Is There A Place For Teacherless Classrooms?

Earlier this year a shocking story managed to slip by largely unnoticed. Maybe due to all the bigger world news that’s flying about. But rather than being political, the story I’m talking about is focussed on education. You see, a rather special university has just opened in America, and its progress could change the way we educate our young people for years to come.

What Is The Teacherless University?

In October this year, a university without a single teacher opened its doors in California, America. It’s called 42 – otherwise known as the answer to the questions ‘what is the meaning of life, the universe and everything’ from the famous book, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. The university is an offshoot of a French institution with the same name, and will train around a thousand students in coding and software development every year. How? By getting them to help each other with projects and mark each other’s work. There are no tuition fees to attend 42, and their zero-contact method means student rely on peer-to-peer and project based, practical learning – perfect for all types of learner. Despite being met with a healthy dose of scepticism, recent graduates of the Pairs program are now working at companies including IBM, Amazon and Tesla, as well as starting up their own technology businesses. Research done into 42’s success has shown that:

-Peer-to-peer learning develops students with the confidence to search for solutions on their own

-42’s students are better able to work with others and discuss their ideas than those traditionally educated in this field

-Peer-to-peer learning has helped develop people skills in an industry notorious for lacking them

How Could We Learn From 42?

It’s true that for younger learners, concepts like 42 are unlikely to work. But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from them. Some elements of 42’s philosophy around learning could be applied to any age or skill level. Ideas like:

  • Allowing students to explore their own way of learning
  • Giving students the freedom to try different ways of solving problems
  • Breaking down competitive barriers and encouraging students to collaborate
  • Empowering students with the ability to gain knowledge on their own
  • Encourage creative problem solving and practical skills

Now, you don’t need to take teachers away from the classrooms to do this. In fact, teachers can be a huge help in facilitating this kind of free, constructive learning in younger students – if they have the freedom to do it. Teachers can act as supervisors, a light guiding hand designed to support children in self learning and discovery. We’ve been hearing for years about how our education system is failing and our exam results aren’t high enough. So maybe instead of flogging this horse any more we should try something new, and teach our children the way they want to be taught.

There are currently only a few schools in the UK practicing style based learning, but we’re hoping this will pick up quickly.  If more schools tried new ways to educating their students – like allowing peer-to-peer learning in a supervised environment – we might see a huge spike in performance and skill level. Not only that, but reliance on other students can help breed a more compassionate and collaborative attitude in students, which is never a bad thing! I’d love to hear what you think about the idea of the teacherless classroom, so please leave a comment or get in touch today.


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