Source: Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice, Vol. 15, No. 1, 59–85. (February 2009)
‘The good teacher’ is an archetypal concept; a topic of discussion in various philosophical and educational theories which expresses an ideal, while in reality is composed of many qualities and a variety of contents. This study investigates the similarities and differences in the perception of the good teacher among a wide population, focusing on two aspects – ethnicity and gender. The research investigated whether the ethno-cultural or the gender component better explains the differences in the perceptions of these qualities and whether interaction exists between the two components.
As the image of the good teacher reflects cultural differences, worldviews, and a
variety of expectations from those who describe this image, a number of questions arise in our study:
(1) What qualities are indicated as important in the image of a good teacher?
(2) Are there differences in the perception of the qualities of a good teacher which are explained by ethno-cultural origin (Jewish or Arab)? What are the similarities between the two groups, Jews and Arabs?
(3) Are there differences in the perception of the qualities of a good teacher which are explained by gender? What are the similarities between the two groups, men and women?
(4) What explains the differences in the perception of the qualities of the good teacher to a greater extent – ethno-cultural origin or gender? Where will differences or similarities be more significant? Will there be interaction between ethno-cultural origin and gender?
The research made use of data from 377 native-born Israelis from among the survey Respondents conducted by the Cohen Institute of Public Opinion Research of the University of Tel Aviv. The sample included 19% Arabs (according to the Central Bureau of Statistics, Arabs constitute 19.3% of the population of Israel), 81% Jews, 48% men, and 52% women. The research compared four groups: Jewish men, Jewish women, Arab men, and Arab women.
The findings were analyzed after the respondents had described the preferred characteristics of the good teacher in reply to open questions in a telephone survey which was conducted among a representative sample of the Israeli population. A content analysis of the replies revealed three super categories of qualities attributed to the good teacher: an individual with teaching knowledge, an educator and a person of values who maintains good teacher–pupil relations. The research indicated that perception of the qualities of a good teacher is culturally dependent. The ethno-cultural origin of the group was dominant in explaining differences in attitudes towards the qualities of the good teacher and not the gender group. While Arab-Israelis gave clear and quite uniform preference to the ethical character of the good teacher, the Israeli Jews preferred a more heterogeneous image of the qualities of a good teacher with the leading quality of positive interaction with the pupils. The research discusses the implications of the findings regarding the Israeli educational system and its ramifications for the process of teacher training in Israel, as in other multicultural societies in the world.