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Differences in Authoritative, Authoritarian & Permissive Teachers

by Michael Stratford, studioD

It isn't possible to demand that teachers always be authoritative, as opposed to authoritarian or permissive; there are too many variations in classroom interactions to demand only one style all the time. Nonetheless, the differences among authoritative, authoritarian and permissive teaching styles -- which are also parenting styles -- are based on only two concepts: control and involvement with students.

Permissiveness Is Lax but Popular

Permissive teachers are popular, but have a low control threshold; their locus is self- rather than other-centered, they make few demands on students and they generally show apathy toward student progress. This particular style, despite its lax control and relaxed student involvement, is suitable -- albeit not ideal -- for a learning situation in which advanced students, the kind that need little or no supervision, complete independent studies or advanced projects on their own.The teacher isn't required as an educator; his role is only as a supervisor, and a dissociated one at that.

Authoritarianism Is Potentially Troubling

Authoritarian teachers are the antithesis of permissive supervisors, as they set out insuperable barriers to student-teacher involvement, which effectively distance them from personal connection to pupils. Their rules are copious and absolutely enforced; in a classroom setting, the authoritarian is a dictator who frequently lectures, encourages little interaction and establishes fervent competition among students. Inevitably, the authoritarian's atmosphere is fearful and punitive, as this teacher exercises rigorous control but shows little interest in involvement. Administrators consider authoritarians suitable for "trouble-making" classes, as they maintain order; sadly, it's at the cost of potentially positive interaction.

Authoritativeness Optimizes Control and Involvement

The authoritative teacher manages the best of both worlds with regard to control and student involvement. He maintains not only high behavioral expectations but also classroom rigor and relationships; he usually encourages interactions and is warm and inviting to students. He is open and friendly, even though his boundaries are clearly established; he is a steady and reliable role model. An authoritative teacher praises and motivates students; he encourages respect and cooperative learning among students. Best of all, his authority allows him to take students along on the journey to teacher-pupil interactive discovery.

Which Works Best

The main difference between authoritative, authoritarian and permissive teachers, beyond their low or high control or involvement, is how well each style interacts in most classroom settings. Permissive and authoritarian styles function well in selected classrooms; the authoritative style is ideal for many more educational settings, and an authoritarian teacher finds himself able to handle, encourage and establish both control and involvement in the majority of classrooms.

About the Author

Michael Stratford is a National Board-certified and Single Subject Credentialed teacher with a Master of Science in educational rehabilitation (University of Montana, 1995). He has taught English at the 6-12 level for more than 20 years. He has written extensively in literary criticism, student writing syllabi and numerous classroom educational paradigms.

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