This article focuses on the basic characteristics of a contemporary teacher, the essential components of teacher competence, and the role of various kinds of projects in present-day teaching practices. Project-based teaching constitutes a significant part of modern teaching methods — it contributes to the effectiveness of teaching as such, promotes a healthy teacher-student relationship and creates a favorable classroom environment thereby securing a healthy learning process with tangible results.
Keywords: teacher competences, teacher roles, project-based teaching, project competence, teacher-student partnership, teacher-teacher partnership, creative-thinking environment, learner independence, healthy learning, tangible results
Teacher competence is crucial for successful teaching. In the context of present-day trends the teacher is required to demonstrate not only high professionalism, profound knowledge, extensive experience but also a flexible mind and a high degree of creativity. Given that the 21st century format makes it imperative that young graduates are well-versed in the so-called Four Cs — Communication, Cooperation, Creativity and Critical Thinking — the teacher is expected to possess the relevant characterists and master the corresponding roles, particularly for project-based teaching, which is acquiring an ever greater popularity nowadays.
Some of these characteristics were highlighted by Y. M. Kuzminov, V. L. Matrosov, V. D. Shadrikov as the essential elements of teacher competence in project-based teaching.
Kuzminov, Matrosov and Shadrikov single out the managerial, emotional and creative components of teacher efficucncy for the successful management and implementation of projects in compliance with the age groups, personal characteristics and individual interests of the students . These componentes in turn fall into a number of competences.
The managerial component of project competence incorporates the ability of the teacher to set realistic goals, select the right ways to achieve them and coordinate efforts in seeing the set objectives through; the ability to organize groupwork, cooperate with the class, effectively distribute assignments and skillfully delegate duties and share responsibilities; the ability to monitor and oversee projects; and the ability to foresee and prevent the undesirable outcomes and to anayze and estimate progress.
The emotional component encompasses such characteristics of the teacher as personal motivation and positive interest; emotional stability and a decent level of stress-resistance; evaluation capacity in order to be able to assess student performance on the bias-free basis; personal involvement in pursuing project objectives; empathy, democracy and tactfulness in communication with the class; reflexive potential; and the ability to make a good use of the teacher's own resources.
In addition to the above-mentioned features, the emotional component of project competence comprises communication skills, including the ability to practice individual approach in teaching; the ability to settle conflict; public speaking and public presentation skills; strategic planning ability; the ability to establish an effective interaction with the class and productice groupwork; the ability to pronouce a fair, unbiased judgement of class progress.
The creative component of project competence provides for the teacher's ability to demonstrate unconventional, flexible and critical thinking; the ability to show resourcefulness in addressing the set agenda; and the ability to produce original solutions while maintaining a sense of novelty, a quick response to discord, a potential for handling stereotypes and managing risks.
Overall, the above competences are indispensable if the teacher is set on creating a foundation for successful project-based teaching, which involves cultivating knowledge of the subject through encouraging students to contribute to the learning process in a variety of artistic ways.
Types of projects and their present-day relevance
A project is a secure way to encourage student learning and stimulate their resource potential into a better output. While motivating students to learn and share, it can also serve as an effective tool to guarantee quality speaking in front of an audience. Jeremy Harmer suggests involving students into two kinds of projects: question-based research projects and socially meaningful out-of-class surveys which would be beneficial to both the students and the community at large.
Jeremy Harmer defines projects as “longer pieces of work which involve investigation and reporting” [3, p.147]. These so-called “longer pieces of work” fall into several types depending on their ultimate goal: construction or engineering projects, where students build something to demonstrate how it works; experimental/research/measurement projects where students design an experiment to study a particular phenomenon; and search and find projects where students select a topic for research and then summarize their findings .
According to Jeremy Harmer, projects tend to “achieve a real communicative purpose” by involving students in “a wide range of interactions both written and spoken” [3, p.149]. Students are thus inspired to practice skills that promote learner independence and are bound to acquire a particular significance in years to come.
Teaching scholars, including Jeremy Harmer, focus on socially oriented projects. Even though the significance of such projects cannot be overestimated, lower-profile, classroom projects are equally encouraging and valuable. As established by T. M. Murzina in the course of monitoring students’ project presentation performance, an overwhelming majority of first-year, second-year, third-year and fourth-year students found this kind of activity rewarding, effective and highly motivating. Projects have empowered students with new knowledge, helped them to do away with their weak points and other anxieties and have proved highly instrumental in enhancing fluency of speech, achieving grammatical accuracy and obtaining a clear view of their overall performance. Given that they were not interrupted while delivering their presentations, the students were able to identify their mistakes and assess themselves and their peers in a realistic, bias-free way.
Thus, along with the other equally meaningful components of the teaching process, projects are becoming a powerful driving force to motivate students into better performance thereby creating the necessary framework for their professional development in later years.
Teacher roles for effective project-based teaching
Both teacher characteristics and teacher roles are vital for project presentation success. Given the growing tendency towards learner independence in the 21st century, the role of the teacher has been changing, along with the teaching format and methods. Students are no longer prepared to unconditionally trust any teacher that comes their way. As stated by speakers at the recent Macmillan Conference “ELT Upgrade: practices and innovations” , teacher’s credibility, teacher-student relationship and peer teaching have become key practices to make language teaching tangible.
Jeremy Harmer identifies several possible roles that the teacher could possible play in contemporary classroom to ensure effective project teaching. Basically, he places teacher roles between two extremes: the teacher as controller, on the one hand, and the teacher as facilitator, on the other [3, p.236]. Positioned somewhere in the middle are the roles of the teacher as assessor, and the teacher as organizer [3, p.239].
Teachers assume a wide range of other roles to guarantee the success of student performance in a creative-thinking environment. Whether these roles are assigned formally, or shared informally, they are designed to enhance the entire class capacity to improve. Teachers can lead in a variety of ways: they could act as resource providers, instruction specialists, curriculum managers, classroom supporters, learning facilitators, mentors, and learners.
As resource providers teachers assist with sharing instructional resources. These might include Web sites, instruction materials, readings, or other resources to share with the students. They might also share such professional resources as articles, books, lesson or unit plans, and assessment tools. Sharing is essential for establishing effective and teacher-teacher and teacher-student partership.
In the capacity of instruction specialists teachers implement and share effective teaching strategies. This includes ideas for differentiating instruction or planning lessons in partnership with students or fellow teachers. Instruction specialists study research-based classroom strategies ; explore which instructional methodologies are appropriate for the class; and share findings with students and colleagues.
Teachers as curriculum specialists demonstrate understanding of content standards, how various components of the syllabus link together, and how to use these components while planning instruction and assessment for ensuring consistent syllabus implementation throughout a learning program. Curriculum specialists follow the adopted curriculum, use common pacing charts and develop shared assessments.
Acting as classroom supporters teachers work inside classrooms to promote new ideas, often by demonstrating a lesson, co-teaching, or observing and giving feedback.
Being learning facilitators, teachers pursue professional learning opportunities where they learn with and from one another and focus on what improves student learning. Their professional learning thus becomes more relevant, being focused on classroom work and aligned to fill the gaps in student learning.
Serving as mentors, teachers become role models for their younger colleagues and for students. Being a mentor takes a great deal of time and expertise and makes a significant contribution to the development of a new professional.
Among the most important roles teachers assume is that of a learner. Learners model continual improvement, demonstrate lifelong learning, and use what they learn to help all students achieve. An essential characteristic of a good learner is that they learn from any studyworthy experience, even if it comes from the younger generation, who happen to be much more knowledgeable is areas which are beyond the teacher. Sharing experience is vital for present-day learning and skills development.
The above-mentioned roles are all intrinsic of project-based teaching and project competence. Provided the teacher can effectively switch from one role to another depending on the situation, a project will go off smoothly and will invariably strike success. Teachers pursue these roles in multiple, sometimes overlapping, ways. Some roles are formal with designated responsibilities. Others are more informal ones which emerge as teachers interact with their peers. The variety of roles ensures that teachers can find ways to lead class work in a manner that matches their talents and interests. Whatever roles they choose to assume, teachers shape the culture of their classrooms, improve student learning, and influence overall teaching practices amidst their peers.
- Профессиональный стандарт педагогической деятельности / под ред. Я. И. Кузьминова, Л. В. Матросова, В. Д. Шадрикова // Вестник образования. 2007. № 7. С. 25–33.
- Harmer, J. The Practice of English Language Teaching New Edition, 1991.
- Larner, M. (2004). Pathways: Charting a course for professional learning. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.