Who is the ideal teacher? Am I? Similarity and difference in perception of students of education regarding the qualities of a good teacher and of their own qualities as teachers

Oct. 15, 2007

Source: Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, Volume 13, Issue 5 October 2007, pages 441 - 464

This research examines two images of teachers as seen by students of education: the ideal teacher and their own self-image as teachers. The research compares the students' perceptions of these two images using two sub-groups of students of education: students at an academic teachers' college who will be referred to as student teachers and beginning teachers, who, while teaching, are completing their academic degrees at teachers' colleges or regional academic colleges. Data were collected from 89 students at the two colleges by means of a questionnaire that included open-ended questions which were analyzed qualitatively.

The findings of the research indicate that there are two major categories that comprise perceptions of the ideal teacher: first, personal qualities; and second, knowledge of the subject taught as well as didactic knowledge. Both groups of students similarly attributed great importance to the personal qualities of the ideal teacher, but there is a difference in their perception of the importance of knowledge: the beginning teachers attributed great importance to knowledge and perceived it as a quality similar in importance to personal characteristics, while the student teachers, who had not begun their teaching careers, attributed less importance to knowledge as a characteristic of the ideal teacher. A quality which was less prominent when profiling the ideal teacher is general education and wide perspectives. The teacher as a socializing agent, a person who promotes social goals, was not mentioned at all.

 Students maintained that, during their studies, they had improved their qualities as 'empathetic and attentive' teachers, 'knowledgeable in teaching methods', and in 'leadership'. But they had hardly improved their knowledge of the subject they taught or their level of general knowledge. The discussion of knowledge and the desirable personal qualities of a teacher is relevant to the current debate regarding the relative merits of disciplinary education in contrast to pedagogical education in preparation for teaching as a profession. The clear preference for disciplinary education by policy makers in Israel and elsewhere in the field of teacher education is contradictory to the emphasis placed on the personal development of future teachers and their pedagogical education by the students of education who participated in this research.

Updated: Mar. 18, 2008