Every teacher must have faced the dilemma at one point or another: what should be my role in the classroom? Should I primarily focus on efficient organization of lessons with a careful selection of the language facts to be transmitted to students? Or should I be more flexible and let the lesson flow spontaneously? Should I take full responsibility for the choice of activities, topics, and areas of language (after all, I am familiar with examination requirements, so I do know what my students should cover in class), or perhaps should I always make the effort of giving the learners as much choice as possible? Finally, should I become friends with my students (if it is possible at all), or maybe it's enough to concentrate on the material and evaluation and not expect too much openness and trust from teenagers?
These and many other questions have haunted the teaching profession for years. They have been bothering the author of the present paper since the very beginning of her teaching career and have led her to take a deeper and more systematic interest in the issue of teacher role. In a attempt to gain insights into foreign language teachers' and students' understanding of teacher role in the classroom, two research projects were carried out and then their results were compared.
2. Research on teachers
2.1. Objectives of the research project and techniques of data collection
The purpose of the first research project was to find out how foreign language teachers of English view their role in the classroom. The teachers expressed their opinions in a questionnaire consisting of three open-ended questions:
1. What is the role of the foreign language teacher in the classroom? List and describe at least five functions.
2. Which of the above roles is most important and why?
3. Which of the above roles is most common and why?
The other set of objectives included assessing whether the teachers' answers to the questionnaire were congruent with their role behavior, i.e. the performance of roles. To obtain the information, the lessons of several high school teachers who taught different student levels were observed. During the observations a checklist consisting of the roles that the teachers had enumerated in the questionnaire was used.
2.2. The respondents
The questionnaire was distributed among 76 Polish high school teachers of English, the majority of whom were women (82.2%). Among them, the most numerous group comprised the youngest (under 30) informants (92.2%). There were 9 (11.8%) respondents aged between 30-40, and 8 (10.5%) over 40. Most of them worked in high schools in Poznan, the rest in other big cities or towns in Poland. Quite a few (about 60%) were teacher training college graduates currently doing their MA degree at Adam Mickiewicz University (fifth year students), whereas the remaining ones had completed their studies at the School of English some time before.
The classroom observations were carried out in five different high schools in Poznan. Altogether 8 teachers were observed: 7 women and 1 man. The group consisted of: 3 experienced teachers (i.e. that had been teaching for over 5 years) aged 35-45; 1 teacher with several years of professional practice aged 31; and 4 inexperienced teachers (i.e. that had been teaching for 1-2 years), among them 3 under 30 and 1 aged 40.
Three of the four inexperienced teachers were teacher training college graduates and two of them were doing their MA degree.
The subjects' students ranged from beginners to pre-intermediate, and through intermediate to upper-intermediate. In the case of 3 teachers two different student levels were observed; in all the other cases only one class was examined. In order to receive a fairly comprehensive picture of a given teacher's role behavior 3-4 lessons with the same group of learners were observed, which makes 34 lessons altogether. …