E-learning concepts - Table of Content

New teaching roles

The old “new pedagogy”

The era of information society is not the first one when the importance of students’ activity arose. Good teachers always knew exactly how important is not letting students be only the passive participants of lessons.

According to the constructivist approach learning is creative process and its effectiveness depends on one hand on the personal talents of students and on the other hand on the environment. Knowledge is a result of social cooperation developed in interaction with the environment. Teachers are not responsible for giving new knowledge but for supporting student in “building up” their knowledge.

According to the objectivist approach knowledge and the abilities needed for solving a given problem can be exactly (objectively) determined . This precisely defined “knowledge pack” can be handed over to another persons as a finished product, who as a simple receiver, do not have to make any special activity or effort.

Teachers with objectivist approach:

  1. summarizes knowledge in his/her presentations (assembles knowledge packs);
  2. presents facts and logical coherences;
  3. illustrates how problems or tasks can be solved with the knowledge pack;
  4. gives practicing exercises and evaluates the results.

Teachers with constructivist approach:

  1. start with raising problems with examples and situations;
  2. help students find the solutions, have students “discover” the method;
  3. organize, complement and summarize thoughts upcoming during the solution process.

Teaching with objectivist approach is simpler from the teaching point of view and requires less investment but there is a high risk of providing unrealistic and less useful knowledge. Students enrolled from secondary schools to universities and not knowing how to calculate percentage (even with calculators) possibly have this kind of educational background.

Certainly constructivist teaching cannot be applied always in every situation. In some cases “knowledge packs” must be provided and it is justified in higher education. However good teachers know exactly in what ratio these two methods should be applied.

Problem focusing tendency is getting more and more emphasized though as a pedagogical trend it is not new at all. It appeared in reform-pedagogy at the beginning of the 20th century. [1] . In this approach problems selected according to students’ needs (suitable for the features of age and individual environment) are put in the focus of the teaching / learning process . According to the method passing any knowledge should be started with the upraising of such problems (examples) which are interesting for students and have some importance therefore suitable for raising interest. Learning is not just mediating knowledge but a process with students standing in the middle. According to this tendency we do not simply talk about learning but learning environment (this is what Dewey mentioned in the beginning of the 19th century – see the extract!) wherein:

  • students participate actively;
  • teachers are not present as autocrats but as mentors and tutors;
  • knowledge is developed in cooperation and interactions as a result of social environment.

[1] The “discovering” problem solving method is described by the Hungarian mathematician and physicist György Pólya in his world famous book: The School of Thinking.

While in the 20th century teachers are monopolists of knowledge in the 21st century they are mates “learning managers” who can help with his or her profession finding the way in the mass information.

The importance of student centered approach is being formulated again and again but the realization takes little progress and is getting ahead very slowly. The possible explanation of this problem is that developing practical, life like teaching / learning environment means an immense task for teachers.

The characteristics of educational systems in the industrial society are the following:

  • publication of facts, data, rules;
  • passing closed, finite, book standard knowledge;
  • homogeneous group learning;
  • frontal teaching, presentation.

Requirements in the informal society:

  • developing abilities and competences;
  • preparation for life long learning;
  • personalized learning environment, heterogeneous groups;
  • constructivist approach, application of collaborative methods.

The objectives of education:

  • preparing for constant learning;
  • intelligent learning;
  • knowledge of digital writing;
  • problem solving skills;
  • communication skills;
  • developing social and life management skills.

What should (must) we the teachers give up? That we only present and check lessons. As parents (and as former students) we know exactly what an autocratic all-powerful teacher character means in shaping our children’s (and what it meant in our own) fate.

The environment in information society makes impossible objectivist, autocratic teacher mentality. Teachers of the 21st century by keeping leadership – not as being the only owners of knowledge – must be present in the learning environment as learning motivating mentors and facilitators [2] .

[2] The duties of facilitators are known from round table talks, usually participated by several experts with the aim of analyzing and overview jointly a definite problem and building a common standpoint. The duties of facilitators are to guide these talking the way participants should not digress from the given subject.

While teaching he/she continuously learns as well and is able to handle the situation when some students are ahead of him or her. Teachers must learn to use all the possibilities that network communication and IT technology can potentially provide:

  • able to access the newest information fast and cheaply;
  • there are no barriers of continuous professional developments;
  • almost unlimited possibilities of professional cooperation.

Hopefully as IT tools become a part of education the burdens of administration become less and we can use these possibilities.


Komenczi Bertalan: Tanári szerepek és tanári kompetenciák elektronikus tanulási környezetben, 2006