Teacher’s Views of Students in Estonian Schools. Sarv, Ene-Silvia; Leino, Mare; Ots, Loone; Pallas, Linda. (2008).

1 Teacher’s views of students in Estonian schools1 E.-S. Sarv, M Leino, L. Ots, L Pallas 2008 Summary The general question posed by this research was: How do factors directly controlled by teachers and the school influence the well being of students and support their development? The main sub hypothesis is: Teachers personal perceptions of their students and their perception of a supportive school-culture as a factor for student development influence a student’s capacity for learning and acade

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  Teacher’s views of students in Estonian schools 1 E.-S. Sarv, M Leino, L. Ots, L Pallas 2008 Summary The general question posed by this research was: How do factors directly controlled byteachers and the school influence the well being of students and support their development?The main sub hypothesis is: Teachers personal perceptions of their students and their  perception of a supportive school-culture as a factor for student development influence a student’s capacity for learning and academic achievement. The main aims of the researchwere to find patterns of teacher perceptions of students and school-culture and to find  preventive solutions and intervention strategies at an individual, group and school level.In this paper a model of teacher attitudes to students and student support by teacher and  school is described and developed.  Introduction During the last decades in Estonia society, including it’s teachers and students, hasexperienced great political and economic change. In the field of education there have beenchanges in government policy, organisation and the curriculum. An increase of  school-truancy and school dropout in compulsory statutory schools (that teach children up to grade9, aged from 7 years to 15-16 years) has developed against this background and has becomea worrying nationwide trend .In poor nations the main reason for many children failing to receive sufficient formaleducation is economic, but, in developed nations children leave school or neglect formallearning for more complex reasons. Similar factors in different countries can play their rolein keeping children in school or pushing them away. Thus, a comprehensive research of theschool-environment, including emotional and cultural environment, becomes important. Thisresearch looks at school-culture as seen through the eyes of teachers in Estonia. The researchrelies both on universal theories and on ‘local truth, local knowledge’ (Lyotard, 1984).The topic presented in this paper appears as a sub theme in the research project School as adevelopmental environment and students coping at school  (2003-2007, project leader Prof MVeisson, Tallinn University). The general research question of this research is:  How do 1 The initial version: Sarv, Ene-Silvia; Leino, Mare; Ots, Loone; Pallas, Linda. (2008). Teacher’s Views of Students in Estonian Schools. The International Journal of Learning, Vol 15(Issue 9), 169 - 182.  1   factors directly controlled by teachers and the school influence the well being of studentsand support their development? The related sub- hypothesis  presented in this paper is: Teacher’s personal perceptions of their students and their perception of a supportive school-culture as a factor for student development influence a student’s capacity for learning and academic achievement. Themain aims of the research were to find patterns of teacher perceptions of students and  school-culture and to find solutions for preventive and intervention strategies at anindividual, group and school level.  Research background, research questions and methodology The theoretical bases of the research are conceptions and theories of the development andcoping mechanisms of different players in the school-context (students, parents, teachers,school managers) and the school as an organisation.The methodological bases of the research are ecological and systemic concepts of humancommunity and organisation that posit that an individual or collective actor can beunderstood only in a relationship to and interaction with, his or her environment i.e., interconnectedness . This ecological, soft systems view (Checkland, Churchman,Bertanalaffy, Argyris, Schön, Senge) focuses on an ongoing process of mutual building andtransaction between the individual and the environment (family, peer group, organisation).Thus the general analysis focuses on the interaction between the agents in the school with afocus on teachers awareness of students and the support they give to them as individuals andas part of a school community.Bronfenbrenner has demonstrated that the most influential factor for an individual is theimmediate environment – the micro environment. (Bronfenbrenner, 1989). In a child’senvironment, he or she is a school student and the teacher is the major agent who forms theschool social, pedagogical, and academic climate or culture. The combined influence of teachers, school managers and students, as well as some cultural aspects from inside andoutside school (such as a traditional view of learning and assessment) form the schoolclimate and developmental environment. Individual and collective players can perceive andunderstand the same phenomena or process differently, learn and re-assess them – the system(individuals, groups, organisation and their interconnections, relationships) is dynamic andflexible.The conceptual framework  for this study is part of the wider  School as a developmental environment and students academic coping  (Ruus 2006, Ruus, Veisson etc 2005) and of  School as a knowledge creating learning organisation (Senge 1990, 2001, Sarv 2005a).A school teacher has three tasks in the context of the school environment – studentdevelopment (a large part of a teacher’s responsibility), self-development (as an individual, a professional or a group member) and participation in organisational development (managingand sustaining a high standard of education in the school).2  P revious research by E Krull has shown that Estonian teachers views on aspects of teaching,such as discipline, are somewhat specific and differ from aspects of the Berliner model.(Krull 2001, 2002).E-S Sarv has studied Estonian teachers according to 1) their views on learning (Sarv 2000,2002a, c) and 2) to their skills/knowledge of general competencies for the classroom. (Sarv2002b) Sarv shows that 64% teachers found motivation from external factors to be the usualstimulus for their own learning but they did not mind this. 70% of teachers rather liked learning new tasks. Only around 13%, however, considered learning to be fun and creativework to be done for its own sake. At the other end of the spectrum, only 7% consideredlearning forced upon them by external factors. The research concluded that teachers seelearning in quite a narrow way and understand their own personal learning needs differentlythan that of students. The meaning of ‘they learn’ was very strongly seen as student’slistening, reading and memorising and rarely as cooperation, discussion, enquiry and ‘theylearn’ was almost never applied to adults. (Sarv 2002b)Both researchers demonstrate great differences amongst teachers – from an open-minded,deep understanding of learning (inner-motivated learning as creative, playful and joyful self-development) for competence related aspects of the curriculum for one group (ca 13-20% of respondents) to a subject centred and authoritarian view of student learning and learning ingeneral (externally motivated, forced, related only to work-demands and salary/assessment)for another group (ca 10- 15%).S Kera has shown that around one third of teachers need external stimuli to make changes inthier professional life (e.g., curriculum, school-organisation) and around 14% are sociallyrigid (Kera, 1998).These differences show the diversity of teacher professionals and the need for  here and now research to address local differences and find a means and strategies for better standard good practice for teachers in all of Estonia.Students and teachers personal coping strategies (adaptive/positive, reactionary/negative) inrelationship to school-values have been researched and presented in  Estonian student and teacher coping patterns in the academic domain (Veisson, Ruus, Ots 2005). From thisresearch it became clear that there are correlative connections between certain school-climatecharacteristics such as student-teacher relationships, teacher behaviour (e.g., strictness) and professional values and qualities. A positive relationship between students and teachers gavethe strongest correlation with positive coping strategies of students. In general – the teacherscoping mechanisms were more adaptive and constructive than those of students, and a goodrelationship between them supported the student most.How do teachers perceive students, how do they see their roles and how does the school-culture, in particular it’ supportive aspects, form pedagogical behaviour and direct education?As Skinner and Wellborn have shown, student academic coping depends on esteem, opinionsof school demands, stress caused by tests, marks, grades and fears of classroom situations.(Skinner, Wellborn 1997: 387 - 392). How, in particular, do teachers in Estonia perceive and3  take into account students demands, stresses, their own support needs, other teachers, theschool as a whole and a need for student participation and enjoyment of school? To answer these question we must apply a systemic view of teachers and students in the organisationthat takes in organisational development factors such as shared vision, personal skills,attitudes, team-learning, systemic thinking, circulation of knowledge and knowledge creation(Nonaka&Takeuchi 1995, Senge 1990, 2001, Fullan, Hargreaves 1996, Sarv 200b).In this article we consider some aspects of teachers  personal mastery and mental modes – namely the perception of students and the support teachers give to student development in broad sense.  Personal mastery in the context of this research refers to knowledge, skills andcoping strategies e.g., choices of support or punishment, ability to minimize fears, influenceof economic differences between students, skills for self-development.   Mental models refersto attitudes, values, motivation, readiness for responsibility, cooperation with students andcooperation, shared values, trust in colleagues, parents.It is important to follow a proscribed direction in personal interactions and the holisitc cultureof school-life. This direction is derived from the official vision of Estonia as a learning,sustainable nation.   (Loogma et al 1998) The main points of the current analysis derivefrom the researchers  position, from historical and future factors and from general conceptsof research:ã inclusiveness vs exclusiveness; ã education (personal development)   vs instruction/teaching (subject centeredness);ã cooperation vs individualism ( in pedagogical work and in the classroom);ã long term vs short term perspectives in education - eg    working on the schoolcurriculum and development plan; preparation of students for future scenarios;   ã sensitivity vs nonsensitivity in child-observation and problem-solving –  eg    awarenessabout children’s problems including possible stress-factors, knowledge of and inquiryinto individual differences.The main issues are examined using ‘diagnostic’ questions about trust, support, values. The main categories of questions and of mapping were divided into 3 layers. The   first layer (categories 1 – 4) included; teachers knowledge/ sense of students joys, fears, concerns; viewon student’s participation and possible role in the educational process and school-life; viewof students stress-factors. The second layer of mapping includes views of support-system bythe teacher (category 5): what the teacher believes s/he can do about students; how theteacher gets information and what s/he knows about the students; how and how strongly s/hesupports students. The third layer (categories 6, 7) of teachers views addresses commonunderstandings of the school development plan, curricula and supportive aspects of school-culture (e.g., teacher’s cooperation, trust among teachers).Seven aggregated categories and 23 indicators were developed and statistical calculation(correlation analysis, validity) was used to analyse the results of a survey of 87 questionsusingThe seven aggregated categories are4
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