GATE Teachers From the Inside Out: Students' Perceptions on Gifted and Talented Teachers in the Classroom

GATE Teachers From the Inside Out: Students' Perceptions on Gifted and Talented Teachers in the Classroom

Rosalina Pisco Costa (Universidade de Évora, Portugal) and Adriana Dias de Oliveira (Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo, Brazil)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5879-8.ch020
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This chapter departs from the crisis of education to explore the students' perceptions about the teacher within the classroom. Based on a sociological qualitative study developed with both students and teachers at secondary public schools in Brazil and Portugal, four categories of teachers were characterized: authoritarian, bureaucratic, accomplice, and the democratic teacher. An in-depth analysis of data sheds new light on the definition of giftedness and talent among teachers, as the category of teachers here designated as “democratic” seems to be characterized by the teachers' ability and talent in balancing the two main axes of school education: transmission and socialization. Relations between respect, gift, and talent are further explored, proving to be of the utmost importance in the classroom, insofar as gifted and talented (GATE) teachers are perceived as those who, based on responsibility for the educational act, manage to establish a pedagogical contract based on mutual respect.
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In the last decades, we have witnessed a crisis of education, with direct and profound relation to the numerous and broad transformations that education, and especially school education, have undergone since the advent of modernity (Beck, Giddens, & Lash, 1994).

Portugal and Brazil are no exception in such a scenario, specifically with the political democratization processes faced in the 1970s and 1980s respectively (UNESCO, 2010; Correia, 2007). In these countries, the political change resulting from the end of an enduring and penetrating dictatorship period led to equally strong changes at the economic, social and cultural level. New demands arose with the plurality of voices that the social movements introduced in the new political arena. In the educational field, the generalization of entry into school for all individuals, not only the wealthy or the ruling class, was striking. Such right was conceived as a fundamental instrument for the achievement of the newly won political and civil rights and as an essential factor for both the economic and social development.

It is true that the discussion about the universalization of school access was already present in both cited countries at the beginning of the 20th century, yet as Sebastião and Correia (2007) claim, such discussion was based on distinct and sometimes contradictory proposals. Early conceptualization around the universalization of school access was based upon the perception that getting into school was a major instrument to instill moral and political grounds. At the same time, as the New-School adherents believed, the school was the key space for students to develop their autonomy and skills. Both orientations agreed that an equal opportunity in accessing school and education should be guaranteed by the state.

In Portugal, after 1974, and in Brazil, in the 1980s, the universalization of the right to education became a social reality and not simply words in the constitutional texts. In both countries, democracy is inseparable from the entry of the majority of school-age children into basic education, a situation that progressively was internalized in society as an acquired right.

Despite the undeniable progress, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO, 2010), there are still many young people in Brazil who are away from school either because they never attended or because they dropped out. Moreover, a significant proportion of people do not go beyond basic education, pointing to challenges to be faced. As for Portugal, the 2017 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Report points to similar challenges where retention and dropout rates are considerably higher than the OECD average.

As access to school is assured, the debate about formal education acquires a new scope, focusing on the consequences of schooling’s achievement and the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of equality of opportunities. As a consequence, questions develop concerning the quality of the education offered, the content to be taught and how to teach that content. Fresh social demands arise, namely an increasing demand for a greater participation of the student in the teaching and learning process.

The introduction of psychological attributes, mainly from Piagetian influence, contributed to this shift in education, namely the decentralization from the teacher figure to student-centered pedagogy. Because skills and competencies related to individual characteristics become part of the school's concerns, the teachers as agents of education have to consider such factors when facing everyday problems within the classroom, specifically differences in learning rhythms and learning differences’ influence in discipline and conflict management.

In this new context, the experience, disciplinary knowledge, and emphasis upon the content to be passed onto students by the teachers as the custodians is progressively replaced by fresh competences that the teachers must master in order to carry out activities to enhance or strengthen the students’ natural abilities. The educational emphasis is modified from the teaching process - centered on the content and personified in the teacher - into the learning process - focused upon the construction of the student's experience - in which the teacher's role is to motivate the student to learn.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Teaching Authority: It is a symbolic reference that makes the word of teachers meaningful, not being a mere obedience, but the recognition of the legitimate right that the teacher has in influencing or guiding the way to be followed, since the authority granted to him surpasses individual interests and is related to the common good.

Qualitative Inquiry: Is a specific research design wherein data collection and data analysis techniques are combined in order to provide a deep and holistic understanding on why and how things happen rather than to provide a quantitative expression of a certain phenomenon. Data is usually obtained from a relatively small group of respondents, often through interviews or direct observation. Qualitative content analysis’ techniques are used to explore and unveil the latent meanings that escape to a quantitative analysis.

Post-Modernity: Is the socio-cultural state or condition of a society, which is said to follow modernity. There are different understandings about the end of modernity as a socio-historical landmark. Some schools of thought hold that modernity ended soon after World War II while others pose it in the late 20th century, namely 1980s or early 1990s. The idea of the post-modern condition arises when in many social arenas (e.g., political, economy, education, environment, etc.) important events came to shake old conquers and to challenge the linear and progressive path into growth and development, as claimed by Modernism.

Teachers’ Role: To be the representative of the school institution while being responsible for the preservation and transmission of cultural heritage already developed, but also for the reception of knowledge and practices that new generations introduce, thus innovating their own culture.

Sociology: Broadly designated as the science of society. It comprises the systematic study of the development, structure, interaction, and collective behavior of organized groups of individuals, social institutions, and social relationships. Specifically, it aims to understand how society determines and shapes human behavior and how the social behavior impacts the ever-changing societies.

Ethics: The set of moral principles that guide a person, a group, or an organizations’ behavior. When applied to a specific activity, such as scientific research, ethics become the set of moral principles that guide the researcher’s behavior and is intertwined with the professional deontology. Ethics always comprise values, as it determines the rightness and wrongness of certain actions, its motivations, and consequences.

Liquid Times: Is an expression used to characterize the present era, a result of the “liquid modernity,” as coined by the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman. It contrasts with the “solid” modernity that preceded it. The passage from a “solid” to a “liquid” modernity is anchored in the idea that social forms and institutions (e.g., family, education, work, etc.) have become weaker and fragile. In a context of permanent change and risk, old institutions no longer serve as frames of reference for human actions and long-term life plans. Therein, individuals have to construct themselves and to organize their lives in new and unprecedented ways.

Democratization: It refers to the systematic and continuous effort to guarantee access and permanence of all individuals to the school, while ensuring the acquisition of public cultural assets that institutions convey in order to develop individuals who are autonomous and committed to the promotion of democratic values and actions.

Education Crisis: It must be understood as the incapacity of the school and education to play its mediating role in caring for, conserving, and transforming the world, requiring an effort of critical reflection on the educational process in order to overcome the challenges presented in the contemporary world.

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