The human race is one of the few species that worry about a future which it might not see. So we have always sought ways to transfer knowledge from one generation to another.
One way in which we have successfully done this is through the teacher. This vessel of knowledge on whose shoulders lie the survival of the collective knowledge of our species. A teacher might be a parent, an institutional teacher or anyone that society has selected as the tool for the relaying of knowledge from one generation to the next.
This system of pontification has worked for millennia. But our present world appears to be in a constant state of flux so that the knowledge which helped us thrive yesterday appears inadequate for today’s needs. This brings up a challenge for the teacher whose knowledge seems to always be playing catch up with present realities.
In this new information age, the role of the teacher must change from a harbinger of knowledge to a role that facilitates the acquisition of knowledge. A famous quote from Peter Drucker, one of the greatest thinkers of the 21st century says,
“I can only ask questions. The answers have to be yours.”
What this implies is that the acquisition of knowledge should be a journey of discovery by the learners that require and need that knowledge.
All statistics show that 10 hours after a presentation or lecture the listeners only remember 18% of what was shared and by 24 hours that figure reduces to 5% and at the end of the week, they can only remember one concept or image or story from the presentation. The presenter or teacher, on the other hand, remembers more than 90% of what they shared if they had learnt the content of the presentation or lecture before delivering it. This means that the presenters or teachers learn much more than those they are teaching or giving a presentation.
The roles then of the teacher turned facilitator should be to send the learners out to go discover knowledge and come back to present or teach this knowledge. So the learners can share and learn what they have discovered during the presentation or teaching process. The teacher’s role becomes a master questioner that seeks to help the students discover the depths of knowledge/skills in what the learner is presenting, demonstrating or sharing.
As we progress further into the information age and the need for differentiation in individuals becomes essential for the survival and expansion of our race. Then, society’s role becomes to help the next generation find knowledge and teach that knowledge. In this way, the next generation can discover, learn and apply their discoveries to create a better world than the world they met.