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Academic article on future of teaching
In Futures Thinking in Education
Peter Bishop
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Site member
Feb 01, 2022
Thank for sharing this article with the Teach the Community, Ida. It is a well-written article, and it includes lots of data that points to the ability of software and machines to take over many of the tasks that professional educators have traditionally done. There is little doubt that automation in most, if not all professions, is changing the work of those professions. It would foolish to believe that teaching is exempt from that movement. At the same time, extrapolating from this movement to deskilling the teaching function requires a set of assumptions that the author neglects to share. At one point, he says about medicine, "If physicians employ physician assistants and nurse practitioners, then they can outsource some of the preliminary diagnostics, history-taking, and patient education, and spend more time on a larger patient load using just their core skills." That is not deskilling as much as it allocate skill sets to different professionals rather than bunding them into one as they have done. Is that de-skilling or re-skilling? I would prefer re-skilling since the traditional physician needs to work differently, but they are not de-skilled as a result He also mentions the McKinsey study that found that automation reduced the time on supplementary teaching tasks, like class preparation and grading, time that "could then be spent on more personalized, individual instruction." It could also mean fewer teachers altogether with the time saved used to reduce the teaching staff and hence the budgets. Either outcome is plausible. So there are multiple plausible outcomes to the trends that the author documents. The lack of alternative futures is therefore my primary critique of the article. He states twice that "futurists" are not very good at predicting the future. “Technology futurism has a poor track record predicting the speed or form of technology adoption.” (P. 2) and “Futurists have a poor track record in predicting how new technologies will impact employment and occupations, and predictions of rapid automation have often been wrong.” (P. 13). He provides no support for these statements. Nevertheless, I might agree with him, but for different reasons if he had given reasons. Futurists are not good at predicting the future because they don't predict the future at all! The single future that the author 'predicts' is only one of several plausible futures. The world is complex, and futurists admit that we do not know as much about it as we think we do, including the author. The author is unfortunately the victim of his traditional education that assumes that smart people can predict the future. He believes that he can predict the future even though "futurists" have not been able to do so. He obviously did not learn enough about how he should have described the future in school. Teach the Future is dedicated to remedying this bias toward prediction. We teach students how to accept that there is an Expected Future, but that there are also Alternative Futures of what might happen by identifying and critically challenging assumptions and by including contrary evidence in his data. Had the author done that, he might have been more careful about making predictions that will most likely be different to some or even to a large extent from what he predicts.
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