The English Language Teacher’s Role

The teacher is an important part of the learning process. A good teacher can make learning much easier and faster for students, while a bad teacher can cause students to learn at a much slower rate. An English language teacher can fulfill many roles which lead to optimal learning for the student. In this blog post I will discuss the role of teacher according to my course and studies by Harmer.

The Major Roles of a Teacher

According to what I studied this week there are two major roles for teachers in the classroom which complement each other:

  • The social side of teaching: to create the conditions under which learning can take place.
  • The task-oriented side of teaching: to impart knowledge to their learners through a variety of means.

The role of the teacher changes depending on what activities are used in the classroom at any given time and the nature of these activities.Teachers typically fill the role of either the controller or the facilitator of learning. They can impart knowledge based on their communication methods and the tasks they set for students.

Teacher Roles according to Harmer

J. Harmer identified eight different roles that a language teacher can fulfill. A link to his blog can be found here. I have outlined and reflected on these roles below:teacher-1015630_640

  1. Controller:
    The teacher controls what goes on in the class and what is said and done. The teacher controls what language the students speak and when they should use this language. Different stages of the lesson require different levels of control. The downside is that students can become limited in what they can do without direct permission from the teacher. The upside is that there is order and structure in the lesson.
  2. Assessor:
    The teacher assesses student’s language skills and the progress they make. They correct mistakes by direct correction and organized correction. Direct correction means they correct mistakes on the spot, for example pronunciation and grammar mistakes. With organized correction they give general feedback to the whole class. It is important for a teacher to correct students when they make mistakes so they don’t develop bad learning habits or incorrect pronunciation.
  3. Organizer:
    One of the main roles of the teacher is to organize the class and give a clear structure to students. This can mean giving clear instructions, organizing activities and tasks and structuring the lessons according to different topics. It is important for teachers and students to know what way lessons are organized so that learning follows a clear pattern. A good teacher is prepared and organized and creates an optimal learning environment.
  4. business-card-1015289_640Prompter:
    The teacher can help support students and give them hints and tips when they are struggling so that they will then arrive at the correct answer. Providing encouragement is an important part of teaching as it helps students create a positive mind-set around learning and they are not afraid to speak up. However, it can cause students to become overly reliant on the teacher if they are given too much prompts.
  5. Participant:
    While most of the time the teacher is an observer of the class, sometimes it is necessary to be a participant along with the students. By becoming a part of the class the teacher can relate to the students and understand their needs better, and subsequently tailor the lessons accordingly. However, it is important for the teacher to not become overly dominant. Instead they should try to be seen as a peer along with the students. kids-717168_640
  6. Resource:
    A teacher is a ‘walking resource’ for their language students.  The teacher is a source of knowledge and guidance and is how many students get their information. By asking a teacher a question they will get an answer and often an explanation. Teachers are great resources as students can interact with them and learn much more than what they could learn from a book. However, teachers should also encourage students to find things out on their own and not to rely on being spoon-fed.
  7. Tutor:
    As a tutor a teacher is acting as a combination of a prompter and a resource. However, a teacher interacts more personally with a student and can help identify solutions to some problems they are facing and give advice and guidance. For students it is encouraging to know that their teacher is there to provide help. For a teacher it is important to provide assistance to as much students as possible if they need it.
  8. Observer:speakers-414560_640
    It is important for a teacher to consistently observe the class and monitor their learning. Even when a teacher is performing their other roles, it is important to be observing the class at the same time. This way it can become evident what works best when it comes to learning and what problems seem to arise. A successful teacher will carefully watch their students and subsequently develop a learning plan to suit their student’s needs.


Teachers are hugely influential in the learning process. A good teacher accelerates learning rate and retention, while a bad teacher can cause students to learn at a reduced rate or lose interest and focus in their lessons. A bad teacher can also reinforce bad learning habits by failing to correct students. It is important for teachers to be able to fulfill many roles and create a good learning environment for their students.

.In my next blog post I will talk about the role of the language learner and learner autonomy.


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