Teachers as Co-learners (Part 5/5: New Paradigm in Language Teaching and 21st Century Skills)

Author: Made Hery Santosa

The development and integration of technology in every field today has radically changed the education system in the 21st century. Different types of student generations with diverse learning characteristics have been taking parts in today’s learning space. Baby boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, Gen Z, and even Gen Alpha are blending together in the era of information saturation today. The way they learn are different and the roles of the teachers become more diverse. Now, in the twenty-first-century,education depends on thinking skills, interpersonal skills, information media, technological skills as well as life skills. Memorization, didactic and rote learning have been outdated (Santosa, 2013) as the needs to meet the industry and global active participation increase (D’Souza & Mudin, 2018). To clarify, the teaching will be effective when a student can apply what they learned in a different context outside of the classroom.

To respond the changing and challenging global world, the role of the teachers is essential to improve the sustainable education. Roles of teachers have shifted in the learning context today, from teacher-centered to student-centered (Gujjar & Choudhry, 2009). Teachers are not the facilitator for learning of the students only, and now they are responsible for training the students for increasing employability skills, expanding the mind, growing digital citizenships, critical thinking, and creativity as well as sustainable learning (Murati, 2015). With the passes of time and integration of technology in every sector, the teacher’s role has changed a lot (Jones, 2001; Looney et al., 2017).

Among the many roles, shifting teachers from more into the main source of knowledge to a co-learner or facilitator is urgently needed. Teachers in the disruption era like today are expected to assist their students and facilitate their learning. Students become more the center of learning process whereas the teacher supports them with knowledge, information, guidance, and facilitation (Beetham & Sharpe, 2007; Malik et al., 2011) to help students become autonomous learners (Wiraningsih & Santosa, 2020). Having these, teachers create many unique opportunities to build relationships with students as teachers may fill the varied roles of coach, facilitator, and co-learner (Vighnarajah et al., 2008).

To be co-learners or facilitators, today’s teachers are also encouraged to have other key roles. According to Sardar (2018), these include several prominent characteristics. First, teachers can act as the creator of meaningful learning experiences. In this digital age, the internet is full of supportive resources. When a teacher teaches the students from a collaborative perspective, the students will learn more deeply if they get the resources. It can be YouTube Video Tutorial, Digital Content, eBooks or even the printed documents. The teacher should facilitate students’ learning, not only mastery of the content but also other skills, like critical thinking, communication skills, collaboration, and creativity. Teachers know how to combine the technology, pedagogy, and content which will ensure real-world problem solving and cooperative learning (Mishra & Koehler, 2006). Teachers provide meaningful learning activities to give the learning experiences they need for their future.

Second, teachers can be a planner for 21st century careers. As the world is disruptive today, students need to be prepared for the future careers that do not even exist. The teacher needs to become a comprehensive manager and planner to support the students  in terms of skills, including the 4C’s (Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration, and Creativity). It is the duty of a teacher to introduce them the mentioned skills very clearly and embed them into the teaching and learning practices. Working in a team, communicating ideas, listening to others opinions, responding critically, being creative, etc. must be nurtured from the beginning and inserted in the lessons.

Finally, teachers are digitally literate learners and promoters of different ways of learning. Effective teachers in the 21st century should not limit the learning resources for the students while at the same time,  are updated, open to changes and innovative. Teachers can promote innovations while emphasizing on effective use of digital technologies for meaningful learning experiences. Hence, it is necessary to bring about a two-way transfer of knowledge between students and teachers as it requires optimum students’ participation (Vighnarajah et al., 2008). It is important to shift in the role of teachers in the learning process, from the traditional teaching and learning environment to a learning environment that encourages active students’ participation in the learning process.

In summary, it is important to note that the 21st century teaching and learning process requires different roles of teachers to deal with students. The rapid development of technologies has provided rich resources for students and teachers that they need to update, understand, critically analyze the information, and express their understanding in different contexts. Teachers must shift their dominant and central lectures to more facilitated and guided discussions and various learning activities. Being co-learners is encouraged, so students are given the opportunities to equip themselves with necessary skills of the future.  

Additional Material

To enrich your understanding on the topic, please read the following materials.

  1. Teacher as Facilitator: http://bit.ly/teachrole1
  2. How Can I be a Good Teacher-Facilitator? http://bit.ly/teachrole2


Beetham, H., & Sharpe, R. (2007). Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age. Routledge.

D’Souza, U. J. A., & Mudin, D. K. D. (2018). Industrial revolution 4.0: Role of Universities. Borneo Journal of Medical Sciences (BJMS), 12(1), 1–2.

Gujjar, A. A., & Choudhry, B. N. (2009). Role of teacher as classroom manager. In i-manager’s Journal of Educational Psychology (Vol. 2, Issue 4, pp. 65–73). https://doi.org/10.26634/jpsy.2.4.285

Jones, J. (2001). CALL and the teacher’s role in promoting learner autonomy. Call-EJ Online, 3(1). http://callej.org/journal/3-1/jones.html

Looney, A., Cumming, J., Kleij, F. van Der, & Karen Harris. (2017). Reconceptualising the role of teachers as assessors: Teacher assessment identity. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 25(5), 442–467. https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0969594X.2016.1268090

Malik, M. A., Murtaza, A., & Khan, A. M. (2011). Role of teachers in managing teaching learning situation. Interdisciplinary Journal of Contemporary Research in Business, 3(5), 783–833.

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. The Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017–1054. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9620.2006.00684.x

Murati, R. (2015). The role of the teacher in the educational process. The Online Journal of New Horizon in Education, 5(2), 75–78.

Santosa, M. H. (2013). An investigation into the relationship between students’ approaches to learning and learning outcomes in an Indonesian English-learning context (Issue July) [La Trobe University]. http://arrow.latrobe.edu.au:8080/vital/access/manager/Repository/latrobe:37301

Sardar, I. T. (2018). Changing role of teachers in the 21st century. https://medium.com/@itsardar/changing-role-of-teachers-in-the-21st-century-5acb47a23a33

Vighnarajah, Luan, W. S., & Abu Bakar, K. (2008). The shift in the role of teachers in the learning process. European Journal of Social Sciences, 7(2), 33–41.

Wiraningsih, P., & Santosa, M. H. (2020). EFL teachers’ challenges in promoting learner autonomy in the 21st century learning. Journal on English as a Foreign Language, 10(2), 290–314. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.23971/jefl.v10i2.1881

Note: This section is Part 5 of 5 of New Paradigm in Language Teaching and 21st Century Skills writing series.

Click to read Part 1Part 2Part 3, and Part 4.

Please cite this source accordingly using an appropriate reference system and manager.

©mhsantosa (2021)

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