Teachers’ attitudes towards the children in their classrooms

 Three school roles for students

Student, receptive learner, and active learner. This article is based on a research paper: Review of Educational Research Fall 1983, Vol 53, No. 3, Pp. 415-437 

The content of any given role’s expectations is primarily determined by the structure of the social system within which it resides, but role enactments vary with the individuals who occupy that role. Thus, roles are by nature dynamic, rather than static, and interactional in that both the person occupying the role and others with whom that person interacts contribute to the definition of its parameters (Dornbusch, 1966). Furthermore, any given social status, such as teacher or student, can involve multiple roles. The analysis of any given social structure must take into account this diversity (Merton, 1957). 

For the teachers, five major roles can be identified. The implementation of the academic curriculum demands that the teacher adopt an instructional, motivational, and an evaluative role. The hidden curriculum, on the other hand, requires that the teacher assume a managerial role, which involves an efficient monitoring of the time, space, material and human resources of the classroom, and a socializing role, which is enacted through the use of disciplinary and control mechanisms aimed at ensuring that the social, collective experience proceeds in a smooth and orderly fashion.

Student role;

It requires that the students be patient, docile, passive, orderly, conforming, obedient and acquiescent to rules and regulations, receptive to and respectful of authority, easily controllable, and socially adept. Other pupil role behaviors include sharing the human and material resources of the classroom with others, and the ability to control impulsiv-ity and the desire for immediate gratification (see Brophy & Good, 1974; Jackson, 1968; Jackson et al., 1969; Lee & Kedar-Voivodas, 1977

The receptive learner role;

The process aspects of receptive learner role involve attitudes and behaviors necessary for academic achievement within the classroom. They demand that students perform adequately in established curriculum areas, on prescribed measures, at set times, and by set criteria. Receptive learner role also requires of the students the ability to work independently and efficiently despite distractions emanating from the intense social environment. Furthermore, related educational activities, such as homework and class assignments, have to be punctually and adequately performed. Thus, receptive learner role requires students to be motivated, task-oriented, and responsible workers, good achievers, and as such, receptive to the institutional demands of the academic curriculum (see Jackson et al., 1969; Lee & Kedar-Voivodas, 1977; Lortie, 1975). 

The active learner role;

responsive, in the active learner role the child is reconstructive and proactive. The receptive learner role demands mastery of the strictly prescribed academic curriculum; active learner role involves a much broader educational and intellectual mastery, and requires going beyond the established academic curriculum both in terms of the content to be mastered and in the processes for gaining such mastery. According to Jackson (1968), scholarly traits include curiosity, active probing and exploring, challenging authority, an independent and questioning mind, an insistence on explanations, and a self-imposed discipline that “serves the demands of scholarship rather than the wishes and desires of other people. In short, intellectual mastery calls for sublimated forms of aggression rather than for submission to constraints”

Students whom teachers are most attached to

and whom they prefer appear to be those who closely conform to both pupil and receptive learner role expectations, regardless of sex. A large majority of them are perceived by their teachers as being above average in achievement and were also found to perform significantly better on objective achievement measures. They exhibit good work skills and attitudes.

Boys and girls were nominated to the attachment category in approximately equal numbers by their teachers even though the traits associated with the pupil and receptive learner roles have been considered more congruent with the female sex role than with the male role (see Brophy & Good, 1974; Jackson et al., 1969; Lee & Kedar-Voivodas, 1977).


The analyses suggest that teachers stress conformance to pupil and receptive learner roles and relegate a diminished status to the active learner role. Research and theory, on the other hand, point to the value of the active learner in the achievement of educational goals. If this imbalance in the priorities assigned to the three roles is to be rectified, teachers need to be made conscious of their biases. However, in endeavors attempting successful school reform, noted scholars of the teaching profession and of change in classroom practices such as Jackson (1968), Lortie (1975), and Sarason (1971) consistently point to the critical necessity of making teachers active partners both in the research processes and in the development of procedures for implementing change. Yet, according to Sarason (1971) “Those who attempt to introduce change rarely, if ever, begin the process by being clear as to where the teachers are, that is, how and why they think as they do” (p. 193). 

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