The teacher’s role in the context of educational requirements in the twenty-first century
Concerns about what teachers should be like, how they should act, and what characteristics they should have as professionals are questions that still remain open and are not easily defined. As Carbonell (2008) suggests, this is a diverse, heterogeneous, contradictory and changing professional group.
However, most experts agree that the role of teachers has changed, as they are no longer the main mediator of knowledge (Gimeno, 2012). One of the dilemmas facing teachers today is therefore that their traditional role, based on the routine transmission of knowledge, appears to be insufficient to meet current and future educational demands.
Clearly, classroom teaching is very different now from what it was thirty years ago. Firstly, the processes of change in the educational and social landscape in recent decades (heterogeneity of students, extension of compulsory education, loss of authority, increased conflict, incorporation of ICT, democratised access to information, among others) have led to a real revolution in education that has modified the objectives, ways of working and the very essence of the educational system (Esteve, 2003).
Furthermore, various reports (Hernández, 2006) explain that the poor scores of Spanish students in the OECD PISA tests are due, in part, to the fact that they are not taught to use what they have learned in routine everyday life situations (Rico, 2005:13). In other words, what they learn is useful for passing exams and obtaining qualifications, but not for acting as informed, reflective citizens and intelligent consumers (Rico, 2005:15), which is what the PISA tests inquire into and is required in today’s context.
In today’s information society, marked by rapid social change, it is particularly important to develop students’ skills and attitudes to learning throughout life (Aspin et al., 2001; Knapper and Cropley, 2000; Herrera, Lorenzo and Rodríguez, 2008) in new and increasingly uncertain situations. Thus, according to a recent OECD report (2012) on education in the twenty-first century, the importance of preparing students to be creative, think critically, solve problems, use tools for communication and collaboration, be socially responsible, and so forth, implies that teachers must abandon their traditional role of simply transmitting knowledge.
This context suggests that teachers should be given a new role incorporating new professional competencies in order to be successful in their teaching tasks (Vaello, 2009) and not merely be a “teacher of” a particular subject (Bolívar, 2007) in order to face this new situation (Esteve, Franco and Vera, 1995).
Professional competencies of secondary school teachers
Various authors (Mulder, Weigel and Collins, 2006) consider what we now know as professional competency to have its origins in the business context, in light of the growing research interest in non-cognitive and personality variables based on the work of David McClelland (1973). According to this author, the best performers are differentiated by a set of characteristics related not to the traditional concept of intelligence, but rather to personality traits, stable motivation or personal values, reflected in thoughts, emotions and behaviours.
The literature on the concept of competency reflects a great diversity in terminology (Barragán and Buzón, 2004). It is therefore no easy task to identify one unambiguous and widely shared definition. However, our contribution in this paper is to synthesise the common features taken from the definitions by several authors (Bisquerra, 2002; Le Boterf, 1995; Pereda and Berrocal, 1999; Repetto and Pérez-González, 2007; Zabalza, 2003) as follows:
In addition, reflections on competencies specific to teachers have been gaining momentum in recent years. The UNESCO report on education for the twenty-first century, chaired by Jacques Delors (1996), highlighted the need to develop competencies in the field of education. The report states that the mission of education in the current reality should be organised around four pillars of learning professional and social competencies throughout a person’s life: learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together and learning to be.
Another prominent author, Perrenoud (2001), emphasises the idea that the objectives of the educational system cannot easily be separated from the competencies required of teachers:
[...] the figure of the teacher varies according to whether what is desired in a school is to develop autonomy or conformity, openness to the world or nationalism, tolerance of or contempt for other cultures, inclination towards intellectual risk or demand for certainty, a spirit of inquiry or dogmatism, a sense of cooperation or competition, solidarity or individualism (p. 80).
In a later work, Perrenoud (2004) puts forward ten competencies for teachers, the ability to: 1) organise and stimulate learning situations; 2) manage the progress of learning; 3) develop and take forward devices for differentiation; 4) engage students in their learning and their work; 5) work in teams; 6) participate in the management of the school; 7) inform and engage parents; 8) use new technologies; 9) tackle the ethical dilemmas and duties of the profession; and finally 10) organise their own continuing professional development.
Zabalza (2007) also refers to the competencies teachers should have in the twenty-first century. While broadly coinciding with Perrenoud (2004), he adds others such as the ability to communicate and interact with students and to reflect on and research into teaching.
Sarramona (2007) explains that teachers’ competencies should include not only technical, but also social and ethical aspects, implying that professional problems should be solved with a critical and constructive attitude (p.35). He also makes what we consider to be a very useful contribution, namely that reflection and putting reflections into pracice should be used to set both initial and ongoing teacher training targets.
For their part, Monereo and Pozo (2007) define four areas of competencies: educational (managing knowledge and learning), professional (access to employment and effectiveness as a worker), community (education in living together and interpersonal relations) and personal (self-esteem and emotional control).
Finally, the work of Tribó (2008) is particularly noteworthy, as it provides a thorough and unifying proposal on the competencies of secondary school teachers, and it is the proposal we selected for the purposes of our research. First, it is grounded on the contributions from seminal literature such as the aforementioned UNESCO report (1996), or the ‘Tuning Educational Structures in Europe’ report (González & Wagenaar, 2003), both of which represent significant groups of education experts and professionals; secondly, it adapts Monereo and Pozo’s (2007) proposal and its approach is consistent with contributions from other authors (Coll, 2007; De Miguel, 2005; Echevarría, 2002).
This author defines the areas of competency of a secondary school teacher as subject competency (learning to know), methodological competency (learning to do), social competency (learning to live together) and personal competency (learning to be).
Tribó (2008) considers a secondary school teacher to be competent when s/he knows hows to simultaneously interrelate and coordinate knowledge from the four areas defined above, in order to apply them holistically to a particular professional situation, and has acquired the skill to transfer the knowledge of this competency to new knowledge situations.
The importance of competencies in teaching praxis: learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together and learning to be
Having presented the conceptual definition of the term competency, both at a general level and specifically referring to secondary school teachers, we now turn to the question of why it is important for teachers to have the specific competencies in these four areas (namely, learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together and learning to be) as defined by Tribó (2008). While the discussion is broad, it seems appropriate to at least mention the most important aspects according to Tribó’s taxonomy.
Concerning competencies related to learning to know, the teacher must be a facilitator of learning (Torrego, 2008) and guide the acquisition of increasingly complex and broad subject matter, while placing the learner at the centre of the teaching-learning process (Martínez-Clares, Martínez-Juárez and Muñoz-Cantero, 2008). However, as Coll (2007:20) points out, it is not enough to acquire knowledge, retain it and memorise it. In other words, teachers cannot limit their activity to transmitting knowledge (traditional role) because knowledge is increasingly available to students through a range of media in today’s information society, and, consequently, teachers are no longer the only source of knowledge. They should therefore also be trained to use tools for the treatment of information and knowledge management (Gairín, 2007; Vaello, 2009).
As for learning to do competencies, when a teacher does not have sufficient methodological skills, general classroom management is difficult, the expected development of the activity is curtailed and it can therefore hamper (or impede) learning. Teachers must therefore show leadership in class, as moderators of discipline and facilitators of good relationships (Torrego, 2008). In this vein, teachers should have the mechanisms and strategies that enable them to create an educational climate in the classroom, thus guiding work in the classroom and managing this climate (Fontana, 1995). They have to integrate students’ behaviours, facilitate communication and interaction, take diversity into account when planning activities, integrate ICT, promote authority, communicate in more than one language, and so on.
As regards the learning to live together competencies, new school and educational institution structures demand greater interpersonal interaction, which can only be achieved through cooperative and non-individualistic attitudes. The fact that teaching is an inherently social activity (Vaello, 2009) means that teachers do not work in isolation, but have to relate to different members of the educational community (students, families, other professionals, and so on), and build links with them. In their work, they must therefore have the skills to interact and collaborate with others in a communicative and constructive way (Tejada, 2009) and have an ethical and respectful approach to regulations.
Moreover, a pluricultural society requires teachers who are not only able to live harmoniously with social diversity, but also draw on its richness to build open schools and societies (Monereo and Pozo, 2007).
Finally, learning to be competencies are crucial to personal interactions in schools. This dimension implies that teachers should be in control of their own emotions and know how to interpret the feelings of others and act accordingly, with empathy and reciprocity (Ortega, 2007).
We have already mentioned that teaching takes place in interactive contexts, and as such the emotions and attitudes transmitted implicitly play an essential role. Firstly, teachers should generate ‘positive emotions’ and high self-esteem in their students, both of which are essential to their development (Avia, 2007). Secondly, teachers’ own emotional states and the effectiveness of their work should also be kept in mind (Abarca, Marzo and Sala, 2002). Indeed, imbalances among these personal competencies frequently lead to insomnia, stress, absenteeism or burnout (Extremera, Durán and Rey, 2010; Silvero, 2007). As Vaello (2009:15) points out, in the past emotional competencies were recommendable (to be a good teacher); today, they are necessary (to be a teacher).
In view of the importance of these competencies in developing professional teachers and their influence on students’ personalities and teachers’ well-being, our objective is to determine how important teachers now perceive them to be, and to identify professional profiles based on these perceptions.
The specific objectives of this paper are as follows:
1. To identify the importance that teachers in Castellon attribute to teaching competencies.
2. To determine whether any teacher profiles emerge from their evaluation of these competencies, taking a multivariate perspective.
3. To classify these profiles according to the personal and contextual variables considered in the study.
The project was led by the Universitat Jaume I in collaboration with Castellon CEFIRE (Centro de Formación, Innovación y Recursos Educativos, i.e., Centre for Training, Innovation and Educational Resources) and addressed to secondary school teachers from the province and city of Castellon (N=2000 approx.) from all teaching departments in compulsory and post-compulsory secondary education, vocational training and language schools (for the sake of simplicity, we use the generic term ‘secondary’ to cover all these institutions). For the analysis we grouped subject departments into specialties (reducing 23 departments into 9 subject areas), following the classification criteria used in the Master’s in Teacher Training at the Universitat Jaume I (see Table 2).
The sample included teachers from as wide an age range as possible and with varying years of teaching experience. To this end we sought the collaboration of Castellon CEFIRE to distribute the questionnaire among secondary teachers. The sample is significant at 95% with a sampling error of 8%.
The results of our study are based on 136 responses (on paper or electronic, depending on each institution) to the questionnaire, during the period April to June 2012. Random sampling was used to select the teachers. Descriptive statistics are provided in the tables below (Tables 1 and 2).
Table 1. Sample distribution according to personal variables
Number of responses (N), mean value (Mean), minimum value (Min.), maximum value (Max.), standard deviation (S.D) and coefficient of variance (CV)
Table 2. Sample distribution according to contextual variables
Percentage (%) and number of responses (N)
Descriptive survey methodology was used, for which we developed a purposely designed questionnaire to collect the data, adapted from Tribó’s (2008) proposal as shown in Table 3. The first section consisted of six questions about the teachers’ contextual and personal variables; the second section contained 44 questions related to competencies under the headings of subject competency (Cronbach’s alpha=0.67), methodological competency (Cronbach’s alpha=0.92), social competency (Cronbach’s alpha=0.85) and personal competency (Cronbach’s alpha=0.81). Responses were made on a Likert-type scale (0 = not at all important and 3 = very important). The questionnaire was distributed, with the collaboration of the CEFIRE in Castellon, in paper and digital formats.
Table 3. Classification of competencies according to Tribó (2008)
Source: the authors, based on proposals by Tribó (2008)
Analysis and discussion of results
We now describe the results of the study after processing responses to the questionnaire using the SPSS 19.0 statistical software package for Windows and Microsoft Excel. The study objectives are dealt with in turn. We first calculated the basic descriptive statistics (mean, standard deviation and coefficient of variance) for the first objective, namely, description of perceived importance. For the second objective, analysis of the teachers’ profiles, we used k-means cluster analysis (Q-cluster). Finally, we used the Chi-squared coefficient to classify the profiles (objective 3) resulting from the personal and contextual variables.
Description of the importance attributed to competencies
We based the description of the importance teachers attributed to the competencies on the descriptive indicators obtained (Table 4).
Table 4. Basic descriptive statistics for the competency items
Number of responses (N), mean value (Mean), standard deviation (S.D) and coefficient of variance (CV)
The following evaluation scale, based on the Likert scale used in the questionnaire, was used to interpret the mean value (Table 5):
Table 5. Valuation scale of the scores
The mean obtained from the total sample (in all the items) is around 2.50, showing that, in general, teachers’ perceptions of the importance of these competencies are high.
The responses are also very homogenous, as seen from the standard deviation and coefficient of variance (0.57 and 23.68%, respectively).
The personal competencies group, associated with the teachers’ psychological traits, obtained the highest score (mean=2.68, SD=0.32), followed in importance by subject competencies (mean=2.50, SD=0.30), methodological competencies (mean=2.48, SD=0.40) and social competencies (mean=2.40, SD=0.42).
However, if we turn to the individual competency level, the item teachers value most highly is the ability to transmit knowledge (item 1.4) (mean=2.96 SD=0.23), while the least valued item is knowledge of a foreign language (item 1.10) (mean=1.58 SD=0.89).
Also of note are the low scores obtained for some key competencies for the twenty-first century (OECD, 2012), such as digital competence (items 2.16 and 2.17) and attention to diversity (items 1.6 and 2.5). Although the mean absolute value is high (ranging from 2.01 to 2.50), they were rated as less important than some traditional aspects of teaching subject content (items. 1.1, 1.2 and 1.4, are the most notable examples).
Analysis of teacher profiles based on evaluation of competencies, from a multivariate perspective
We performed a multivariate study using cluster analysis (Q-cluster), taking the mean values of the questionnaire’s dimensions as grouping variables, to analyse whether different patterns emerged in the way the competencies were evaluated.
Three significantly different clusters were obtained (Tables 6 and 7) in all the factors (a=0.01).
Table 6. Cluster analysis (profiles)
Table 7. ANOVA
Table 8. Descriptive statistics by cluster
Mean value (Mean), standard deviation (SD)
From this analysis we can distinguish between three teacher profiles, shown (Figure 1) and defined below in light of the evaluations each profile attributed to the individual items:
Some of the most notable results from the descriptive statistics for this profile (Table 8) are as follows. First, of the learning to know items, great importance is attached to having knowledge (item 1.1) as well as knowing how to transfer (item 1.4) and organise (1.5) that knowledge (all with mean=3; SD=0.00). Second, the most highly valued of the methodological competencies is ability to manage the classroom climate (item 2.1, mean=3, SD=0.00). The least valued items in the learning to live together group concern relationships with other actors in the educational community (item 3.8; mean=2.62; SD= 0.54) and research into educational practice (item 3.9; mean=2.38; SD= 0.54). In the area of personal characteristics, the relatively low score for leadership and taking on responsibilities is notable in this group (item 4.3, mean=2.56, SD=0.50).
It is noteworthy that this group perceives knowledge of pedagogy and psychology (item 1.6, mean=2.10, SD=0.67) and language competency (item 1 9; mean=2.13, SD=0.65) to be less important. Of the items from the methodology dimension, they also attach a great deal of importance to managing the classroom climate (item 2.1, mean=2.83, SD=0.38) but significantly less to technological competencies (item 2.16, mean=2.10; SD=0.54). As in the high profile group, relationships with the educational community (item 3.8, mean=2.08, SD=0.35) and educational research (item 3.9, mean=2.10, SD=0.59) are not highly valued. Finally, this group also considers leadership and taking on responsibilities (item 4.3, mean=2.45, SD=0.55) to be less important.
The teachers in this profile consider the most important competency in the learning to know dimension to be the most traditional aspect, namely, knowledge of the subject (item 1.1, mean=2.94, SD=0.24). Of the learning to do items, greater importance is attributed to classroom management (item 2.1, mean=2.65, SD=0.48) than the other competencies in this group. Finally, in the social dimension the most highly valued competency is stimulating students to formulate rules for living together (item 3.1, mean=2.17, SD=0.62).
Characterisation of professional profiles according to personal and contextual variables
Having defined each cluster (profile), we then examined the differences in personal and contextual variables to characterise the profiles. To do this, we calculated contingency tables with Chi-square and likelihood ratio tests (the latter was considered when the observed frequencies were lower than 5) based on the respondent’s group or profile and the variable considered.
a) Personal variables
The personal variables included in the study were years of teaching experience and age, grouped into ranges of 5 and 10 years, respectively.
The results reveal no significant differences for any of the variables considered in this section. It therefore appears that personal variables are not relevant to explain differences in the perceived importance of competencies.
b) Contextual variables
The contextual variables considered were the location and size of the school/institution, subject type (basic sciences, arts, applied subjects), the subject department and the level taught.
The statistical analysis revealed no significant differences in any of the variables. However, concerning school/institution size (with a significance level close to 95%), grouped into three ranges according to the number of students, teachers working in larger institutions (over 1,000 students) attribute the most importance to competencies, while those from medium-sized institutions (between 500 and 1,000 students) give the lowest ratings. The importance attributed by teachers in small institutions (fewer than 500 students) was average.
We also conducted a stepwise discriminant analysis to discover the extent to which the questionnaire variables are good predictors for classifying teachers by profiles.
The results show very high discriminatory power of the items, with 89.8% correctly classified. The items that best discriminate between the profiles are listed in the following table (Table 9) and have mean values that in all cases are ordered from the highest to the lowest rating in the corresponding profile, with the exception of item 1.1, which was rated higher in the low profile than in the medium profile:
Table 9. Items that best discriminate
These results allow us to deduce the following general characterisation of teachers in the province of Castellon (Table 10):
Table 10. Profiles of secondary teachers in Castellon according to their evaluation of competencies
The overall aim of this study was to analyse the degree of importance that secondary teachers in the province of Castellon attribute to competencies, and to classify teachers in profiles in line with their evaluation of these competencies.
Our first objective was to analyse the teachers’ evaluations of competencies from basic descriptive statistics; results indicate that this group considers competencies to be important, although with certain qualifications.
Thus, although personal competencies were the most highly rated as a group, at the individual item level, the most highly rated competency was the ability to transmit knowledge, and the competency with the lowest rating, knowledge of a foreign language. In addition, other core competencies for education in the twenty-first century (ICT, attention to diversity, teamwork, etc.) obtained lower scores than those related to theoretical knowledge.
Such high evaluations for the knowledge-related competencies seems to suggest that the professional profile of teachers today is closer to the traditional academic or subject specialist model. This conclusion reveals a need to redesign the teacher’s role to ensure that teachers are firmly convinced that teaching is not just transferring knowledge (Freire, 1997:24). Ultimately, the focus of educational institutions and, therefore, teachers, must be to train competent students (Alonso-Martín, 2010). To do this, teachers have to accompany their students through the teaching-learning process, and find new alternative ways to engage them (Limón et al., 2011) by applying the necessary competencies.
The second and third objectives of our study were to determine whether any differentiating patterns emerged from the teachers’ evaluations and, if so, to define them according to the personal and contextual variables included in the questionnaire.
Multivariate analysis uncovered three significantly different teacher profiles. We found, in short, that while some teachers are well aware of the importance of competencies (High Profile), other groups prioritise possession of knowledge over competencies relevant to today’s context, such as those relating to methodology or participation in the school (Medium and Low profiles).
These results may be due, at least in part, to inadequate training of secondary teachers; as Esteve (2001:16) notes, we continue training our secondary teachers to teach impossible classes in schools and educational institutions that no longer exist.
Thus, bearing in mind what Sarramona (2007) says on the importance of reflecting on teachers’ competencies when drawing up training proposals, this study highlights the need for training measures that will raise student teachers’ perceptions of the importance of competencies, thus better preparing them and empowering them to meet the new social demands of education (Esteve, 2001).
Further, as we state at the beginning of the article, educating today is not so much about training in content organised into subjects as preparing for changes in knowledge (learning to know), skills, abilities or procedures (learning to do), feelings and attitudes (learning to live together and learning to be) (Tejada, 2009). Teacher training programmes should therefore be designed to meet these requirements.
In this study we focused on teachers’ opinions about the four areas of competencies proposed by Tribó (2008); however we highlight the need for future research since we recognise this to be an ongoing process, open to additional proposals that will enrich it further.
Hence, following Blández’s (2000) methodology, we propose a triangulation addressed from two perspectives:
First, students could be involved because they are directly affected by the teacher’s actions and are protagonists in the teaching-learning process (Álvarez-Rojo et al., 2011). They are direct witnesses to teachers’ work, are in daily contact with them, and their expectations about what, how and why to learn lie with their teachers; the response they receive to these questions therefore impacts their performance and behaviour in one way or another.
Second, families place their trust in the school and its responsibility for providing their children with quality education (Cardús, 2007). For parents, this quality is achieved, in part, by an education system with teachers who are trained in and possess certain professional competencies that they apply in the right way in their children’s classrooms.
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Please provide the following information:
a. Location of your school/institution
b. School/institution size
c. Teacher of:
d. Your subject department:
e. Years of teaching experience in secondary education: ______
f. Age: ____
Please indicate the degree of importance you attribute to each of the competencies listed below (0=not at all important, and 3=very important).
1. SCIENTIFIC COMPETENCIES (Learning to know)
2. METHODOLOGICAL COMPETENCIES (Learning to do)
3. SOCIAL COMPETENCIES (Learning to live together)
4. PERSONAL COMPETENCIES (Learning to be)
Chi-square test (only significant results)
School/Institution (number of students)
a. 1 box (11.1%) have an expected frequency of below 5. The minimum expected frequency is 3.04
ARTICLE RECORD / FICHA DEL ARTÍCULO
Title / Título
Teaching competences in Secondary Education. Analysis of teachers’ profiles. [Competencias docentes en secundaria. Análisis de perfiles de profesorado].
Authors / Autores
Ferrández-Berrueco, Reina & Sánchez-Tarazaga, Lucía
Review / Revista
|RELIEVE (Revista ELectrónica de Investigación y EValuación Educativa), v. 20 n. 1|
Publication date /
Fecha de publicación
2014 (Reception Date: 2013 November 30 ; Approval Date: 2014 April 17. Publication Date: 2014 May 30)
Abstract / Resumen
This paper reports some of the findings from a study that aimed to analyse the importance attributed by secondary education teachers from the province of Castellon (Spain) to teaching competencies and to establish professional profiles from their responses. The survey was based on a purposely designed questionnaire answered by a representative sample of 136 secondary teachers from Castellon, representing 23 school departments. From an analysis of the responses we identified three professional profiles based on the importance that teachers attribute to a range of competencies; although all the competencies were valued highly, we found that teachers still consider the traditional delivery of knowledge to be the most relevant competency.
En el presente trabajo se muestran los resultados de una investigación cuyo objetivo ha sido analizar la importancia que el profesorado de secundaria de la provincia de Castellón otorga a las competencias docentes y determinar los perfiles profesionales en función de las respuestas dadas. La investigación llevada a cabo se ha basado en un estudio de encuesta, cuyo cuestionario ha sido aplicado a una muestra representativa de 136 profesores de secundaria de Castellón, integrado por 23 departamentos didácticos. Los resultados obtenidos han permitido caracterizar tres perfiles profesionales en función de la importancia otorgada a las competencias y, si bien todas ellas han sido valoradas de manera elevada, se aprecia que se sigue confiriendo mayor relevancia a la transmisión tradicional de conocimientos.
Keywords / Descriptores
Teaching competences, Secondary Education, teacher profile, 21st century education, multivariate analysis.
Competencias docentes, Educación Secundaria, perfil docente, educación siglo XXI, análisis multivariado.
Institution / Institución
Universitat Jaume I (Castellón, España).
Publication site / Dirección
Language / Idioma
Español & English version (Title, abstract and keywords in English & Spanish)
Volumen 20, n. 1
© Copyright, RELIEVE. Reproduction and distribution of this article is authorized if the content is no modified and its origin is indicated (RELIEVE Journal, volume, number and electronic address of the document).
© Copyright, RELIEVE. Se autoriza la reproducción y distribución de este artículo siempre que no se modifique el contenido y se indique su origen (RELIEVE, volumen, número y dirección electrónica del documento).
[ ISSN: 1134-4032 ]
Revista ELectrónica de Investigación y EValuación Educativa
E-Journal of Educational Research, Assessment and Evaluation