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Study of Japanese University Students' Perceptions of Teachers- Ch.4: Thoughts About Teachers' Pedagogies

Study of Japanese University Students' Perceptions of Teachers
Chapter Four: Thoughts About Teachers' Pedagogies

In this chapter, we focus on the questions of how students view the state of the field of education, and what opinions they have of popular wisdom about education. More specifically, the former relates to educational conditions and the systemic side of things; the latter are opinions on proposals of what "should be" made by the media and the general public. We will discuss their opinions on each of these issues. Then, by summarizing the students' views, we would like to examine whether or not this constitutes a "message to educational reformers".1

Also, what we speak of here as "proposals" are not necessarily informed by solid data. Without a doubt there is a tone to the theories that are currently popular that is similar to rumor and gossip. However, the important thing to reflect on is whether or not there is a definite stance among the students concerning these various theories.

Actually, when it comes to educational reform, students felt that "the views of teachers in the schools must be taken into account" (those who agreed "strongly" and those who agreed "somewhat" totaled 97.4%), they are aware that administrators take different views on education than do teachers in the schools. We would like to suggest that students' ideas on educational reform come from a point of view that is "half" partisan on the side of teachers in the schools.

1. Proposals for Reform of Educational Environments and Systems

Given that students plan to become teachers themselves, what kind of environment or system would be ideal, or what kind of standpoint do they intend to adopt?

Current trends in educational reform aim at small class sizes and an introduction of a system in which pupils and students are treated with individualized concern. In other words, in this view, "valuing children's individual satisfaction"--a principle derived from private enterprise--becomes the backbone of public education. In one sense, this would coexist with notions that oppose the concept of public education which "promotes equal education for all children." What sort of judgment did students have of this?

i. "Child - centered" Class Management
There was a lot of agreement with the statement, ("very much" and "somewhat" responses totaling 90.9%) "it is better to have fewer pupils or students in one class" [Small class size]. Also, on the topic of the teaching of subjects, 85.1% had a positive view on "it is a good idea to introduce team teaching." In other aspects, the majority trend supported teachers extending individual consideration to pupils and students. Apparently there was no opposition to this. Thus, in other words, they tended to be in agreement with recent educational reforms.

Table 2. Views Regarding the Importance of Various Aspects of the Educational Environment

Agree
Very much
Somewhat
Agree
Hardly
Agree
Disagree
Small class size 53.2 % 37.7 % 7.1 % 1.9 %
Team teaching 40.9 % 44.2 % 12.3 % 2.6 %
School choice 27.9 % 37.7 % 30.5 % 3.9 %
Course evaluations 27.9 % 51.3 % 16.9 % 3.9 %
Workload is heavy 77.8 % 18.3 % 3.9 % 0.0 %
Collaboration with colleagues 70.1 % 26.0 % 3.2 % 0.6 %
Reflect the actual situation 78.6 % 18.8 % 1.3 % 1.3 %

ii. Resistance to One Aspect: Evaluation of Teaching
On the matter of "pupil/student satisfaction", it is important for teachers, and that is to say the educational system, to take on board the opinions of pupils and students. As Table 2 shows, there was a fair amount of agreement to the introduction of "school choice", which represented a judgement of those schools and "course evaluations", which represented a judgement on teachers (65.6% and 79.2% respectively). However, as there was disagreement from 20 - 30 % of respondents it seems that opposition is firm.

It does not sound like a unanimous vote of agreement in either case. Here we have a glimpse of wavering between the values of public education and the principles of private enterprise.

iii. Can't Teachers' Work Be Divided Efficiently?
An excessive workload besides teaching classes is not appropriate to devoting adequate attention towards children. In Table 2, we see that almost all agreed (96.1 in both cases) to the questions "Do you think teachers have a lot of work besides teaching courses?" (Heavy workload), and "Do you think there should be close collaboration between colleagues?" (Collaboration with colleagues).

Students know that being a teacher means that one is very busy in the schools. They realize that one must spend time on duties outside of one's own classes, including research into course materials, just by their experience of student teaching. For this reason, students seem to be saying that it would be good to aim for lightening the burden by increasing cooperation between teachers, even for work outside that of teaching subjects.

iv. Theories of Educational Reforms Are Not Looking at the Schools
While they agree with reformist trends that try to ensure that enough attention is paid to children, 97.4% thought that they "should reflect the opinion in the field." It appears they have some lack of faith in the series of theories of educational reform issued by the Ministry of Education. Perhaps there is a danger that certain things will be not be changed, and surely certain things will be lost because of these reforms. However, strictly speaking, this is only the opinion of university students majoring in education, so we might not necessarily see the same tendency in actual teachers and in students not specializing in education. On the contrary, it is probably the case that while they have some ideals, these ideals do not seem likely to be borne out, so they think they "should reflect" the views of teachers in the schools.

v. Education Has its "Sacred Ground"
Let us sort through the results so far. University Students in education think that debates on educational reform seize onto reforms in order to explain and solve current problems. There is a reason that some trends in educational reform involve "principles of private enterprise". This is because some theories suggest that we cannot speak of the various problems faced by the education system today without reference to present social conditions, especially our consumer-oriented society.2 Looking just at our results so far, we find no disagreement with "careful concern for children and pupils", but it would seem that they resist proceeding with reforms because of the value they place in the specific educational sites (i.e. the schools). In other words, schools are "sacred ground" that must be protected from outsiders. We cannot examine the precise details here. However, it is clear that there is an attitude of resistance towards some trends in educational reform, in order to "protect the sacred ground" of the schools. This is something that should not be forgotten in public education.

2. Opinions/Ideas about Proposals Regarding Education, Schools, and Teachers

Next let us take a look at what students think about proposals concerning education, schools, and teachers. In one sense, these proposals are part of "educational reform". As we noted above, the students have some negative opinion about the course that reforms are taking. As teachers are supposed to be the person who are responsible for education, the question of what kind of thoughts the students have in this regard is very important for actual results of education.

Also, criticism is directed against the closed-off nature of the schools as the teacher's "work space." It can be said that doing research outside the schools such as experiential learning in the service industries, working in the private sector, and accumulating experience outside the schools is a response to such criticism. On the other hand, if a teacher should commit some crime, the crime is always described with reference to the fact that "a teacher" has committed it. The pressure the public puts on teachers and schools is by no means unsubstantial. Before they become teachers, what kind of stance do students believe they will take with them into the schools? This, in other words, is connected with the question of what kind of teacher is best. It will be our focus in this section.

i. Teachers Must Have Personal Balance
Table 3. Views on Popular Theories

Very much Somewhat Hardly Not at all
Teach with enthusiasm and love 4.5 % 29.9 % 51.9 % 13.6 %
Have a good personality 33.1 % 53.9 % 11.0 % 1.9 %
Exemplary citizens 10.5 % 35.9 % 45.1 % 8.5 %
Concern beyond school matters 15.0 % 56.2 % 22.9 % 5.9 %
Concern within school hours 2.0 % 6.5 % 35.9 % 55.6 %
Teaching is respected 9.8 % 30.1 % 43.1 % 17.0 %
Have a sense of worth 63.0 % 30.5 % 4.5 % 1.9 %
Believe in a need for corporal punishment 13.0 % 32.5 % 24.7 % 29.9 %
Have a responsibility for bullying incidents 7.8 % 43.8 % 39.9 % 8.5 %
Breakdown in class discipline 12.4 % 36.6 % 43.1 % 7.8 %
Parent and teacher equality 27.2 % 46.4 % 22.5 % 4.0 %

According to Table 3, they do not think, "Teachers are fit for the job if they have enthusiasm and love", (65.5%) [Enthusiasm and love] but there is a definite idea that "excellent personality" is more important than "specialized knowledge" [Personality] (87.0%). However, opinion was divided about whether "Teachers should be exemplary in their private lives also" [Exemplary] (affirmative 46.4%, negative 53.6%).

They do feel that an excellent personality is important but it seems that they do not feel so strongly, the necessity that it be reflected in an exemplary attitude as a teacher in one's private life also. A spirit of enthusiasm and love alone does not qualify one for this work, rather they feel that total balance as an individual is important.

ii. Teachers Have a Great Deal of Work, and Are Extremely Busy
According to Table 3, a majority (71.2%) agrees that "teachers should have concern for children's lives outside of school also," [Concern beyond school matters] and they do not think that "A teacher's work load is confined to school hours [Within school hours] (91.5%).

It seems that a majority of students feel that it is necessary to go beyond the framework of in-school "teacher-pupil" relationships. Most of them say that there is a concern for pupils' private lives. Also, the vast majorities hold the view that the workload of teachers does not remain within school hours. If teachers' concern for pupils extends to their lives outside of school, their work is not necessarily confined to school hours. There is also work done on an uncompensated (voluntary) basis. I think that this is related to the issue of being an exemplary citizen, as noted in the paragraph above. I believe that the fact that they are not negative about taking part in voluntary work that deals with students even in their private lives itself is an indication of an "exemplary" attitude. This is quite an interesting point.

iii. Teachers are Sustained by a Sense That Teaching is a Job Worth Doing
According to Table 3, not many seem to think, "Teaching is a respected profession" [Respected] (39.9%). On the other hand, most of the students (93.5%) support the idea that "Teaching is a profession that is worth doing."

When one looks at teaching as an occupation, professional and social status is not necessarily all that high, and it seems to be one that draws a lot of criticism from society. No doubt this is related to the judgment that it is "not necessarily a 'respected' profession". One might say that it is a job one may choose because of the extraordinarily subjective quality of being "worth doing". In this study it is not possible to determine where this "worth" comes from, but here is a hint. If we assume that there is a strong possibility of participating in "voluntary" work, there is also a strong possibility that this makes the "satisfaction rate" of children and pupils all the more obvious. "Being worth doing" may be an important condition by which one decides to become a teacher.

iv. Sometimes Teachers are Perplexed by Children's Problems
According to Table 3, 45.5% of the students thought that "'Corporal punishment' by teachers is sometimes necessary" [Corporal punishment]. 51.6% believe that "Teachers must take responsibility for bullying" [Responsibility for bullying]. 49.0% thought that "Breakdown in class discipline' is a result of teachers' lack of control" [Breakdown in class discipline].

It is not just the mainstream media and laypeople who have an ambivalent attitude with regard to these three statements. There is also a similar feeling among professionals, and university students striving to become teachers. The media does not necessarily support this idea. Rather, it is thought of negatively, in the context of human rights issues. In any case, we can see that the students themselves also find it difficult to take a stance on issues related to problems between children, and disciplining children.

v. Education of Children is a Cooperative Effort of Schools and the Family
73.6% supported the idea that "Teachers and parents should have equality in children's education." As for the issue of who bears more responsibility for children's socialization, rather than see it as a question of who is more responsible, they agree that both should cooperate. No doubt it is for this reason, as we saw above, that there is a strong tendency to have an "undecided attitude" with regard to disciplining children.

vi. Teachers as Human Beings
I would like to summarize the conclusions of this section. The students' positions on pronouncements on education and teachers are made clear in their thoughts of the question "What is a good teacher?" It seems that they believe that teachers are sustained by psychological satisfaction of a sense of "worth", that teaching is a job where one can engage in an enterprise in which there is a strong possibility that one will also be involved in uncompensated activities. No doubt this is why a "personal balance" is necessary. On the other hand, there is uncertainty about how best to respond to a variety of issues. For this very reason, they seem to be saying that it is important to recognize teachers, cannot single-handedly be responsible for children's education. Moreover, the family should take an equal share of the responsibility so both parties may work cooperatively.

In thinking that "personal balance'" is necessary, before teachers become teachers they too must establish themselves as individuals. We should not depend only on their "goodness" as human beings, and conversely, we should probably not always make them the subjects of criticism, but to the greatest extent possible we should treat them as equally human. It seems that the students have made their message clear to the education world and teachers.

3. Consideration

We will briefly make some considerations by referring to the results noted in this chapter.

First of all, the students' stance is indicated in the following points. The first point is their agreement with "child centeredness": a system of small classes and team teaching, with an emphasis on concern for children in both public and private settings. The second may also be considered under child centeredness, that students seem to be perplexed about responses to children's various problems, including breakdown in class discipline, responsibility for bullying, and the question of 'corporal punishment' which is related to these. For this reason, the third point is that "Teachers and parents must participate equally in children's upbringings." The fourth point is the unexpressed thought that maybe there is a "sacred ground" in education that must be protected. The fifth is, again, within this "sacred ground" teachers are not "supermen' and "superwomen", but we should see teachers as having uncertainties, and depending on the situation they may need the cooperation of others. Especially with regard to the fifth point, this is the stance that the students have with regard to education and to reformist proposals related to education. Because they are not yet educators, it might be possible that the students lack a well-defined attitude, but from the results of the survey, in fact we are able to ascertain a fairly consistent perspective.

There are also some points that we still need establish. As we noted above, because this survey reflects the opinions of students who share 'half' the position of those working in the schools but have not been employed yet, their opinions show some deviation from those of teachers actually in the schools. However, this is natural. Even if they plan to take part in student teaching, there are some things the students do not understand because they are not full-time teachers. The importance of this deviation will surely become clear in the future by asking the opinions of those who have graduated from college and are now practicing teaching.

Also, to what extent are the students' opinion idealizations of education and idealizations of teachers, and conversely, to what extent do they know the real situation in the schools? We would like to go on thinking about these questions and, by finding out the answers, these students can serve as a touchstone as they proceed into the workplace as educators in the future.

The issue of "sacred ground" is something that we came across in this survey and discussed in this section. However, it has not been possible to examine what this consists of. In the future, by examining this closely while carrying out investigations of current educational trends, we may be able to develop a new awareness of "things worth preserving" in education.

Bibliography
Amano Ikuo, ed. Gendai kyôikugaku nyûmon -- Kyôiku he no toi (An Introduction to Modern Educational Studies--Inquiries into Education). Tokyo University Press, 1997.

Fujita Hidenori, Kyôiku kaikaku -- Kyôsei jidai no gakkô dukuri (Educational reform -- Creating schools in an age of coexistence). Iwanami Shoten, 1997.

Teruoka Itsuko, Seikatsu sekai no henbô to kyôiku (Changes in lifestyles and education) Iwanami kôza I Gendai no kyôiku, Kiki to kaikaku, Ima kyôiku wo tou (Iwanami course I, Modern education, Crisis and reform) Iwanami Shoten, 1998.

1 There are many definitions of educational reform, but here we are treating it as the proposal and implementation of reforms of the existing system such as "Comprehensive Learning," allowing discretion in the number of students in one class, and "Education for Emotional Well-Being."
2 For example, Fujita (1997), Teruoka (1998).

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