Report: Tech-Savvy K–12 Teachers Will Survive the Age of Automation

While artificial intelligence (AI) continues to automate operations across industries like accounting, law and healthcare, machines are unlikely to replace teachers any time soon, according to research from the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation. In “Teaching in the Machine Age,” report author and lead researcher Thomas Arnett argues that the “teaching profession is not immune to the effects of scientific and technological progress.” But instead of “viewing technological progress as a threat,” teachers should embrace AI innovations to help automate basic teaching tasks.

Arnett outlines three “challenging circumstances” and explains how teachers and administrators can leverage technology to solve these problems and enhance their instructional models:

  • Circumstance #1: Lack of expert teachers. Schools that lack expert teachers can utilize high-quality curricula and online-learning resources to help teachers boost educational outcomes.
  • Circumstance #2: Expert teachers tackling an array of student needs. Teachers who have to address individual learning needs can use online tools to generate “better assessment data, provide learning resource recommendations and give teachers more time and energy to work one-on-one and in small groups with students.” Arnett argues that differentiated instruction is more doable when teachers automate assessments, instructional planning and basic instruction.
  • Circumstance #3: Teachers looking to teach more than academics. Research shows that noncognitive factors (goal setting, teamwork, emotional awareness, self-discipline, grit, etc.) are strong predictors for determining student success in college and beyond. To help students develop deeper learning and noncognitive skills, Arnett recommends using “innovations that commoditize teacher expertise,” citing software that provides adaptive tutoring in math and language as an example.

“Expert teachers carry out sophisticated teaching tasks, including developing new instructional approaches, diagnosing and addressing students’ nonacademic learning difficulties, providing feedback on oral and written communication, fostering an achievement-oriented classroom culture, and talking with parents about their students’ individual education plans,” Arnett wrote in the report. “Great teachers are the most valuable resource in our education system. And expert teachers’ work is unlikely to be reduced to standardized procedures or automated algorithms anytime soon.”

The full research report can be found here.

About the Author

Sri Ravipati is Web producer for THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at

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