Teachers' conceptions of their role
An analysis is made of the conceptions which serving teachers have of their role, though no attempt is made to relate this to their practice of teaching. A series of role items was collected to afford a description of the teacher's role in terms of school and society expectations as well as classroom behaviours. These were taken from the literature and from interviews with teachers, and confirmed in a preliminary survey. Presented as a questionnaire, replies to the main investigation were made by 881 teachers, working in a variety of schools from nurseries to comprehensives. Two attempts have been made to construct a role model. The first, depending on the judgement of items fitting theoretically derived roles, failed, due to diffuseness in the role of teacher. The second used factor analysis; six factors were extracted which represent meaningful and distinct areas of role. The analysis has depended largely on examination of scores taken from these factors. Teachers in all types of school have similar conceptions of discipline. Nursery-infant and junior staff generally agree on the other areas investigated, but the concepts of secondary teachers are distinct. They are more conservative and less child-centered. When the class being taught is held constant, few differences in role conception are found to be related to sex, being a parent, graduate status, or personality, as measured in terms of the extrovert and neurotic dimensions. The first few years of teaching bring considerable changes in role conception, and further changes occur with prolonged experience. Deputy heads in junior schools and nursery nurses have quite distinct role conceptions; those of all other teachers, including those holding senior posts in secondary schools, are similar. The perception of school climate influences the role conception of primary teachers directly, but it does not influence that of secondary teachers. The greatest variation in role conception is related to scores on the radical scale of Oliver and Butcher. Primary school teachers experience little constraint, but that reported by secondary school teachers is considerable, especially that coming from the head. Despite difficulties caused by the wide division between primary and secondary education, teachers have an accurate perception of the roles their colleagues adopt. A few misunderstandings may be due to a feeling of idealism amongst nursery and infant teachers. There is evidence in their conception of role that would enhance the professional standing of teachers, but this is not in a form which is likely to be recognised by the public.