Dimitrios Thanasoulas: "The Classroom: Forum or Arena?"


2.2.1. The role of the teacher

As has been intimated so far, language teaching is a complex issue, encompassing linguistic, psycholinguistic, sociocultural, pragmatic, as well as instructional and curricula dimensions. There are a lot of factors contributing to the dynamics of the educational process, such as internationalism and the pragmatic status of the foreign language (e.g., English), teaching and learning styles, and program characteristics. For example, the general expectation by students, parents and teachers that learners should achieve a high level of proficiency in English when they leave school influences both language policies and how foreign language learning will evolve. Furthermore, the teaching-learning process reflects different cultural traits and traditions. In some cultures, students tend to feel more at ease in the classroom, expressing their viewpoints and agreement or disagreement; in others, a "passive" attitude towards the teacher and the target language is more common. For instance, Greek society and its educational system favour rote memorization, while western countries, in general, do not value it. Moreover, such issues as the degree of preparation of teachers and the validity of testing and evaluation procedures can have a tremendous impact on language learning.

As is patently obvious, the task or act, one may say, of "teaching" encapsulates a lot more than merely providing instruction and guidelines for students. It presupposes a psychological and philosophical knowledge on the teacher's part, so as to combine techniques in class, as well as sufficient command of the basic structure of human existence, with a view to assessing any situation accurately and appropriately.

Clearly linked to the roles defined for the learner are the roles the teacher is expected to play in the instructional process. Teacher roles, too, must ultimately be related both to assumptions about content and, at the level of approach, to particular views of language and language learning. Some instructional systems are totally dependent on the teacher as the source of knowledge and direction; others see the teacher's role as catalyst, consultant, diagnostician, guide, and model for learning; still others try to teacher-proof the instructional system by limiting teacher initiative and building instructional content and direction into texts or lesson plans. Teacher and learner roles define the type of interaction characteristic of classrooms in which a particular method is being used. Teacher roles in methods are related to the following issues: the types of functions teachers are expected to fulfill (e.g., practice director, counselor, model), the degree of control the teacher influences over learning, the degree to which the teacher is responsible for determining linguistic content, and the interactional patterns assumed between teachers and learners (Richards, 1994: 23).

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AS/SA Nº 6/7, Article 3 : Page 4 / 10

© 1999, AS/SA

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