Print version ISSN 1657-0790
profile vol.13 no.1 Bogotá Jan./Apr. 2011
Comparing Teaching Styles and Personality Types of EFL Instructors
in the Public and Private Sectors*
Una comparación de los estilos de enseñanza y los tipos de personalidad
de profesores de inglés de los sistemas educativos estatal y privado
Claudio H. Díaz Larenas
Universidad Católica de la Santísima Concepción, Chile
Andrea Victoria Rodríguez Moran
Instituto de Idiomas Berlitz, Chile
Karen Jocelyn Poblete Rivera
Colegio A-LAFKEN, Chile
This article was received on June 11, 2010, and accepted on December 23, 2010.
This is an exploratory non-experimental research study whose main objective is to compare the teaching styles of a group of thirty teachers of English working in either public or private secondary education in Chile. In order to collect the required data, two instruments were administered to the participants: a teaching style inventory and a personality type index proposed by Grasha. Results indicate that public sector participants show a facilitator teaching style and an extrovert personality type, whereas private sector participants reveal a more authoritative teaching style and an introverted type of personality.
Key words: English teachers, personality types, teaching styles.
Este estudio exploratorio de naturaleza no-experimental tiene como objetivo principal comparar los estilos de enseñanza de un grupo de treinta profesores de inglés que trabajan en el nivel de enseñanza secundario del sistema educativo estatal o privado, en Chile. Para la recolección de datos se utilizaron el inventario de estilos de enseñanza y el índice de tipo de personalidad de Grasha. Los resultados indican que los participantes del nivel de enseñanza estatal presentan un estilo de enseñanza de naturaleza facilitadora y un tipo de personalidad extrovertido, mientras que los participantes del nivel de enseñanza privado revelan un estilo de enseñanza más autoritario y una personalidad más introvertida.
Palabras clave: estilos de enseñanza, profesores de inglés, tipos de personalidad.
The English teaching and learning process is a pedagogical act that involves both teachers and students. Both students and teachers are unique individuals who possess their own way of learning and teaching, but do public and private sector EFL teachers reveal similar teaching styles and personality types? The point of this research is to find out whether the socio-cultural context the participants work in (public and private) impacts on their teaching style and their personality type. Teaching styles, as Brown (2007) states, refer to the enduring preferences within an individual and they vary with each one; therefore, the style a teacher possesses is an essential aspect to better understand the teaching and learning process. In fact, several studies on the field of teaching styles point out that more research has to be done to really unravel the impact and the consequences of a determined teaching style on students and their learning (Eggen & Kauchak, 1996; Lightbown & Spada, 1999; Macaro, 2003).
Having said the above, it is then important for educators to have an overview of their own teaching styles, particularly of the one that predominates in their own teaching practices. To get some insights into this topic might help teachers to become more aware of the way they teach and to self reflect on their own teaching (Medgyes, 1994; Puchta & Rinvolucri, 2005).
One might argue that teachers have a predetermined teaching style regardless of the educational sector they work in: public or private. Others, however, believe that teachers' teaching styles depend on the social environment they are in. As a matter of fact, teaching styles can be influenced by many factors e.g. personality traits (Richards & Renandya, 2002; Roberts, 2002). These factors are sometimes so strong that they could define the way a teacher teaches in the classroom.
Through a teaching style inventory and a psychological type index, this exploratory non-experimental study (Ruiz, 1996; Sabino, 1996; Sandín, 2003) focuses on determining the public and private sector participants' teaching styles and their psychological types.
The Concept of Teaching Style
Teaching style is a concept that has been studied by only a few authors (Bowen & Marks, 1994; Evans, Harkins & Young, 2008). It is for this reason that there is no single definition. However, different authors (Graves, 2000; Zhang, 2008) offer their own definitions in order to clarify and characterize the concept itself. Table 1 shows a chronology of five definitions of the concept of teaching styles. This study used Grasha's (1996) definition stated below as the guiding principle.
The abovementioned definitions provide a general view of how these authors define teaching styles. Although they all have their own views, there is a common element that refers to teachers' behaviour and their impact on teaching (Scovel, 2001). This implies that teachers have their own personal characteristics which make them unique; therefore, the concept of styles emphasises the cognitive and affective dimensions of teaching that have a strong impact on students' way of learning. Sicilia and Delgado (2002) point out that to fully understand the concept of teaching style, educators should focus on what teaching style is not: it is neither a procedure nor a technique. It is not a strategy, a resource or a method either, but the combination of the educator's values, beliefs, and personality traits, which are reflected in how teachers behave during the teaching and learning process.
Among the authors who attempt to conceptualize teaching styles, Grasha (1996) provides a sound definition of the concept, validated instruments and techniques for analyzing teachers' teaching styles. Because Grasha was the basis for this study, his work is further examined here. Through his research, he identified five teaching style categories, shown in Table 2.
The fact that personality traits involve both behaviour and psychological characteristics may provide useful information when investigating instructors' teaching styles. The way educators behave and their personality when facing the teaching and learning process might influence their teaching style. Personality, based on Scharle and Szabó (2000, p. 7), is understood as a "dynamic organization, inside the person, of psychophysical systems that create a person's characteristic patterns of behaviour, thoughts, and feelings".
For Williams and Burden (1999) personality refers to an individual's characteristic patterns of thought, emotion and behaviour, together with the psychological mechanisms -hidden or not- behind those patterns. In brief, it stresses the individual's disposition to think, feel and act in certain ways. Table 3 below shows the two aspects that this study considered to research into what kind of personality is characteristic of the participants.
This is an exploratory non-experimental research study that focuses on the phenomenon of teaching styles and personality traits by collecting numerical data that were analyzed using frequency statistics (Murray, 2003;Wilkinson & Birmingham, 2003). The researchers' role was to measure and take care to keep the researchers from 'contaminating' the data through personal involvement with the research subjects. Researchers' 'objectivity' was of utmost concern (Sandín, 2003).
This exploratory research study aims at comparing the teaching styles of thirty teachers of English: 15 of them work in the private educational sector and the remaining 15 in the public educational sector (Mertler, 2009; Mitchell & Jolley, 2007; Muijs, 2004).
- What teaching styles and personality types does a group of EFL teachers from the public and private sector possess?
- Is there any relationship between the participants' teaching styles and their personality types?
The thirty participants of this research are in-service cooperating teachers of English who work in either the public educational sector or the private sector. This means that these teachers work closely with universities and regularly help university tutors to supervise student-teachers who do their practicum in both public and private high schools. These participants were randomly selected and all of them responded to Grasha's teaching style inventory (1996) (see Appendix 1) and Grasha's psychological type index (1996) (see Appendix 2). This sample, of course, does not represent or describe the whole reality of teachers of English in Chile. As for the participants' ages, it is possible to state that the predominant ages range between 25 and 30 years, as shown in Figures 1 and 2.
Figure 1: Age range state sector.
Figure 2: Age range private sector.
Gender also varies among the participants, depending on the type of school. In the state sector, figure 3 shows that 67% of the participants are female and 33% of them are male. In the private sector, 59% of the participants are female and 41% of them are male (see Figures 3 and 4).
Figure 3: Gender in the state sector.
Figure 4: Gender in the private sector.
This study identifies and defines the following variables:
- Teaching Style: this is understood as the way educators conceptualize teaching and reflect their beliefs and assumptions in their own classroom performance.
- Personality Traits: it is defined as the way in which people behave towards other people or particular situations.
- Type of School:
Private Sector School: it is a school controlled and supported privately. It does not receive funding from government sources and parents have to pay for entrance and tuition.
State or Public Sector School: it is a school free of charge for pupils and the government provides local municipalities with funding to support the schools.
The instruments the participants responded to were two inventories validated by Grasha (1996). One of the instruments used is a psychological type index (see Appendix 2) whose purpose is to identify a certain teaching style through personality type. The index has got eight columns of 17 items each. Participants have to select only one member of each pair. The second instrument is a teaching style inventory (see Appendix 1). This instrument has as a main purpose to find out which ones of the five teaching styles predominate in each participant: expert, formal authority, personal, facilitator and delegator. It consists of a series of forty items that teachers have to answer using a rating scale.
The participants received the psychological type index and the teaching style inventory to respond to individually and on their own time. It took the researchers approximately 4 months to get all the instruments back in order to start analysing the data.
Teaching Styles in the State or Public School Sector
The more predominant teaching style in the state school sector is 'Facilitator'. This corresponds to 33% of the responses. However, it is necessary to mention that the highest percentage is followed by the 'Personal Model' type which corresponds to 27%. As stated by Grasha (1996), the 'Facilitator' teaching style is a student-centered approach; the instructor acts as a facilitator and the responsibility to achieve results is placed on the student (see Figure 5).
Figure 5: Teaching style in the state sector.
Personality Type in the State or Public School Sector
The participants working in the state sector tend to have an 'Extrovert' kind of personality type. According to Grasha (1996), 'extroversion' refers to attitudes and interests oriented towards the external world of actions, people, objects and events. Nevertheless, the two percentages obtained by participants from the state sector in the personality type index vary only 3 points. Therefore, as shown in Figure 6, 53% of the participants are extrovert and 47% of them are introverted teachers.
Figure 6: Personality type in the state sector.
In order to deeply analyse the results obtained by participants from the state school sector, the most significant results are as follows:
- Teaching style that predominates: Facilitator
- Personality type that predominates: Extrovert
- Participants' age range: 25-30 years
- Experience as a teacher: Between 1 and 5 years
- Participants' gender: Mostly female.
The most preponderant teaching style in the state educational sector is 'Facilitator', and the psychological type is 'Extrovert'. Both characteristics may be possibly due to the participants' age range, since they are novice young teachers of English; therefore, this factor could have determined the outcome of the teaching style inventory and the psychological type index. It is possible to infer from the results obtained in both instruments that there is no apparent relationship between gender types and teaching styles since male and female participants obtained roughly similar results, regardless of the gender type.
Experience is another factor that could have influenced the outcomes in the state educational sector because teachers with less than five years of experience may possibly have a different, more enthusiastic attitude towards teaching. The results obtained by the state sector school teachers correspond to a student-centered approach in which teacher and student roles are redefined: the teacher becomes a facilitator of learning instead of a 'container' of knowledge, and the students take more responsibility for their own learning (Laboard, 2003). Consequently, open-mindedness towards teaching could possibly be related to youth and fewer years of teaching experience, which would explain such results in the state sector.
Teaching Style in the Private School Sector
The more predominant teaching style in the private school sector is 'Formal authority', which corresponds to 46% of the responses. This teaching style is defined by Grasha (1996) as an instructor-centered approach where the instructor is responsible for providing and controlling the flow of content (see Figure 7).
Figure 7: Teaching style in the private sector.
Personality Type in the Private Sector
The participants working in the private school sector tend to have an 'Introverted' kind of personality. According to Grasha (1996), 'introversion' refers to an inner subjective orientation towards life. Attitudes and interests are directed towards concepts, ideas, theories, and models of reality (see Figure 8).
Figure 8: Personality type in the private sector.
In the private school sector the obtained results are the following:
- Teaching style that predominates: Formal Authority
- Personality type that predominates: Introverted
- Participants' age range: 36-40 years
- Experience as a teacher: Between 11 and 15 years
- Participants' gender: Mostly female.
The most predominant teaching style in the private educational sector is 'Formal authority', and the psychological type is 'Introverted'. These two characteristics might be predominant due to the fact that most of the participants belonging to the private school sector are a bit more experienced and have been working as teachers of English for a considerable time. Based on their age, the undergraduate teacher preparation they received was very much teacher-centered, where the teacher's role in the classroom was central for learning. The teacher-centered approach is associated chiefly with the transmission of knowledge. Teachers in teacher-centered environments focus on establishing relationships with students who are anchored in intellectual explorations of selected materials (Laboard, 2003).
Thus, the participants' age and professional experience might have influenced their teaching style and personality type results. Gender has no influence on the participants' teaching styles since it is possible to observe that both males and females are likely to have the same predominant teaching style.
Gender does not seem to influence personality type in this research study at least. Based on the participants' responses, it is possible to affirm that both gender types have the same preponderant psychological type.
Two particular issues that might have a further effect on the results obtained by the state and private sector participants are the subject they teach, in this case English, and their students' grade level: secondary. The fact that an educator teaches a particular subject somehow determines very much how he or she approaches the act of teaching, taking into account that the subject being taught and learned is a foreign language with all the pedagogical implications and challenges that this subject entails.
All of the participants also teach English to secondary level students, a fact that, of course, impacts teachers' lesson planning and classroom practices and requires a repertoire of teaching skills that could meet the linguistic, pedagogical and social needs of secondary level students.
This section provides a detailed description of the proposed research objectives, which cannot, of course, be generalized as regards other contexts due to the small sample used in this study. The results obtained from the study indicate that the more predominant teaching style is 'Facilitator' for the state sector and 'Formal Authority' for the private one. It is important to mention that both styles were followed by the 'Personal Model' type in both sectors. The study also shows that there is a relationship between the participants' teaching style and their personality traits, since participants from the state sector tend to have an 'Extrovert' kind of personality type whereas participants from the private sector have a tendency towards the 'Introverted' kind of personality. Therefore, personality traits would exert some influence on the outcome of individuals' teaching styles.
The study's general objective aims at comparing the teaching styles of a group of thirty teachers of English working either in state or private secondary education. As mentioned before, participants working in the state educational sector have a tendency towards the 'Facilitator' teaching style, which refers to a student-centered approach. Teachers from this sector are thus supposed to be facilitators and their learners should take responsibility as independent individuals. Consequently, teachers who possess this teaching style would foster autonomous learning, initiative, and encourage students to make decisions based on their own criteria and thinking. Interestingly enough, this kind of teaching style may well be thought to be found in a more personalized type of education that is usually imagined to be encountered in Chilean private education, which is obviously controlled and supported by private funding; hence, of better quality. However, a very significant percentage of the participants from the state sector hold this teaching style, which would be opposed to what state English education has been regarded in the Chilean context: of poor quality. In 2004, The Chilean Ministry of Education conducted an English test and two surveys on a sample of 11,000 students from 8th and 12th grades in state, subsidized and private schools. The findings revealed that 67% of state sector eighth graders showed just an elementary English comprehension level and 10% showed no comprehension at all (Resultados nacionales del diagnóstico de inglés, 2004).
Even though it would be premature and ambitious to draw final conclusions based on the administration of two instruments on a very small scale, it is necessary to point out that a student-centered teaching approach in Chile would be more likely to occur in an environment with a smaller number of learners, in contrast to the reality found in regular classrooms in the state sector.
Participants belonging to the private educational sector, on the other hand, tend to have a 'Formal Authority' teaching style. This style refers to an instructor-centered approach. Teachers from this segment are likely to control the flow of lesson contents. This type of teaching style sets a kind of classroom hierarchy because teachers are those who possess knowledge and students learn from them. Educators are supposed to provide positive and negative feedback and they are in charge of establishing learning goals. This style is also related to the popular,'acceptable' and standard ways to do things in the Chilean classroom. Since the 'Formal Authority' teaching style is an instructor-centered approach, it could have been thought to be part of a different teaching context. The Chilean private educational sector is believed to provide a more personalized kind of education with fewer students in the classroom and many more teaching and learning resources. Most of the participants from the private educational sector possess then the teaching style that is expected to occur in larger classes, where teachers are forced to standardise learning styles and contents due to the large number of students in the classroom.
Based on the commonly believed assumptions of private and state education in Chile, one could have been expected to find the 'Facilitator' type in the private sector and the 'Formal Authority' type in the state sector. However, this research proved differently.
As for the personality type, it is possible to establish that the one in the state sector is mainly 'Extrovert'. People who have this kind of personality are generally characterized as individuals who are outwardly expressive, active and who easily engage in social activities. Considering the predominant personality type in this educational sector, it is possible to state that the fact that this group of participants is younger and has fewer years of experience might predispose it to be more active and behave in a more extrovert way. Nonetheless, it is important to mention that the difference in percentage between the 'Extrovert' and 'Introverted' types is not wide. Consequently, it could be possible to establish an existing relationship between the predominant participants' teaching style of the state sector and their personality type. Since a 'Facilitator' educator tends to promote independent and collaborative learning, encouraging communication between students, it may be possible to surmise that most of the participants of this research who possess a facilitator teaching style possess the characteristics of an extrovert.
With regard to the private sector, the more predominant personality type is 'Introverted'. Introverted people are generally those whose motives and actions are directed inward. They tend to be preoccupied by their own thoughts and feelings, minimizing their contact with other people.The fact that the participants working in this sector are more experienced than the participants belonging to the state sector could have resulted in a formal authority teaching style for the private sector participants. Since educators whose teaching style is 'Formal Authority' have a tendency to provide knowledge, concepts and theories as well as to control the flow of content and individual work, the relationship between their teaching style and personality type seems to be a result. Therefore, it could be said that teachers' teaching styles belonging to the private sector might be influenced by their introverted type of personality.
This exploratory study opens a window for further research in the field of teaching styles and personality traits since the cognitive and affective dimensions of educators impact the whole teaching and learning process strongly. Undoubtedly, for student-centered teaching to happen, it is necessary to acknowledge the key role that teachers play in the process of change and innovation in education; it is, therefore, of utmost importance to continue researching into what teachers know, think and do about teaching.
In brief, this study has provided some valuable insights into the role played by a small group of Chilean teachers of English when teaching the language to their students in a national sociolinguistic context, where all governmental policies aim at promoting the use of communicative-oriented methodologies among teachers with the purpose of making the population bilingual by the year 2011. This has meant the alignment of the Chilean English curriculum to the European linguistic framework, leading, consequently, into the following scenario: elementary level language mastery for 8th graders and an intermediate level mastery for 12th graders. Finding ourselves one year away from this goal, we consider the task to be very challenging.
* This paper contains results of the research grant entitled FONDECYT 1085313 "El Sistema de Cognición Docente, las Actuaciones Pedagógicas del Profesor de Inglés Universitario y su Impacto en la Enseñanza-Aprendizaje del Idioma": http://www.fondecyt.cl/578/article-28062.html. The study was conducted between 2008 and 2010.
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Claudio H. Díaz Larenas, PhD in Education and Master of Arts in Linguistics. He teaches English Language, Discourse Analysis and EFL Methodology and Assessment at Universidad Católica de la Santísima Concepción. He has also researched in the field of teacher cognition and language assessment.
Andrea Victoria Rodríguez Moran is an EFL teacher at Instituto de Idiomas Berlitz in Concepción, Chile, and also teaches primary school students. She graduated from Universidad Católica de la Santísima Concepción.
Karen Jocelyn Poblete River is an EFL teacher at Colegio A-LAFKEN in Concepción, Chile, and also teaches primary school students. She graduated from Universidad Católica de la Santísima Concepción.
Appendix 1. Psychological Type Index (Grasha, 1996)
The information gathered in this document is going to be treated as strictly confidential.
Place the edge of a sheet of paper across the two columns of items of the psychological type index. Lay the edge so that you can see only one pair of items at a time. Select the member of each pair that is most like you. (Do not try to make an absolute judgment about how each item applies to you). Select only one member of each pair.
Appendix 2. Teaching Styles Inventory (Grasha, 1996)
Respond to each of the items below in terms of how you teach. If you teach some courses differently than others, respond in terms only of one specific course. Try to answer as honestly and as objectively as you can. Resist the temptation to respond as you believe you should or ought to think or behave, or in terms of what you believe is the expected or proper thing to do.
Respond to questions below by using the following rating scale:
1 = strongly disagree 2 = moderately disagree 3 = undecided 4 = moderately agree 5 = strongly agree