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Learning Library Blog How do you see the changing role of the teacher?
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How do you see the changing role of the teacher?

By Sarah Stoeckl
December 1, 2016
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When ISTE began to refresh the ISTE Standards for Teachers, we knew we wanted the standards to be a helpful framework for teachers and not just “one more thing to do.” In a changing and changeable world, the job of teachers has never been more challenging or more important. Teachers have more demands on their time than ever before and often face a lack of support for their work and respect for their expertise.

But preparing young people to thrive and contribute remains one of the world’s most important tasks. The refreshed ISTE Standards for Teachers aim to support educators in their work

Refresh process difficult and exciting

Creating a draft of the standards is a challenging task. When ISTE convened a working group of education experts to dive into this project, everyone agreed that a prime objective of the teacher standards would be facilitating the learning represented in the 2016 ISTE Standards for Students. The student standards represent a profound, aspirational shift in digital age education and the standards for teachers must work toward this kind of learning.

The group also agreed that the teacher standards could not stop with operationalizing the student standards. Teachers have other responsibilities beyond classroom teaching, and the teacher standards should represent this reality. As well, ISTE believes that teachers also deserve recognition and support as dynamic, contemporary professionals and that this aspect should be included in their standards.

Draft teacher standards include notable changes

In November, ISTE released the first full draft of the ISTE Standards for Teachers for public comment and we are seeking broad feedback from thousands of educators and other stakeholders. These draft standards include several notable changes from their current iteration (released in 2008).

For one, to recognize the complexity of the teacher’s role and simultaneously ease understanding of the standards, ISTE created two umbrella categories that the individual standards fall under. The first is being called “Empowered Educator” and focuses primarily on teachers as professionals beyond the classroom. The second category is currently dubbed “Learning Catalyst” and emphasizes the skills and attributes of digital age educators using the ISTE Standards for Students in dynamic learning environments.

Up for consideration within the draft standards are other key shifts. One is the expectation that teachers will be leaders within their systems. ISTE knows this is an aspirational standard — how can we make it achievable?

Another addition is highlighting the role of teacher-as-collaborator. Everyone says teachers need to collaborate but what should that look like in reality and how can teachers dedicate time to it?

A third significant change is in the role of the teacher from “sage on the stage” arbiter of information to facilitator and even co-learner with students. This shift recognizes that the empowered, student-driven learning called for in the 2016 ISTE Standards for Students is quite different than traditional models. It requires a relinquishing of absolute authority in teachers, which ultimately makes their role even more crucial as learning becomes personalized to each student’s needs, goals and dreams. How can ISTE help teachers in making this transition?

Equity, empathy, empowerment are key

Underlying the draft teacher standards are three ideas that came out of the working group: equity, empathy and empowerment. These three “E’s” represent what we want for our students and what we want to foster in our students. And they also represent what we want for and in our educators.

These are ideals that apply broadly, but the digital age colors how we think of them. The need for equity appears in the ongoing digital opportunity and use gap even as educational technology continues to hold the potential to transform learning for all students.

Empathy is an increasingly relevant attribute as technology makes human connection easier than ever and yet we frequently see a startling lack of empathy in our interactions online and in person.

Empowerment applies to a transformed learning environment where students use digital tools to drive their own learning, and it also applies to a reimagined role for teachers where they are empowered to be collaborative and innovative forces both within and without the classroom. Ultimately, the three “E’s” represent what ISTE believes teachers need to do their work as professionals in a challenging but deeply necessary career.

Educators need to weigh in

All that said, the refreshed teacher standards are still a draft and everything written here is up for debate. Share your perspective on the first draft of the ISTE Standards for Teachers by completing the 15-minute individual survey and sharing it with your networks. You are also encouraged to host a feedback forum using an ISTE-provided toolkit — at a conference, in a meeting with colleagues, even as a Twitter chat. The public comment period closes at the end of February 2017. Help shape the future of the teaching profession and get involved in the refresh of the ISTE Standards for Teachers.


 Sarah Stoeckl, Ph.D., is a senior project manager in ISTE's standards department. Her work focuses on the refresh of the ISTE Standards and implementation of the standards in education.

Get ideas for incorporating the ISTE Standards in your school or classroom. Join the ISTE Standards Community, an open network dedicated to all things ISTE Standards.