Like Teacher, Like Pupil


It is a great thing, of course, when you really can connect with your teacher, experience classroom as a comfort zone where you may thrive and succeed. It certainly helps when it comes to learning (1) . But what if not? A lot needs to be in place before feeling okay with your teacher. Not in the least how your teacher responds to you. Does s(h)e knows the real you when it comes to: your preferred style in learning, your favorite interests, your fears in coping with assignments, your learning troubles,  the issues you have with your classroom peers?  Good teachers come a long way in their ‘knowledge of the learner’, but, say with addressing 30 of you in a class, it is demanding. It is almost impossible to satisfy all demands to the full. After all, teachers are humans too. They have preferences and styles of their own which shape the classroom to make it a ‘home’ for all students. The truth is some students thrive better than others in the livable space a teacher creates in a classroom. This would become a real disaster when teachers all would be Pygmalion (the sculptor who fell in love with his own sculpture). Unfortunately, there is evidence to the fact that they are.

An Israeli study assessed teachers’ motivation to teach, specifically with regard to their preference on student autonomy. It turned out that teachers who are high in autonomous motivation themselves stress autonomous learning in their students and adopt an autonomy-supportive style in their teaching, expecting that student are taking control over their own learning.

If teachers were sculptors the obvious inference would be that teachers should encourage learning styles in their students similar to their own. Moreover, because we, in general, favor independent learning and autonomous motivation in students (3) we need to hire teachers who have such a preference. The study’s conclusion seems to point in that direction. Perfect matches are nice but also highly unlikely, certainly when you look at a classroom community. You will find a rich variation in styles, motivation, preferences, and needs. It is not so much that we need to redirect this variation into one liking. It would be better to accept them and help teachers to deal with them for the benefit of student learning . After all teachers are not sculptors.


What makes a motivating teacher? Teachers’ motivation and beliefs as predictors of their autonomy-supportive style by: Idit Katz, Bat-Hen Shahar, in: School Psychology International 2015, Vol. 36(6) 575–88 DOI: 10.1177/0143034315609969






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