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TEACHING AND THE TEACHER' S PERSONALITY

WILLIAM J.F. LEW

This paper is intended to explore the relationship between teaching and the teacher's per-

Recent research

on teacher personality in the United States, the United Kingdom and Hong Kong will be reported, following a brief discussion of the nature of teaching, the task of the teacher, and the importance of teacher personality.

sonality. The exploration is primarily based on relevant research and theory.

Teaching and the Teacher's Task

Gage (1964) points out that 'teaching' is a misleadingly generic term; it embraces far too many kinds of process, of behavior, of activity, to be the proper subject of a single theory. He suggests that the concept of teaching be analyzed according to the types of (1) teacher activities, (2) educational objectives, and/or (3) learning theories.

If the purpose of the instructional activities (lecture, discussion, etc.) is to modify student

behavior in terms of stated instructional objectives (cognitive, psychomotor, and affective), then the activity is defined as instruction (Hough and Duncan, 1970). The terms 'teaching' and

'instruction' are often interchangeably used.

A teacher is a person engaged in interactive behavior with one or more students for the

purpose of effecting a change in those students. The change, whether it is to be in knowledge (cognitive), skill (psychomotor)or feeling states (affective), is intentionalon the part of the teacher (McNeil and Popham, 1973). This designation distinguishes the teacher from instructional materials and other school personnel. The essential task of the teacher is to arrange the conditions of the learner's environment so that the processes of learning will be activated, supported, enhanced, and maintained (Gagne, 1976). Teacher personality is a crucial factor in arranging the conditions of the learner's en-

vironment for effective teaching.

The Importance of Teacher Personality

Personality may be viewed as the dynamic organization of those traits and characteristic patterns of behavior that are unique to the individual (Callahan, 1966). Some social psycholo- ists take the position that personality is purely a matter of social perception - that it is meaning- less to speak of anyone's personality apart from the particular people who interact with him, get impressions about him, and use trait terms in describing him (Holt, 1971). A trait is a simple behavioral pattern - a disposition or tendency to behave in a describable way. According to Allport (1966), a trait (1) is more generalized than a habit, (2) is dynamic and determinative in

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behavior, (3) may be viewed either in the light of the personality which contains it, or in the light of its distribution in the population at large, and (4) cannot be proved nonexistent by the sheer fact that some acts are inconsistent with it.

Research on teacher personality is based on the assumption that the teacher as a person is a significant variable in the teaching-learning process. Personality influences the behavior of the teacher in diverse ways, such as interaction with students, methods selected, and learning experiences chosen(Murray, 1972). The effective use of a teacher's personality is essential in conducting instructional activities. Personality aids teaching, for communication takes place between the teacher and the learner— even in the absence of the spoken word (nonverbal communication). The teacher whose per- sonality helps create and maintain a classroom or learning environment in which students feel comfortable and in which they are motivated to learn is said to have a desirable teaching personality (Callahan, 1966). Each individual has characteristic attributes of personality which influence both the manner in which he behaves toward others and the ways in which they respond to him. The teacher

with pervasive authoritarian characteristics, for example, is likely to reflect them

ships with students and in the techniques he uses in his instruction (Morrison and Mclntyre,

in his relation-

1972.)

The school is more than a place where knowledge and skills are taught and learned: it is a miniature community in itself where members interact and influence the behavior of each other (Shoben, 1962). The nature of interactions and influences in the school is an important factor in determining the learner's perceptions of school and his attitudes toward school-related persons and activities (Finley, 1969). This factor involves the interplay between the personality of the teacher and that of the learner. According to Khan and Weiss (1973), it can be postulated from the theory of interpersonal perception that a learner's attitudes toward the teacher will affect his attitudes toward the courses taught by the teacher and toward the school. It may be further postulated that the learner's attitude toward a teacher is a function of the teacher's personality. Nelson (1964) reported that teachers and pupils in junior high school deviate significantly in terms of their attitudes toward each other. He found that teachers are cognitively oriented toward pupils while pupils are affectively oriented toward teachers. Teacher personality is, therefore, directly and indirectly related to learning and teaching in the affective domain as well as to that in cognitive and psychomotor domains. Reports of great teachers commonly stress their personalities, rather than their scholarship or technical teaching skills. If we are to be concerned with the student's development of identity, Hilgard (1965) suggests that we should not be afraid of showing feeling. Objectivity can be served by showing that there are those who believe otherwise, but we need not do obeisance to other viewpoints by sterilizing our own enthusiasm into a vapid eclecticism. Erikson (1964) distinguishes between the identifications that help shape a growing per-

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sonality, and the identity that is later achieved. That is, the child identifies himself with significant people, such as parents and teachers, and incorporates attitudes, ideals, and personality traits from them.

Recent Research on Teacher

Personality

Despite Getzels and Jackson's (1963) discouraging conclusion about previous research on the relation between teacher personality and teaching effectiveness, research efforts have con- tinued. Reported below are some recent researches on teacher personality, including efforts to find a personality base for differences in classroom performance or teacher effectiveness.

1. Many of the positive characteristics of successful teachers discovered by previous re-

search efforts seem to be in line with Maslow's conceptualization of the self-actualizing person, whom he sees as a fully functioning, psychologically healthy individualpossessing such attributes as acceptance, spontaneity, autonomy, democratic nature, and creativeness. Maslow (1970) suggests that the self-actualizing person is indeed the most effective teacher. This hypothesis was supported by the findings of empirical studies conducted by Murray (1972) and Dandes

(1966).

2.

Coats (1970) did a factor analysis of 42,810 student responses as student perceptions of

teachers. It was found that a factor labeled teacher 'charisma' accounted for 61.5% of the vari-

ance in test items. It was concluded that teacher charisma is probably a significant factor of teacher effectiveness.

3. Beck (1967) investigated 2,108 sixth-grade pupils' perception of teacher merit. He con-

cluded that the pupils perceived the effective teacher as a warm, friendly and supportive person

who communicates clearly, motivates and disciplines pupils effectively, and is flexible in me- thodology.

4. Ekstrom's study (1976) explored the relations between certain cognitive and attitudinal

characteristics and the instructional behavior of American elementary school teachers. All sub- jects (41 second-grade teachers and 54 fifth-grade teachers) took a battery of tests measuring aptitude, knowledge, cognitive style, and attitude. One of her findings indicated that more flexible teachers are better able to respond differentially to pupils without having to resort to using

various organizational strategies (aides, groups, etc.) to produce individualization.

5. Designed to investigate selected aspects of teacher personality in differing American

high school environments, Walker's study (1969) suggested that teachers in high creative schools are more adaptive, flexible, outgoing, permissive, and nurturant - factors considered important in fostering creativity.

6. Investigating longitudinally nearly 2,400 first-and fourth-year British secondary school

pupils' attitudes toward school and teachers, Thompson (1975) confirmed the findings of Wright's study (1962) that what pupils find lacking in teachers are those qualities which make them human. She found that teachers tend to be seen as less happy, kind, fair and warm than other adults while excelling in wisdom, success and hardness. Those attributes seem to coincide with those

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of the teachers in traditional society. It was also found that attitudes toward both school

Older pupils do not rate teachers as

less human as they did when they were younger, but do rate them as less wise and successful.

7. In an analysis of data on 127 primary teachers and 95 secondary teachers in English

schools, Cortis (1973) discerned that, by comparison with primary teachers, the secondary teachers tend to be more sensitive yet more tolerant in personality terms, to hold more progressive educational attitudes and to express a higher degree of satisfaction with teaching. Cortis' find- ings are contrary to those of Ryans (1960) who, in his extensive survey of characteristics of American elementary and secondary teachers, noted that secondary school teachers are more traditional in their educational viewpoints while elementary school teachers are more permissive.

and teachers change as pupils progress through the system.

Lin, and Mann (1971), all items that had

previously been used for student ratings of instructors and instruction in American colleges and

universities

skill, overload (difficulty), structure, feedback, group interaction and student-teacher rapport

(warmth). One of the findings was that the students of teachers who were high in 'rapport' (warmth) performed better on measures of critical thinking than did the other students.

9. A number of characteristics, some of which are related to teacher personality, have

been consistently identified as comprising effective teaching at the college and university level by Eble (1970) and Hildebrand and Wilson (1970). The major factors were found to be:

analyzed in a series of studies. Six stable factors that emerged were

8. In a comprehensive project by McKeachie,

were factor

A. Clarity of organization, interpretation and explanation;

B. Encouragement of class discussion and the presentation of diverse points of view;

C. Stimulation of students' interests, motivation and thinking;

D. Manifestation of attentiveness to and interest in students;

E. Manifestation of enthusiasm.

10. Haslett (1976) employed semantic differential scales to measure 667 American high school students' and 219 American college students' concept of a good teacher. She also com- pared her findings with those of previous studies on college instructors (Clinton, 1930; Bous- field, 1940; and Perry, 1971). Table 1 shows characteristics (including those related to personality) of good teachers in rank order of their importance in each study.

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Table 1

-±±*

n

¥

rSi.

Characteristics of Good Teachers in Order of Their Importance in Each of Four

Studies

13

Clinton (1930)

Bousfield (1940)

Perry (1971)

Haslett (1976)

 

High School

Ss College Ss

Knowledge of

Fairness

Well prepared

Clarity

Knowledge of

subject

for class

subject

Pleasing person-

Mastery of

Sincere interest

Trustworthi-

Interesting

ality

subject

in subject

ness

Neatness in work

Interesting style

Knowledge of

Challenging

Clarity of

and appearance

of presentation

subject

presentation

Fairness

Well organized

Effective teach- ing methods

Fairness

Fairness

Kind, sympathetic

Clarity of

Tests for

Strictness

Competency

presentation

understanding

Sense of humor

Interest in

Fairness

Presents

Trustworthiness

students

others' views

Interest in

Helpfulness

Effective commu-

Experienced

Open-mindedness

profession Interesting style of presentation

Ability to direct discussion

nication Encourages in- dependent thought Organized

Admits mistakes

Alertness and

Sincerity

Logical organi-

Concern for

Responsiveness

broad-mindedness

zation of course

students

Knowledge of

Keen intellect

Motivates stud-

Interesting

Available to

methods

ents

students

Teacher Personality as Perceived by Hong Kong Secondary School Students

The present author, with the assistance of his students at the School of Education of the Chinese University, conducted a survey study of student perception of teacher personality in Hong Kong during the academic year 1976-77. The subjects were 628 Chinese students (326 boys and 302 girls) randomly selected from Forms III, IV, V, and VI in S3 Hong Kong secondary schools (including those in Kowloon and the New Territories). They were asked to select those of the 100 items in a personality inventory developed by the investigator that indicate the per- sonality traits of most (over 50 %) of their teachers and also of their ideal teacher as they perceive them. The findings are shown in Tables 2 and 3. The common traits in Table 2 are those personality traits of most teachers as perceived by more than 45% of their students, while the ideal traits in Table 3 are those personality traits of the ideal teacher as conceived by more than 70% of the students. The cut-off point (70%)

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in Table 3 is higher than that (45%) in Table 2. This suggests greater agreement among Hong Kong secondary school students in their conception of an ideal teacher's personality traits than their perception of most teachers' common traits.

Table 2

Common Personality Traits of Most Hong Kong Secondary School Teachers as Perceived by

Common Traits

Their

Students

Response (%)*

Practical, realistic

64.02

Friendly

62.09

Responsible

57.60

Biased, partial

55.83

Placid

53.83

Rational

53.05

Concerned about morality

52.27

Planful

51.27

Cultured

49.73

Frugal

49.19

Dry, dull

48.36

Natural, unaffected

48.34

Sober, solemn

48.31

Warm, outgoing

48.01

Good-tempered

47.04

Conventional

45.75

Dominant

45.58

* Cut-off point 45 %

Table 3

Personality Traits of the Ideal Teacher as Conceived by Hong Kong Secondary School Students

Ideal Traits

Response(%)

*

Good-tempered

87.61

Warm, outgoing

86.85

Having a sense of humor

86.04

Capable of being a leader

84.60

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Responsible Efficient, businesslike Patient Liberal, progressive Considerate, concerned Calm Democratic Cheerful Sincere Open-minded Friendly Planful Flexible Ambiverted Tolerant Foresighted Precise Rational Analytical Natural, unaffected Kindly, tender Emotionally stable Shrewd Energetic Impartial Cautious Sympathetic Having common wide interests Diligent Reflective, deliberate Participating Creative Cooperative Optimistic Frank Facile in speech Generous Ready to try new things

* Cut-off point

ti

70%

t

83.83

83.04

82.65

82.12

82.03

81.76

81.73

81.65

81.64

81.53

81.24

80.43

79.74

77.20

77.16

76.96

76.64

76.50

76.37

75.77

75.63

74.71

73.93

73.67

73.41

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T-">

/J.JO

73.33

72.86

72.76

72.75

72.29

71.96

71.76

71.66

70.77

70.26

70.24

70.18

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The qualities cited in Tables 2 and 3 do not describe any particular teacher, of course, but a good teacher in any Hong Kong secondary school should possess at least some of the per- sonality traits listed in Table 3. Seven traits (friendly, responsible, rational, planful, unaffected, warm, and good-tempered) in Table 2 are also found in Table 3, which indicates that most Hong Kong secondary school teachers already possess these seven personality traits of an ideal teacher.

Concluding Remarks

In an investigation of student description of their ideal teacher, Gage (1963) concluded that if teachers learned how the students wanted them to behave they would become more like the student ideal. If this conclusion is valid, the results of the present author's study in Hong Kong and other similar studies elsewhere should be useful for teachers' consideration. It is hoped that the research findings and theories presented in this paper will help improve teacher character- istics, especially teacher personality, with a view to promoting teaching effectiveness and up- grading the quality of teaching.

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Concepts of His Parents and

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and the Teacher's Personality—^; )

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