help them to understand how their learning system operates?  How they operate as learners? Could this be used to highlight the different ways that groups work together, and how we learn from and with groups?

During lunch I made a quick poster with only a couple of roles on it.  There are tons more, and please feel free to leave them in the comments below.  This list will grow with the concept.  I intend to use this to point out before an activity what my explicit role will be, and then to have the students reflect on how they feel the environment changes with my roles (not all activities, just once in a while).  At first, I will choose the role, but I am hoping that over time they take ownership and begin to start choosing roles based on their needs and levels of understanding.

Any thoughts?


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