Teacher & Student Roles in the Learning Process

Instructor: John Hamilton

John has tutored algebra and SAT Prep and has a B.A. degree with a major in psychology and a minor in mathematics from Christopher Newport University.

Are you interested in learning more about the roles teachers as well as their students play in the overall learning process? The following lesson will review some of these roles and how they ultimately affect learning outcomes.

Teacher Roles Versus Student Roles

While teacher-centered learning was the norm for many years, in recent years student-centered learning has come to the forefront. In the former, the teacher would stand at the front of the classroom and give a lecture, while the students remained mostly quiet. The educator selected the subject matter, the students worked alone, and for the most part the focus was on the teacher.

In the latter, the teacher models while the students actually interact with each other as well as the educator. The class tends to be much noisier. The students have some input as to the subject matter, they often work in pairs or small groups, and the focus is now shifted to both the students and teacher. There are a number of roles both teachers and students can play in student-centered learning that we will explore below.


A teacher can be an organizer by setting up specific activities, providing clear instructions, and letting the students know a step-by-step procedure. Teachers can also give demonstrations to the class in the form of labs and projects, and at the end of a learning block provide feedback about student performance.

Students can also have organizer roles. A typical student can be more of a community organizer, and encourage fellow students, hometown stalwarts, as well as family members to take action for specific causes. For example, a student might form a math study group, or even rally local citizens to save a stand of old oak trees that are going to be removed for an additional school parking lot.

Mentors and Tutors

A teacher can be a mentor by providing good life advice to a student. This could include anything from where to go to college, to more personal things such as diet advice. Some teachers have offered to tutor students who are struggling in algebra, coach a small group through a science project, or help students through a tough self-study research paper.

Conversely, at a young age students who grasp concepts quickly can help fellow students who are having trouble learning particular concepts. The desired outcome of mentoring and tutoring is that both teacher and pupil will learn new concepts.


Another important role a teacher can assume is the role of prompter for the students. In this role, teachers are a sort of cheerleader and advisor too. However, the teacher tries to stay out of the way as much as possible, and only helps if a student really needs a supportive hint. The outcome is that students will learn to become more confident in their abilities and independent too.

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