Which drivers of change will affect their skills?
Across the diverse academic and vocational disciplines and education levels, teaching professionals must not only possess subject-specific knowledge and soft skills (such as communication, emotional intelligence and critical thinking) but also keep pace with evolving teaching practices that will affect their skills profile.
Technological advancements, the shifting of European economies towards service provision and globalisation, and the continued development of the knowledge economy, stress the importance of specific skills. In turn, this impacts expectations on teachers’ skillsets and their ability to implement teaching methods that are considered more suitable:
The so-called “21st century skills”, that include critical thinking, innovation and information literacy 4
, shifted the focus towards learner-centred education. This involves focusing on the personal requirements of individuals, allowing them to select their preferred methods of learning, researching and analysing information. 5
Teachers must develop new skills that enable them to work collaboratively with students and improve their practice based on feedback regarding the learning process.
Although science, technology and mathematics (STEM) education is very often seen as a priority in Member States, both job and skill gaps of teachers pertain. Most teaching students do not opt to specialise in STEM-related disciplines; while only two in five teaching students report that initiatives are planned, or are already in place, to address this shortage. However, almost half of EU countries place particular emphasis on improving initial and/or in-service training of STEM teachers’ skills . 6
Technological advancements in digital learning and the increasing prevalence of online and mobile internet activities are facilitating the aforementioned trend towards greater learner-centeredness and personalisation of learning. For instance, in “flipped learning" core material is provided in advance to learners who then supplement it through personal and group activities (reading, exploring resources, using learning platforms to exchange material, discuss and debate with other learners). Classroom time is then used to discuss work in groups, and for the educator to help the learners to structure and understand the material in accordance with their individual needs. 7
Teachers need new pedagogical skills to implement such approaches. With this increased focus on students’ working independently outside of school hours, teachers need the skills to manage online learning platforms through different devices. The ability to use digital media is vital in providing students with advice and assistance, mediating cooperation between classmates outside of school hours, and managing parental concerns. 8
The growth of open educational resources (OER) also has wide repercussions on learner centred methods. Teaching professionals need to have the skills to create and manage OER, including students’ involvement in the co-creation of content. In higher education in particular, the development of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) requires teaching professionals to hold skills allowing them to design and manage on-line teaching as well as interacting with and assessing students only on-line.
New digital learning technologies reshape teaching in adult education as well, by opening up possibilities for people to learn anywhere at any time and follow more personalised learning pathways that correspond with one’s lifestyle. Adult educators face the challenge of developing skills to implement and manage such technologies in ways that are beneficial to their learners 9
Technological advancements need to be reflected in curricula and teaching practices, especially in VET and professional education. VET also faces a challenge of keeping in line with workplace practices. This is particularly challenging in Member States where teachers are involved in designing the curricula in addition to teaching them. One example is medical educators, who must be able to tailor course material to provide future healthcare specialists with up-to-date content; prepare future health professionals to be able to respond to emerging skills needs, such as those relevant to “personalised medicine” 10, brought about by technological and organisational change. 11
With only 34% of teaching professionals under the age of 40, demographic patterns will significantly impact teaching professionals’ skills. Especially in countries with “older” teachers (in Bulgaria, Greece, Estonia, Latvia and Austria less than 25% of teachers is aged below 40; and in Italy only 10% 12
) students may have a higher level of IT literacy than their teachers. Such skill gaps could hinder the adoption of e-learning and other innovative pedagogical tools.
The need to improve the entrepreneurial base of Europe brings to the forefront pedagogies which develop students’ creativity, innovation, initiative, risk-taking, and the ability to plan and manage projects to achieve objectives. Teachers need the skills to mirror these attributes and contribute to a learning culture that is based around student-led enquiry and discovery. 13
In VET particularly, the continued development and decreasing cost of advanced technologies, such as 3D printing, present a valuable opportunity for teachers to equip students with technical skills that are going to be central to future design and production processes. 14
Therefore these teachers and trainers need to have the technical expertise and adaptability to make full use of new equipment and prepare students for a more technologically oriented labour market. 15
In a globalised world, students need to develop an international outlook. This requires teachers to: maintain a global perspective themselves; have the skills and competences to identify and absorb new teaching and learning practices from across the globe; and to be aware of how to open up opportunities for transnational learning for their students.
All teachers, across educational levels and fields, must have the necessary skills to support students with learning or physical disabilities. However, over the next decade teachers are also more likely to face increasing diversity in their classrooms and lecture theatres as a result of migration within and into Europe. Delivering education and promoting inclusion for non-native communities requires teachers to have competences with regard to understanding intercultural differences, and working effectively with local communities. 16
Teachers will increasingly need to have a well-rounded understanding of different cultural customs and values, gender-sensitive skills, and the ability to provide individualised support in a diverse range of circumstances. 17
Risk of automation: As a part of its Digitalisation and future of work project
, Cedefop estimates the risks of automation
for occupations. The most exposed occupations are those with significant share of tasks that can be automated – operation of specialised technical equipment, routine or non-autonomous tasks – and those with a small reliance on communication, collaboration, critical thinking and customer-serving skills. The risk of automation is further accentuated in occupations where employees report little access to professional training that could help them to cope with labour market changes. Teaching professionals are reportedly an occupation with very low risk of automation.