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Concourse 2

Teacher roles


We all take on different roles in our lives (teacher, dog-walker, cook, gardener, advisor, waiter etc.) and the classroom is no different.
In our classrooms, however, we need to be aware of what role we adopt and make sure it is appropriate to what we are doing and to our aims.
This is not easy to achieve.
The main issue here is an old truism:

We cannot teach a language but we can create an environment in which it can be learned.


A test to start

think Task 1: Here are some teacher activities.  Look at the list in the Key concepts above and match them to the activity.
Click on the table when you have an answer.


We'll look at each role in the order in the table.

  1. Planner
    Obviously, the teacher must be a good planner to make sure that the class get what they need, in the right order and at the right level.
    But planning doesn't stop when teaching begins.  No lesson plan is perfect so it is important to plan as you go, looking forward to the next stage and seeing if it needs changing, moving, delaying or abandoning.
  2. Manager
    This is to do, mostly, with teacher talk and getting things like instructions and repair routines efficiently and comprehensibly done.  For more, see the guide to teacher talk.
  3. Assessor
    You can be a formal assessor (setting and marking tests and homework and so on).
    And you can be an informal assessor all the time in the classroom asking questions of your students such as
        What does .... mean?
        What's the plural of ... ?

    and asking yourself questions like:
        How are they doing?
        Have they understood the key meanings?
        Can I move on or should I repeat and explain again?

    You need to assess the learners, the lesson and yourself.
    For more, see the guide to asking good questions.
  4. Diagnostician
    This involves being able to spot, analyses and explain learners' errors.  There is a guide to handling error on this site.
    Whenever a learner makes an error, you should ask three questions:
        What sort of error is this?
        Why did it happen?
        Does it need to be corrected?
  5. Knower
    You are a walking, talking grammar book and dictionary for your learners.
    If you allow yourself to play this role too often, two bad things happen:
    1. your students will not develop the ability to use other resources such as grammars, style guides, dictionaries and the web
    2. you will spend too much time talking rather than encouraging your learners to find things out or work out rules for themselves
  6. Facilitator
    Being a facilitator is something you can only do if the tasks you set are at the right level.
    It's a key role and means you can scaffold (i.e., support) the learners' efforts.
  7. Relationship builder
    Rapport between you and the learners and between the learners is an important part of creating and maintaining a positive learning atmosphere.  You have to take the lead by treating everyone fairly and not allowing prejudice or exclusion to occur.
    Setting an example by being approachable, pleasant and inclusive is just the beginning.
  8. Counsellor
    Knowing your learners' needs (to which there is a guide) will help you to advise them and lead them to good study and learning skills.
  9. Disciplinarian
    With younger learners in particular (but not only with younger learners!), telling someone off for breaking the rules or the class contract is something you will have to do from time to time.
    Remember, however, that if everyone has signed up to a class contract, it is often possible to allow the class and the learners to police themselves.


Changing roles

Inexperienced teachers usually feel quite comfortable taking on a narrow range or roles: planner, manager and knower, for example.
However, a good developmental process is to look at the other possible roles in the list of nine and decide to take on a different one each week at some point.

think Task 2: What are the advantages to having a range of roles?
Take a little time and see if you can think of two good reasons.
Then click here.

self test

Self-test questions

Before you go on, make sure you can answer this question.  If you can't, go back to the sections which give you trouble.

  • Give an example of when you have been:
    • a counsellor
    • a relationship builder
    • a manager
    • a disciplinarian
    • a monitor/assessor