There are common threads to the work of all human-centred teachers and practitioners. A human-centred teacher will:
- Create an environment or space for learning that is conducive to the student’s current well-being and happiness, in which any student would feel safe, cared for, motivated and free from coercion.
- Cultivate students’ thirst for understanding and their ability to ask good questions about the world around them. (This is part of the educational process that points motivationally outwards towards the world. The self needs to extend its boundaries, and this process starts with questions.)
- Nurture students’ responsibility for their own development, and ultimately for their own life. (This part of the educational process points motivationally inwards, towards the development of the self. Often, this aspect of the educational process manifests itself as a process of self-love or caring for oneself.)
- Challenge students to reflect on their goals and the point of their learning activities. (i.e. facilitating self-conscious awareness concerning their growth, in particular in relation to the development of qualities or non-moral virtues, with regard to both the outward- and inward-looking processes above.)
- Guide students on learning pathways by helping them to understand their learning trajectories and by setting them appropriate tasks. This will include liaising and collaborating with other teachers to guide the student along these holistic learning pathways.
- Review students’ learning progress, providing (iterative) feedback on their learning that helps them determine the next steps in their learning journey.
Different roles, different qualities
Beyond these general activities in common, the human-centred vision of education requires different expertise and qualities of the teacher depending on their role within the curriculum. Some teachers will need to be more focused on guiding students’ overall personal development, others on developing students’ cognitive capacities, emotional maturity or academic excellence in a subject area. A human-centred teacher can be a guide, a coach, a facilitator, a mentor, a role model and a friend, and a single conception of a ‘good teacher’ would be inadequate to capture the range of educational processes required.
The framework of an HCE curriculum is supported by teachers who play very different parts, but who work collaboratively as a team. To illustrate this, let’s take a look at four key HCE curriculum areas and their associated teaching roles:
(1) Direction time/Mentoring. This is the responsibility of a Learning Mentor who helps the student forge connections between the ‘bigger picture’ of their life and the educational processes at school. Where possible, they also enable them to develop a personalised education. A Learning Mentor guides the student towards the self-understanding required for the co-construction of a Learning Agreement and a tailored curriculum. A learning mentor is sensitive, supportive, caring, patient, empathetic and a good listener.
(2) Emotional Exploration Time. This is guided by a Group Facilitator who constructs confidential and safe spaces in which students can explore their emotional landscape, through open discussion and creative, dynamic and reflective activities. The conversations can help young people to more deeply understand their feelings and emotions and their relationships with themselves, with others and with the world. A group facilitator is friendly, patient, approachable and personable. They are also sensitive, highly flexible, dynamic and creative and a good listener, with the ability to relate to emotionally charged situations with a calm and empathetic manner.
(3) Cognitive Development Time. This is provided by the Cognitive Development Tutor who enables the student to improve their cognitive abilities and enliven their intelligence. These include the arts of reading with comprehension, listening attentively, writing well and thinking critically and strategically. A cognitive development tutor will be incisive and critically aware, with a high degree of sensitivity to the specific cognitive needs of individual students. They will be strong in communicating complex ideas, dynamic, inventive and enthusiastic.
(4) Project Work. This is supervised by a Project Supervisor who oversees and provides guidance to students in working directly on areas of knowledge or questions that they care about and to have a greater ownership of and responsibility for the learning process. For instance, the Tutor supports the student in framing the project questions, defining the processes and formulating plans. A Tutor helps the student to internalise what counts as a good project and how to review the progress made. A project supervisor is open-minded, supportive, a good listener, with broad areas of expertise.