Informally the role of teacher may be taken on by anyone (e.g. when showing a colleague how to perform a specific task). In some countries, teaching young people of school age may be carried out in an informal setting, such as within the family, (homeschooling) rather than in a formal setting such as a school or college. Some other professions may involve a significant amount of teaching (e.g. youth worker, pastor).
In most countries, formal teaching is usually carried out by paid professional teachers. This article focuses on those who are employed, as their main role, to teach others in a formal education context, such as at a school or other place of initial formal education or training.
A teacher's role may vary among cultures.
Teachers may provide instruction in literacy and numeracy, craftsmanship or vocational training, the arts, religion, civics, community roles, or life skills.
Formal teaching tasks include preparing lessons according to agreed curricula, giving lessons, and assessing pupil progress.
A teacher's professional duties may extend beyond formal teaching. Outside of the classroom teachers may accompany students on field trips, supervise study halls, help with the organization of school functions, and serve as supervisors for extracurricular activities. In some education systems, teachers may have responsibility for student discipline.
Teaching is a highly complex activity. This is in part because teaching is a social practice, that takes place in a specific context (time, place, culture, socio-political-economic situation etc.) and therefore reflects the values of that specific context. Factors that influence what is expected (or required) of teachers include history and tradition, social views about the purpose of education, accepted theories about learning etc.
So the competences required by a teacher are affected by the different ways in which the role is understood around the world. Broadly, there seem to be four models:
the teacher as manager of instruction;
the teacher as caring person;
the teacher as expert learner; and
the teacher as cultural and civic person.
The OECD has argued that it is necessary to develop a shared definition of the skills and knowledge required by teachers, in order to guide teachers' career-long education and professional development. Some evidence-based international discussions have tried to reach such a common understanding. For example, the European Union has identified three broad areas of competences that teachers require:
Working with others
Working with knowledge, technology and information, and
Working in and with society.
Scholarly consensus is emerging that what is required of teachers can be grouped under three headings:
knowledge (such as: the subject matter itself and knowledge about how to teach it, curricular knowledge, knowledge about the educational sciences, psychology, assessment etc.)
craft skills (such as lesson planning, using teaching technologies, managing students and groups, monitoring and assessing learning etc.) and
dispositions (such as essential values and attitudes, beliefs and commitment).