01 SES 07 B, Teachers' Values and Beliefs: Professional development implications
The Estonian Lifelong Learning Strategy 2020 (2014) advocates a change in conceptions of teaching and learning. This change involves a shift towards more learner-centered approach. The strategy can, however, be successful only if teachers adopt beliefs and develop competencies that align with the strategic targets. This will also require of them positive dispositions towards learner-centered approaches and their implementation. The success of this strategy relies largely on teachers embracing beliefs, which are congruent with innovation, and are positively disposed towards the implementation of such views. The aim of the current study was to better understand the nature of teachers’ beliefs about their role. Teachers’ belief about their role is an important component of teacher identity. Teacher identity is based on core beliefs about teaching and is an ongoing process of interpretation and re-interpretation of experience (Beijaard et al., 2000).
As the teaching workforce is ageing; there are fields in which the recruitment challenges are urgent (e.g. physics, chemistry, and mathematics); and subject teacher education is not a popular choice among young people (OECD, 2015), we need to understand how the teaching profession is constructed in terms of characteristics and competencies of teachers, their understanding of the teacher’s task, the emotions they attribute to their work, and their experiences of their work environment. Only through understanding these aspects and how they may be related we can sufficiently understand the challenges in the Estonian context and seek solutions to the urgent issues of maintaining a qualified teaching workforce, preparing future generations of teachers, and developing the work environments in order to make teaching a more attractive profession.
Thus the study also investigated the relationships between job satisfaction and conceptions of learning. Teacher conceptions of teaching, learning, and school influence their classroom practices and professional growth. Researchers have demonstrated that metaphors represent cognitive and affective distillations of teachers’ core beliefs (e.g. Leavy et al., 2007; Alger, 2009; Pinnegar, Mangelson, Reed & Groves, 2011). As such, they can be used to access teacher thinking and beliefs. The research questions were: (1) What kind of metaphors do Estonian teachers use to describe a teacher and what role conceptions and affective connotations are reflected in their metaphors? (2) How are different role conceptions related to the job satisfaction and conceptions of learning? We considered whether there were differences between class teachers’ and subject teachers’ beliefs about the teacher’s role.
The participants were 658 teachers, among them 210 class teachers, 156 mathematics teachers, 154 English as foreign language teachers and 138 biology teachers. Their age ranged from 22 to 73, and work experience from 0 to 55 years. Metaphors about teaching were investigated through metaphors. The participants were prompted by the statement “A teacher is like…”, which they were to finish, and provide a brief explanation too. The first step was a qualitative content analysis of metaphors based on the teacher identity model developed by Beijaard, Verloop and Vermunt (2000) that conceptualises the teacher knowledge base through subject-matter expertise, pedagogical knowledge, and didactics expertise. Metaphors, which included elements of two or more dimensions were categorised as ‘Hybrids’. Two additional categories were created, namely “Self-referential” metaphors pertaining to the teacher’s personal characteristics without reference to acts central to teaching or classroom instruction (cf. also Leavy et al., 2007) and “contextual”, metaphors describing physically, socially or organisationally the setting in which the teacher works. Quantitative measures included scales on teacher job satisfaction (work conditions, enjoyment) based on the Teacher Burnout Scale (Seidman & Zager, 1987) and conceptions of teaching (constructivist, traditional view). The given module consists of five components related to the traditional approach (4 items), comprehension and transference (4 items), independent discovery (3 items), connection with real life (2 items), and self-regulated learning (3 items). During the elaboration of items the following instruments were used for the general guidance and as a source of items: eight items were borrowed from the TALIS Teacher Questionnaire (Teaching Practices, Beliefs and Attitudes Module, OECD, 2001), four items were adapted from Indicators of Engaged Learning (Jones, Valdez, Nowakowski, Rasmussen, 1995), two items were adapted from the University / Constructivist Learning Environment Survey (UCLES / CLES, Taylor et al., 1997), one item was taken from the Constructivist Teaching Inventory (CTI, Greer et al., 1999), and one item was taken from the Expert Science Teaching Educational Evaluation Model (ESTEEM, Burry-Stock, 1995). Statistical analyses included exploratory factor analysis, correlations and Kruskal-Wallis test for non-parametric data.
The majority of the teachers’ metaphors could be characterised as hybrids suggesting that teachers have a complex understanding about their role. Analysing metaphors by teacher groups, differences emerged. One-third of the pedagogue metaphors were provided by class teachers. This may be explained by their important role in students’ school adjustment. Class teachers may view their role as that of someone who supports the child’s development as a human being. Maths, biology and EFL teachers’ metaphors were predominantly categorised as hybrids. There was no significant difference between teacher identity-groups based on type of metaphor and their general beliefs (constructivist, traditional view) about teaching. Class teachers provided almost half (46%) of the self-referential metaphors, but compared with subject teachers, their self-referential metaphors were more positive, expressing self-confidence and belief in their students. The majority of the metaphors with a negative affective tone were contextual expressing dissatisfaction with teachers’ heavy workload, number of responsibilities and lack of received support. Also, the category of self-referential metaphors contained beliefs associated with negative affective connotations. Approximately a third of the teachers in every age group, expressed dissatisfaction with their role and work conditions. The direction of the affective connotation (either positive or negative) was associated with teachers’ ratings of their job satisfaction, or lack of it. Teachers who expressed more positive affects in their metaphors were more satisfied with their job conditions and job enjoyment than the teachers who expressed negative affect. There were no statistical differences between the type of metaphor and satisfaction with work conditions, however, there was a statistically significant difference in work enjoyment between teachers who emphasised the pedagogue role and teachers who expressed contextual metaphors. Why teachers perceive their role and work context negatively warrants further research.
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