Teachers' Opinions about Building a Democratic Classroom

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study is to determine how to build a democratic classroom in terms of teachers' views. In this study, the qualitative research technique is applied. In addition, the semi-structured interview technique is used as a method of data collection. The data obtained are coded into Nvivo2 and then the following themes are established: democratic values, teacher duties, fair behavior demonstrations, ranges of personal freedom, and equality of opportunity. By means of this study, the teachers, who have adopted democratic values, will build democratic classrooms by demonstrating fair behaviors towards students, enlarging students' ranges of personal freedom, and providing them with equality of opportunity. The findings emerging from this research are discussed and recommendations are developed with regard to these results.

Keywords: Democratic Classroom, justice, equality, freedom.

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One of the purposes of education given in public schools is to make individuals aware of their responsibilities towards their state and themselves, and to carry out these responsibilities. Students should be taught their constitutional rights of freedom and equality of opportunity, and justice should be provided while applying those rights. One of the places to teach individual rights and responsibilities is the public school, and the people to provide the instruction are teachers. Teachers should build classrooms where students' needs are met, and their rights are guaranteed in a safe and active learning environment. Such a place is surely a democratic classroom (Raywid, 1987).

There are many variables affecting the process of building a democratic classroom, since a democratic classroom is built by teachers, who attach importance to democratic values and display these values in their classrooms daily. During the process of building a democratic classroom that may take a long time, the teachers should be in cooperation with the students. In their classrooms, these teachers especially should give students the opportunity to use their constitutional rights, treat all students equally, and apply classroom rules fairly to all students. For these reasons, the purpose of this study is to examine how to build a democratic environment, to determine the democratic values of a democratic teacher, and to decide how a democratic teacher provides the students with the main democratic values--freedom, equality, and justice--in a classroom application, according to teachers' views.

Democratic teachers should give importance to democratic values in their classrooms. Shechtman (2002) stated the democratic values or beliefs that a teacher should have are freedom, equality, and justice. Winfield and Manning (1992) enumerated democratic values or principles as autonomy, cooperation, shared decision-making, and a sense of community. Kincal and Isik (2003) numerated the democratic values that take place in literature as equality, respect life, justice, freedom, honesty, the search for goodness, cooperation, self-esteem, tolerance, sensibility, responsibility, acceptance of difference, safety, peace, development, perfection, and effectiveness.

One of the duties of teachers, who build a democratic classroom, is to create a positive education process for the students. Such an education process closely depends on an effective relationship constructed between the teacher and the students. In order to construct an effective relationship in the classroom, teachers should create a cooperative learning environment, respect the students, and motivate the students to achieve sufficiency in their social relations. Another duty of teachers, while building a democratic environment, is planning the class objectives with their students. Teachers should respect students' beliefs and values, and also the students should respect one another's beliefs and values. Teachers should increase students' cognitive and perceptive awareness levels by teaching them democratic values (Henderson, 2001). …