Respondents to the Teachers in 2020 survey represented places around the world including the U.S., Mexico, Central America, South America, China and the Middle East. Half of the respondents had 20 or more years of education experience.*

A decade can bring about significant change to individuals and to the world. How will a decade change education? None of us can be certain about what the future will bring, but recently a sampling of educators at AdvancED accredited institutions around the world participated in a survey* about teaching in the year 2020. The survey contained questions on different aspects of teaching in the future, including questions on teacher preparedness, technology, learning environment and online courses.

Throughout the survey results, not surprisingly, technology played a leading role. Survey respondents indicate that they believe that technology will be the catalyst for many changes in the next 10 years.

Over half of the survey respondents reported that their students have daily access to computers; those residing outside the United States reported 72 percent, while only 58 percent of U.S. respondents reported daily access. Conversely, no respondents in the U.S. reported infrequent use, but nearly 10 percent of respondents outside the U.S. reported infrequent use. Almost all respondents (95 percent) believe that students in 2020 will have daily access to computers.

Survey respondents had ideas about learning techniques and concepts, but the tendency was to see them in the light of new uses of technology: some thoughts were based on adjusting to technology, others were about how to use it to create better learning opportunities for students. Others still saw barriers to the use of too much technology such as protecting privacy, teaching ethics and plagiarism. Respondents expressed that teachers will need to build their own knowledge about these issues and instruct students in these areas. One respondent shared the great importance of not just using technology for the sake of using it, but asking – “how will this help students achieve?”

How often do students in your region/country currently have access to computers and other technology tools?

Teacher Preparedness

Will teacher training change? Most survey respondents think so; 88 percent of respondents outside the U.S. expect some to significant change in the universities/teacher training programs to meet new expectations by 2020. While only 67 percent of their U. S. counterparts responded the same.

Those who took the Teachers in 2020 survey responded with several ideas of what should be included in teacher training for the future. Responses included a focus on technology, more online opportunities, an increase in experience in school settings, project-based learning, collaborative learning and a focus on assessment. Respondents think teachers of 2020 should be taught how to enhance learning with technology rather than just using it for administrative efficiencies. For example, teaching how to use technology to quickly and easily differentiate instruction.

“We need to get people to think out of the box. … We will need to teach students how to interact with the world. “We need to prepare teachers to help students reshape and rethink different approaches—getting away from content only,” shared Andrew Sherman, Director, Colegio Menor San Francisco de Quito in Cumbaya, Quito Ecuador.

By 2020, how much do you think universities/teacher training institutions will have changed their teaching/training programs to meet new expectations?

Additionally, respondents felt it was important for teachers to be prepared to teach critical thinking and problem solving. With the easy access to information, some respondents see a new way of thinking coming: conceptual curriculum rather than fact-based.

“Students will have access to an unbelievable amount of information and herein lies what we need to be teaching: appropriate and critical use of information,” advised one survey respondent. “Students need to understand how information is used, why it is created, and to develop a refined ability to critically evaluate the information in order to build their own understanding.”

Intercultural education and the global community also were noted as important in preparing teachers to lead their students in global thinking. Respondents suggested giving teachers experience in different settings, including international.

Teacher Accountability

How will teachers be held more accountable? Respondents believe teachers will be held more accountable for student achievement by 2020. In fact, 75 percent of U.S.-based respondents believe teachers will be held accountable for state assessment results. Additionally, over 58 percent responded that they believe teachers will be held more accountable for the following:

  • Legislated/mandated requirements
  • College or career readiness
  • Common content standards/requirements

Their counterparts around the world believe teachers also will be held more accountable, with over 50 percent reporting greater responsibility for the following:

  • State assessment results
  • Graduation rates
  • Common content standards/requirements

Additionally, a substantial number of educators both in the U.S. and elsewhere believe teachers will be held more accountable for college enrollment (33 percent and 25 percent respectively), according to the survey responses.

“I do think that college readiness is part of an accountability picture that has to touch every teacher in high school,” said Eric Ban, Principal, Crown Point High School, in Crown Point, Indiana, U.S. Although not everyone agrees, “Hold teachers accountable for good quality teaching, teachers only get a student for one year of education. Accountability should fall to institutions,” commented Sherman.

Changes to the Job

What kind of changes will 2020 bring in the teacher’s job? It’s no surprise that respondents are united in the belief that there will be more technology. Teachers will be challenged to engage students within this new technological environment, facilitate their learning, and deliver content effectively, shared several respondents. Some respondents believe that technology will bring with it more wikis and blogs but less face-to-face interaction with students. Others feel confident that technology will be blended with traditional teaching methods.

Some respondents commented that the job itself won’t change much, while others believe that the focus from content to developing life skills (leadership, creativity and problem solving) will significantly change the nature of teachers’ jobs.

“I believe that the educational experience will continue to move toward the role of the teacher as a facilitator, still accountable for the student being exposed to and supported in their understanding of ‘basic standards’ as adopted by the school or district…” shared Dale Goodman, Advisor to the Board, Chengdu Meishi International School in China.

The shift seems to be for teachers to be less of a source of knowledge; technology can fill that role, “Teachers can’t be the source of knowledge. Teachers have to be the designer of good learning negotiations – and yes, sometimes those negotiations are directed by the teacher,” commented Ban.

Teacher teamwork also was common among responses with respondents expressing that this teamwork will be necessary to have accountability for students’ progress throughout the years.

Learning Environments

What kind of learning environments will 2020 bring? Survey respondents shared that they believe social media will make a difference in the work day of future teachers; however, responses ranged from “social media is merely a tool” to “teachers will be communicating mostly online with no daily ‘classes.’” Some believe using social media will make teachers’ days longer with increased communication, individualized instruction and more fluid instruction. “Students will be able to bring their teacher home after school for help and support,” stated one respondent.

Some respondents think that there will be less personal interaction with students, while other respondents felt that there would be more one-on-one contact, but less face-to-face contact with students. Some educators responding to the survey question this loss of interaction, as they believe it is an important part of socialization.

In the future, some believe that students will make more decisions about their education. A number of respondents reported that students will have more involvement in and be more responsible for the learning process and designing how the new classroom of 2020 will operate. They shared that students will use technology to demonstrate skills, collaborate with students around the world, and use simulations to solve problems. Respondents believe that teachers will present new opportunities for group-based learning and will incorporate open-ended projects into learning. “Students can now be anywhere in the world—classroom doesn’t have to be just the kids in your class…It will put different talent together; it’s a whole new way to bring people together and realize benefits,” said Sherman.

Online Courses

How will online courses be included in curriculum? Survey respondents reported mixed perspectives about self-managed/online courses, but most agree that their use and variety of topics will increase by 2020.

There was some difference of opinion as to what age was most appropriate for students to start using self-managed/online courses. The U.S. respondents seem more comfortable with younger children taking these courses. Nearly 50 percent of respondents outside the U.S. reported that ages 16-20 were appropriate for students to begin taking self-managed/online courses, while their U.S. counterparts reported a more even distribution across age ranges: 20 percent beginning at ages 6-10, 30 percent at ages 11-15 and 20 percent at ages 16-20. However, one-fifth of U.S. based educators believe it is never appropriate for students to take online/self-managed courses, while only seven percent of educators outside the U.S. believe students should never take these courses.

At what age do you think it’s appropriate for children to start taking self-managed/online courses?

Most survey respondents think there will be more self-managed courses in 2020:

  • 48% think only a few more
  • 36% think significantly more
  • 15% think will be about the same

The majority of respondents think self-managed courses are here to stay, but there is some disagreement about the ideal percentage of coursework that should be self-managed:

Although there is no real consensus on how self-managed courses should be used, many potential benefits to students were expected by respondents. The economic benefit to remote students, variety of coursework and a flexible learning schedule were mentioned. Some respondents felt that the idea of self-managed courses would help students gain discipline, a broader perspective and research skills, all of which would provide preparation for higher education. Respondents also expressed the hope that students would become more aware of learning goals, benefit from an individual learning pace and would be able to learn more about what interests them.

The most significant concerns expressed by respondents over self-managed courses were the isolation and lack of socialization for students in a world where collaboration and teamwork are expected.

There were many ideas about how increased self-managed courses might change the role of the teacher. According to survey comments, teachers will become facilitators and advisors. Teachers of the future will have to be attentive to remote students—people whom they’ve never met. They will be a checkpoint for student accountability and a resource to manage student advancement.

With more use of online learning, some respondents believe that the teacher will become more like a manager or facilitator. “A facilitator helps develop. [Teachers will] create an environment to facilitate the learning with the technology,” said Sherman.

What’s in store for teachers of the future? More technology, online courses, facilitation, greater accountability and the opportunity to ensure that students learn to negotiate the world like never before.

*Surveys were administered by random sample with a six percent response rate.

Alexia James has more than 15 years of writing experience serving non-profit organizations and Fortune 500 companies. Her work has included various writing assignments for Coca-Cola Enterprises, Experian Corporation, IBM Corporation, and Bank of America, as well as Web content for Emory Healthcare, and internal and marketing communications and publication management for ACS (Affiliated Computer Services).