The image of the teacher held by learners from 10 different countries: A new perspective on the causes of problems with learner discipline


The article reports on research that investigated the image of teachers held by school learners. Based on a conceptual-theoretical distinction between the ideal teacher, the totally effective teacher and the typically excellent teacher, it was assumed that learners would focus on the first, which is a mental construct, and not on the third, which refers to a flesh-and-blood person actually found working in classrooms. They would not be aware of the discrepancy existing between the ideal teacher and the actual typically excellent teacher. A hundred learners in each of England, Latvia, Greece, Serbia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Pakistan, South Africa and Mexico were asked to write a one-page essay on the following topic: ‘What does a typical teacher look like?’ The investigation confirmed the correctness of the assumption. Despite clear instructions to describe a typical teacher, many respondents from all 10 countries described what they regarded as the ideal teacher. There seems to be a discrepancy between what learners want in a teacher (the ideal teacher) and what they actually have (the typical teacher). It is also possible that the lack of exposure to truly transformative teachers may in many instances lead to ineffective education. This may be one of the causes of problems with learner discipline in school that has thus far been overlooked in the scholarly pursuit to get to the root of problems with learner discipline, possibly because it does not fit neatly into the widely used model of categorising the causes of problems with learner discipline in schools.