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12-14 May, 2016

Conceptualisation of teachers and

teaching roles: A metaphor-based
Grigore-Dan Iordachescu, Cristina Matilda Vănoagă
University of Alba Iulia, Romania

Osijek, 2017
• Main research project:
• Universals and variants of English and Romanian business metaphors. A
corpus-based conceptual mapping of contemporary journalese from a
pedagogical approach (2015-2017, University of Alba Iulia, Romania)
• The main tenet is that cognitive metaphors are instantiations of cultural
categories manifested in the language spoken by the community that shares a
common set of characteristics within a given cultural matrix.

A grant of the Romanian National Authority for Scientific Research and Innovation, CNCS – UEFISCDI, project number PN-II-RU-TE-2014-4-2785
• Education lies at the top of both UNESCO and the European Commission
agendas. In particular, the education of teachers is considered as one of the
most important priorities nowadays.
• Besides the traditional sound subject knowledge that we used to need in the
past in order to achieve success in life, the modern citizen needs to be
equipped with far more other qualities: communication and cooperation
skills, problem solving abilities, creative and critical thinking, and positive
attitudes towards learning throughout one’s life.
• We all recognize the importance of teacher education, and we acknowledge
teachers’ role as society catalysts and vectors.
• That is why we need to identify dysfunctionalities in the educational systems
and try to remedy them as much as possible.
• Starting from the initial teacher-training period, being strongly influenced by
their personal experience as a pupil, respectively, as a student, the future
teachers value to an almost absolute extent, the merits of the power
exercised by the teacher in relation to the learner.
Literature review
• Metaphors, together with metonymy, synecdoche, and irony, are regarded as a
master trope, “a figure of speech that defines a relationship between terms” (Sapir
1977; as cited in Nelson, & Hitchon 1999: 356).
• According to Lakoff and Johnson (1980) metaphors represent the understanding
of one concept in terms of another, therefore abstractions, such as feelings or
emotions, are typically structured through physical experiences. By and large, self-
understanding represents the “search for appropriate personal metaphors that
make sense of our lives... The process of self-understanding is the continual
development of new life stories for yourself ” (1980:333).
Literature review
• How metaphors are used in a classroom setting can affect the subsequent
development of children and how their learning processes can be affected.
• According to Vygotsky (1962), understanding metaphors tallies with “ad hoc”
concepts or mental spaces activated in discourse:
• “The relation of thought to word is not just a thing, but a process, a continual
movement back and forth from thought to word and from word to thought. In that
process, the relation of thought to word undergoes changes which themselves may be
regarded as development. Thought is not merely expressed in words; it comes into
existence through them. Every thought tends to connect something with something
else, to establish a relationship between things”. (p.125)
Literature review
• Metaphor can effect shared understanding of our own existence, and hence,
metaphors in educational discourse can lead to the shaping, construction,
deconstruction, and reconstruction of children’s understanding and
conceptualisation of the world.
• According to Roschelle (1992: 237), developmental complexification of metaphors
can occur over quite a short period of time as concerns a particular concept. The
cognitive role of metaphor towards conceptualisation extends beyond the mere
structuring of concepts, to the process of conceptual restructuring, the recourse to
analogy in problem-solving or facilitating recall of information.
Literature review
• In order to understand the relationship between teacher and students, we
need to first understand the way in which both teachers and students conceive
themselves and the other. According to Munby (1986: 201, as cited in
Thornbury 1991: 194) “one fruitful way to begin to understand the
substantive content of teachers’ thinking is to attend carefully to the
metaphors that appear when teachers express themselves”.
Literature review
• In a study by Oxford, et al. (1998) teachers’ metaphors in L2 teaching were clustered
into a typology centred on four perspectives of teaching (Table 1):
• a) Social order: for example, teacher as manufacturer, teacher as competitor;
• b) Cultural transmission: for example, teacher as conduit, teacher as repeater;
• c) Learner-centred growth: for example, teacher as nurturer, teacher as lover,
teacher as scaffolder, teacher as entertainer; and
• d) Social reform: for example, teacher as acceptor, teacher as learning partner.
Literature review
Research methods
• The aim of this presentation is to explore the metaphors associated with
teaching and teachers, as viewed by Romanian students, preparing to become
teachers themselves, and the way they conceptualise the roles of the teacher.
• The research involved 150 students enrolled on pre-service teacher training
(Module one, for undergraduate level), who were asked to write an essay, titled
My best teacher ever (students of English, texts written in English), in which they
had to think of the qualities that make a teacher and his/her teaching act
memorable in the mind and the soul of students or to find comparisons for “a
good teacher is like” (students in Primary and Pre-School teacher education,
written in Romanian).
Results and interpretation
• One very pervading metaphor used by the Romanian students was the metaphor of
power, which attests to remnants of the former educational system, which was
extremely teacher-centred, and a great deal of metaphorical expressions referred to
what the ideal teacher should not be:
• A good teacher is not a tyrant, does not monopolise the class talking time;
• A good teacher should not be a manipulator, he/she should not be the master while
the pupil is the servant;
• A good teacher is not a circus tamer, as pupils are not animals;
• A good teacher is not an enemy, the classroom is not a war scene.
Results and interpretation
• Indeed, in his/her ‘ex-cathedra’ position, the teacher ‘calls the shots’, he/she
makes the decisions as to what and when he teaches, what educational
objectives he has, what contents he uses, and ‘quid prodest’, he chooses
almost discretionarily and unidirectionally his/her teaching methodology, and
most particularly, how and to which end he/she designs, applies and
interprets evaluation.
Results and interpretation
• Teachers’ advantage of age, of extended experience, of previously acquired
cultural insights, of the decision-making prerogatives, crosscuts all the
components of the educational system.
• This is enhanced and emphasised by other elements of the institutional
environment: the teacher’s desk is placed on a pedestal or podium in most of the
classrooms in Romanian schools; teachers have separate and secured entrance
into schools, their own staircase, etc.
Results and interpretation
• However, this is not to absolutized, there are instances when the teachers is
laughed at by students, mocked, and kicked out of the classroom in tears,
which is the reverse power relation presented above.
• Therefore, students expressed also the metaphor of the teacher as an agent
of equilibrium (a keeper of balance between authority and friendliness)
Results and interpretation
• The ideal teacher is seen as a friend, as an elder, caring brother;
• The teacher is seen as a guiding light, as a learning engine, as a motivator, an
accomplished communicator;
• The teacher is a conflict solver and an ally, being both assertive and impartial;
• The teacher is an experience repository, rather than absolute knowledge keeper; the
teacher is a (re)source and an inspiration for life;
• The teacher is a role-model and a discoverer of pupils’ talents and potential;
• The teacher inspires and shows respect to pupils; inspires and shows trust in pupils.
Results and interpretation
• The main cognitive metaphor identified in our research – the teacher is a guiding
light - does not come as a surprise for the Romanian mentality and culture, due to
the fact that the Romanian society was formed from its start on traditional Christian
patterns, starting with the 4th century, the period when the proto-Orthodoxy, the
form of Christianity of those time, manifested in the present Romanian territories
• In time, the first schools were established by religious figures and under the
patronage of the church. Many times, the teacher was the local priest. In the 19th
century, the school books consisted of religious books e.g. The Book of Psalms.
Results and interpretation
• For the rural communities, the teacher and the priest were always the most
respected people. Even nowadays, in many isolated mountain villages, the schools
are functioning in the same courtyard with the church, the learning process being
associated with the religious images. A recent official report shows that the 66% of
the Romanians credit with confidence the institution of the church. During the
communist regime, the church was seen as a negative thing and the Romanian
history registers an entire underground struggle for the preservation of the religious
manifestations, sometime ending in political prisons.
• Thus, the association of the teacher with a guiding light may relate to the biblical
meaning of the teacher, the messianic teacher illuminating the understanding of
those listening – “Teacher, teach us…”
Results and interpretation
• The perpetuation of the metaphor was assured in time by the fact that the school
books of Romanian literature and language for the primary school and the
gymnasium included, in the last half of century, literary texts populated by
characters representing teachers who change the community around them or the
destiny of specific individuals, showing a clear luminous path for positive change
and growth.
• There is no child not remembering Domnu Trandafir (Mr. Trandafir), the teachers
from Amintiri din copilărie (Memories from childhood), Popa Tanda (Priest Tanda),
Zaharia Herdelea, the teacher from the novel Ion or teacher Teodorescu from the
novel Moromeții, all texts belonging to the classics of the Romanian literature.
Results and interpretation
• Still, in spite of all these supporting contexts, the metaphor of the teacher as a
guiding light is not spared of the effects of the secularisation, the most accused
factor by the church for losing ground in the surveys dedicated to the confidence in
institutions. A survey from 2016 shows a decrease of 20% of the church, compared
to the year of 2009.
• To respect the rules of the political corectness in the educational system, no
religious images are allowed in the classrooms, unless it is a confessional education
institution. Hence, the educational process is no longer associated with the religious
Results and interpretation
• The postmodern contemporary attitude toward theachers is more characterised
nowadays by the image of a public employee, with a low monthly income and not
respected as previous to the fall of the communist regime in Romania in 1989 after
a bloody mass movement. The media maintains this image in a series of articles
accusing the lack of professionalism from the teachers.
• The media not only circulates the o respect the rules of the political corectness in
the educational system, no religious images are allowed in the classrooms, unless it is
a confessional education institution. Hence, the educational process is no longer
associated with the religious images.
• The most frequent metaphor was that of “guiding light” and “friend”.
• The teacher as “knowledge repository” was less frequent, although that of
“organiser” was well praised, as students expressed the need for order and
to some extent, respect, in the classroom.
• The findings for the Romanian students (future teachers) are in line with the
humanistic approach to education which places the student in the centre of
attention for the educational process.
• Beijaard, D. (1995). Teachers’ prior experiences and actual perceptions of
professional identity. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 1(2), 281-294.
• Korthagen, F.A. J. (2004). In search of the essence of a good teacher: towards a
more holistic approach in teacher education. Teaching and Teacher Education, 20, 77-97.
• Leonard, T. (2008). Pedagogies of the Imagination: Mythopoetic Curriculum in Educational
Practice. Springer.
• Popescu, T. (2012). English Language Teacher Trainees’ Perceptions of “Good”
English Language Teachers’ Characteristics.