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What do teachers bring to the teaching-learning process?
by Dimitrios Thansoulas
- 3

Beliefs about learning

Teaching is not indivisible from learning. We can be good teachers only if we know what we mean by learning because only then can we know what we expect our learners to achieve. If our goal is to prepare our students to pass an exam, then this will affect the way in which we teach. If we see foreign language learning as a perennial process which has social and cultural implications, then we will take a different approach to teaching it. Gow and Kember (1993) suggest that most approaches to learning can be subsumed under any of the following points:

• a quantitative increase in knowledge
• memorisation
• the acquisition of facts and procedures which can be retained and / or used in practice
• the abstraction of meaning
• an interpretative process aimed at the understanding of reality
• some form of personal change

Teachers' beliefs about themselves

For humanistic teachers, teaching is esentially a personal expression of the self, which has particular implications with regard to teachers' views of themselves, since a teacher who lacks self-esteem will not be able to build the self-esteem of others. The teacher who does not accept his learners for who they are makes it difficult for them to accept themselves. By the same token, the language teacher needs to impart a sense of self-confidence in using the language, while at the same time respecting learners' attempts to communicate in the foreign language.


There is no such thing as "the perfect teacher." Giving a homily on what "good teachers" do appears to be unhelpful and unrewarding to those who want to improve their own practices. A far more helpful approach seems to be the study of teachers' beliefs, which inform and shape their actions. Constructivism lies at the heart of this endeavour, as it offers valuable insights into the cognitive as well as affective aspects of the relationship between teachers and their self-images, and teachers and students. Teaching is not merely information or knowledge, but mainly an expression of values and attitudes. What teachers usually get back from their students is what they themselves have brought to the teaching-learning process.


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Argyris, C. and D. A. Schon. 1978. Perceptions of self-managed learning Opportunities and academic locus of control: a causal interpretation, Journal of Educational Psychology, 70 (b), 988-92.
Ashton-Warner, S. 1980. Teachers. 2nd edn. London: Virago. (Ed.) Handbook of Research on Teaching, 255-96. New York: Macmillan.
Connelly, F. and D. Clandinin. 1990. Stories of experience and narrative inquiry. Educational Researcher, 19(4), 2-14.
Freire, P. 1970. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum.
Gow, L. and D. Kember. 1993. Conceptions of teaching and their relationship to Student learning. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 63, 20-33.
Louden, W. 1991. Collegiality, curriculum and educational change. Curriculum Journal, 2 (3), 361-73.
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reference to learners as democratic explorers in teacher education courses. The School Field, 1(1), 61-77.
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Smyth, J. 1991. Teachers as Collaborative Learners. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.
Thomas, L. and S. harri-Augstein. 1995. Self-organised Learning: Foundations
of a conversational science for psychology. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
von Glasersfeld, E. 1995. Radical Constructivism. London: Falmer.
Williams, M. and R. L. Burden. 1997. Psychology for Language Teachers: a social constructivist approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Dimitrios Thanasoulas studied English Literature and Linguistics at Athens University and then did an MA in Applied Linguistics at Sussex University. After that, he earned an MBA from Mooreland University and is currently finishing the second year of my PhD studies in Education at Nottingham University. His academic interests include fostering cultural awareness and learner autonomy, as well as such issues as language and ideology, Critical Discourse Analysis, Pragmatics, Sociolinguistics, and the Psychology of Education.


Dimitrios can be contacted at:

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