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“Actually, the development of education is a false image”

2024-07-01 13:07:00

Mathematical anxiety is a cross-generational phenomenon that Máté Farkas-Kis attributes partly to the role of teachers and their behavior patterns. How did this develop and what trends support it? In our article, we present an element of his research.
Budapesti Corvinus Egyetem

Written by: Bogos Katalin

Cover photo: AI

During the Research Week, Farkas-Kis Máté, a PhD student at Corvinus University of Budapest, presented a part of his research about mathematical competencies in his lecture entitled Toxic Instructors – In the Trap of Learned Impotence. Among other things, he disputed the often-spoken view that “children bring their behavior from home” as students spend most of their days in school, so the behaviors they see there will have a dominate effect on them.

At least one educator is associated with each root

– adding, that adult behavior, decision-making and leadership patterns can be traced back to elementary school. 

Teacher and Student Attitudes

Máté asked the audience what traits they think a good teacher should have. The following opinions were expressed: inspiring, empathic, curious about the student and the world, enthusiastic, motivating, smart, dedicated, authentic and open-minded. However, the ideal characteristics are not present in the majority of teachers.

At the same time, students also have different motivations for the subjects they need to learn. These were divided by Elizabeth Linnenbrink and Paul Pintrich into four types, illustrated in a 2×2 table. Its lines are avoidance and approximation orientation, and its columns are mastery and performance motivation. Thus, the attitude of the students will be among the following:

  • Avoid not being understood.
  • Avoid bad assessment.
  • Understand the material as much as possible.
  • Achieving the best possible results.

So students are located somewhere in the space presented, and instructors face the challenges of this, while also meeting a complex system of roles. Helga Lange-Garritsen identified five types of teaching roles: co-parental, collegial, pedagogical, official and public.

Máté presented two role-identification groups that can occur in teachers. The classification associated with the name of Lothar Krappmann distinguishes five levels. The first is complete identification, when one feels the role for himself and acts from the heart. The next level is formal fulfillment, which always implies compliance with a given role without complete identification. When a person pretends to fit the role, it is called a play, when you disagree, you only pretend to agree. The pre-last level of compliance is the compulsive situation when there is no choice but to perform the role. Finally, the reinterpretation, which means re-interpreting the rules of the role. The other grouping method, according to László Zrinszky, distinguishes four types of identification: total, basic, partial and played roles.

The fact that children take on the roles they have seen or said is repeatedly proven, which is why Feldmár András argued that “during education, our parents suggerate us into different roles.” However, this is not achieved only by our parents, but also through our teachers, as they are the ones who review our performance every day and incatulate into groups such as “good pupils” and “bad pupils”. In addition, the level of training is also important, as the quality of the relationship changes at different levels. For example, in the elementary school there are still subordinated and senior relationships, but in the more fortunate case of doctoral training, teachers and students are already communicating with each other as equal parties.


Based on the results of the research, mathematical competencies are correlated with the groups in which young people are suggetated in. A typical example of this is that girls are great at human subjects and boys are in mathematical ones. After a while, these classifications will become self-fulfilling and we will turn them into a total role within ourselves. When Máté examined the employees of a company, he noticed that the HR director, who claimed to be entirely human disposed, actually possessed outstanding mathematical skills, which was reflected in her structured thinking, which she got the job for. From this, we can conclude that when abilities are suppressed, they do not disappear, but appear in a different form. However, because of the total roles assumed, feelings such as mathematical anxiety arise due to the teacher’s reinforcement of the thought “you’re not good enough” in the student. So, it is important to find out what is the motivation of a teacher in a position of power.

By examining the mathematical achievements of students at different educational institutions, it appears that at first the young pupils have a very close connection to mathematics, their performance is also high in average. However, this relationship is rapidly decreasing as well as the average, and the variance is increasing. From this polarization, we can conclude that something goes wrong after elementary school, which also causes students to deteriorate their mathematical performance, although this still makes the majority consider themselves to be rational decision-makers. However, because of the continuous experiences of failure, most students feel as they are less and less rational decision-makers, and in school the human subjects become a priority, because the successes achieved there motivate them in contrast to mathematical failures. With positive feedback, however, it is possible to regain students’ self-confidence and enthusiasm by stopping the tendency to believe they are not good enough.

At the same time, the question arises why this is the fault of the teachers

–  Máté said. During his research, he also compared the love of math, the attitude toward the teacher and the extent of the object’s presumed usefulness. From the data he obtained, it is clear that the trend is very similar in different categories, so it can be stated that the love of the subject depends mostly on the teachers. Furthermore, the judgment of usefulness can also be included here, which can only be overcome by consciousness. This is confirmed by the responses of students on academic courses. Máté Farkas-Kis also highlighted that the deterioration of performance is usually viewed by students as their own fault, which may reduce their performance later, as a kind of self-reinforcing process. In fact, there is a close correlation between teachers as the main cause of performance deterioration, because the experience ist heyshould  not expect, but to motivate learning.

Generational Trends

Comparing the performance of different age groups and their feelings for the subject of mathematics, it appears that the ratios at different levels of education are almost the same, and the level of correlation between them in all cases is above 0.9. This means that the trends have not changed thorough four generations, which leads to two important conclusions, according to Máté Farkas-Kis. On the one hand, it shows that talking about the development of education is a false picture, because there is no substantial change in performance only if the student goes to a private teacher. Another result, more positive, is that it is possible to change performance with motivating and enthusiastic attitudes.

The parallel of generations calls for the need to change the style of teaching

– emphasized Máté, adding that the gap between generations creates difficulties in teaching because teachers and students have different ways of thinking and are less able to understand each other. “We are thus we reach the trap of learned helplessness” – in which educators are unable to adequately adapt to the challenges arising from generational differences, therefore determining that history – mathematical and other disciplinary failures – will repeat itself over and over again.

According to Farkas-Kis Máté, the solution to this is that the teacher, who is sufficiently dedicated, should take on roles with which they achieve that the students are motivated.

The real question is whether educators can let go of their own generation’s communication, conflict management and motivation habits

–  he said, referring to the fact that the continuing tension can only be avoided in this way. According to Máté, teachers need to rethink their goals and adjust their roles accordingly.

Source: KGO („Az oktatás fejlődése valójában egy hamis kép” – Közgazdász Online (blog.hu))

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GEN.:2024.07.20. - 03:43:39