The human-centred vision of education implies that teaching is a set of disparate activities, which requires different expertise and qualities of the teacher depending on their place in the curriculum. Some teachers will be more focused on guiding students’ overall personal development, whilst others on developing students’ cognitive capacities, emotional maturity or academic excellence pertinent to a subject area. Thus, the criteria for a ‘good teacher’ in a human-centred school largely depend on the part of the curriculum for which the teacher is responsible. A single conception of a good teacher would be inadequate to capture the range of educational processes. A human-centred teacher can be a guide, a coach, a facilitator, a mentor, a role model and a friend.
However, there are some common threads in a teacher’s work. We summarise teaching as consisting of six major types of activity:
- Create an environment or a space for learning in which any student would feel safe, cared for, motivated and free from coercion. This space will be one that is conducive to the student’s current well-being and happiness.
- Cultivate students’ thirst for understanding and their ability to ask good questions about aspects of the world around them. This is part of the educational process that points motivationally outwards towards the world. The student needs to feel engaged with some areas of knowledge. Often, this aspect of the educational process presents itself as a series of challenges. The self needs to extend its boundaries, and this process starts with questions.
- Nurture students’ responsibility for their own development, and ultimately for their life. This is part of the educational process that 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. In other words, facilitating a growth in self-conscious awareness concerning their growth with regard to both the outward- and inward-looking processes mentioned above. These distinct processes should come together with regard to the young person’s qualities or non-moral virtues. This aspect of the educational process is embodied at the level of virtues.
- Guide students on learning pathways by helping them to understand and by setting tasks. This general activity includes liaising and collaborating with other teachers to guide the student on these holistic learning pathways.
- Review students’ learning progress, providing feedback on their learning and helping them determine the next step in their learning journey. This means that educational processes need to be iterative.
The framework of the HCE curriculum is supported by teachers who play very different parts, but who work collaboratively as a team. Let’s use the four key pillars of the curriculum to illustrate these diverse teaching approaches:
(1) Mentoring. This is the responsibility of a Learning Mentor who enables the student to have a personalised education and helps the student forge connections between the ‘bigger picture’ of one’s life and the educational processes at school. For instance, a Learning Mentor guides the student towards the self-understanding required for the co-construction of a Learning Agreement and a tailored curriculum.
(2) Group Emotional Exploration. This is facilitated by a Group Facilitator who constructs confidential and safe spaces in which students can explore their emotional landscape without feeling any pressure to do so. For instance, a Group Facilitator hosts the conversations in a way that helps the young people to understand more deeply their emotions and their relationships to themselves, with others and with the world.
(3) Cognitive Development. This is provided by the Cognitive Trainer 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.
(4) Project Work. This is supervised by a Tutor 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.