The ‘invisible teacher’

The invisible teacher

“Flipping the classroom”

Some years ago in my school, we trialled ‘flipping the classroom’. We wanted it to be child-led learning. To move away from the model of a teacher at the front of the room telling children what and how they would be learning. Introducing enquiry based learning by starting with a ‘big question’ subsequently encouraged groups of children to explore this using self-chosen methods. Teachers were asked to attempt to be an ‘invisible teacher’, at least from an outside perspective.

Is being an ‘invisible teacher’ easy and lazy?

We found the opposite to be true. To truly become an invisible teacher takes an awful lot of careful thinking and planning. For children to become critical thinkers, collaborative learners, in the truest sense, requires extensive knowledge of the subject matter being explored. It also requires a sensitive use of language so as to guide children without supplying all the answers. We managed to gradually move away from a teaching and learning model of a teacher at the front, leading. It will be an ongoing process. A process that I know I continue to explore in that setting, just as I pursue similar ideas in my teaching roles now.

“Get out of their way”

More recently I read an apt article on an English teacher’s blog who says that the most innovative thing she could do was to ‘get out of their way’. Perfect. So what are the benefits of ‘getting out of the way’ and becoming ‘invisible’. More and more, as educators, we encourage child-centred play and learning, yet we create endless plans for this with our key questions, key vocabulary, next steps… I wonder, would it be more beneficial to simply ‘keep out of the way’, watching and observing the play before we intervene and decide upon subsequent provision to make available, just as we would do at home. Some interesting play developments and therefore learning can usually be observed as children naturally extend their play to new and more meaningful levels.

Minimally Invasive Education (MIE)

Sugata Mitra’s hole in the wall project saw the beginning of extensive research in self-directed, or self-organised learning. A method he calls Minimally Invasive Education (MIE) and should you need it he provides us with evidence that this approach can lead to more meaningful and memorable discoveries. Watching how a group of children worked out how to use a computer and then teach others is fascinating. If you haven’t seen this, it is referred to in his brief TED talk. His ideas can be applied across all areas of learning. Children are naturally inquisitive. Small groups of children, in an enabling and stimulating environment, will communicate, collaborate and discover. 

‘I wonder what will happen if…’

Our role is to facilitate, to be present, to guide to find answers to self-generated questions. And then, and only then, perhaps ‘plant’ some carefully worded suggestions or questions in order to enable them to take their learning further. One of my favourites to use is ‘I wonder what will happen if…’ I’ve been using it since way before I had heard of Sugata Mitra!

As an open ended question it is safe. There is no sense that the adult already has the answer. However, it takes a huge amount of confidence as a teacher not to feel that we should have all the answers, that we should be telling children what they should be doing, and as such, returning to the old model of teaching whereby the adult is in charge. 


By stepping back (keeping out of the way) we are empowering children to take ownership of their learning experience. It, in turn, will strengthen the learning and memory recall. Adopting this mindset will surely enable us to become more in tune with the interests of our young learners.  It could also help us to play more effectively with them, with a greater understanding of what motivates them, what stimulates their curiosity. As Sir Ken Robinson points out, it is curiosity “that drives human life”.

If you can light the spark of curiosity in a child, they will learn without any further assistance, very often.

Try it with Kitcamp!

When planning for play, remember that it does not need enforcing from the top down. Children can organise themselves incredibly well when left to it. Our Kitcamp Toolkits provide the environment where can begin to implement a self-organised learning environment. At least for some of the time. Try it with Kitcamp – set up the inspiration, throw in a few ‘wonder if’s’ and then make yourself invisible!

Read also:

Kid’s insatiable drive to learn

Let them lead the way…

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