My Authoritarian/Authority Teaching Experiences

The question of Authority versus Authoritarian pedagogy was raised during our last lecture, while we were discussing the key differences between critical pedagogy and the Banking model described by Paulo Freire in his book: “Pedagogy of freedom”. Discussing this specific topic brought back many memories from my Primary and High School years. I will describe some of these experiences in this blog.

According to Freire, authoritarian pedagogy is the form of teaching whereby teachers are the supreme authority in the class. Teachers “know everything and students know nothing”. “When they talk, students have to listen meekly”. Also, the teacher is the only one who disciplines and the students are disciplined. On the other hand, the authority way of teaching is more liberal. The authority (here the teacher) “is no longer merely the-one-who-teaches, but one who is himself taught in dialogue with the students, who in turn while being taught also teach”.

It is undoubtedly clear that the authority type of teaching will foster an environment conducive to learning. Throughout my primary and high school years, I experienced the authoritarian way of teaching. We were supposed to be perfect in class. A slight mistake or infringement of the teacher’s rigid class rules could be worth a battery. Some teachers even viewed the simple act of asking questions as a challenge to their knowledge and can use that opportunity to punish the whole class. Overall, my college experience was a bit different from my high school and primary school ones.  However, my undergraduate experience was just as awful. Professors were labeled “Semi-God”, to refer to the fact that your future is in their hands. In other words, they could decide to fail you in their specific class if you don’t respect their rules, regardless of how well you perform in their exams.

For the most part, my grad school experience, on the other hand, is so refreshing. I experienced a different way of teaching, whereby the lecture is totally open for students to ask questions and to have a dialog with their teachers. The latter facilitated this dialog by being completely humble and putting themselves at the same level of knowledge as students. Looking back, I don’t regret having experienced the authoritarian way of teaching. On the contrary, I am actually grateful to have experienced both the authoritarian and the authority types of teaching. This has helped me discover the best and most effective teaching methods. And for someone aspiring to go into teaching, I look at these experiences as great lessons that I can build on to be the best possible teacher.

3 Replies to “My Authoritarian/Authority Teaching Experiences”

  1. Thanks for your post! I have had similar authoritarian professors/instructors in my various learning experiences and, like you said, I’m actually thankful for having them. My experience in their respective classrooms taught me how I don’t want to run my future classroom, as well as gain newfound respect for professors/instructors who actively work to foster a more inclusive environment.

  2. Thank you for your write up. I too, experienced this authoritarian teaching in the classroom, but as I read this, I suddenly had a flashback to my childhood Sunday School classes. Without going down the religious route, I will summarize by saying that in my early years, much of those classes were very much focused on memorization and being told how it was. There was no opportunity to ask “why?” or seek further clarifications – it was what it was and I had to accept it. When I got to high school, my pastor assigned me a new teacher – an 80-year-old man who was a historian on a different faith. It was just Dave and I, which seems like such an odd combination. But instead of him dictating to me, it was a conversation – he encouraged my questions and we had great discussions about the lessons. I can honestly say, that was probably the most impactful experience of my religious education. Unfortunately, it was determined that Dave’s teaching skills would be better suited to an older crowd, so he and I were moved to different classes where I was forced back into an authoritarian approach. It did not sit well and unfortunately had a negative lasting effect. All of this is to say, it doesn’t matter the topic, approach means everything!

  3. I think the authoritarian way of teaching is still out there and I agree with you that it is most prevalent in elementary, middle or high school. However I felt in my undergraduates the teacher and student relationship was kind of authoritarian than being liberal like here in the states. I feel like it is also the cultural shift that I am facing after coming here. Like culturally teachers are given the position of guardians in my country- of course that does not mean the parents or guardians always have to be authoritarian- but they are stricter than most of others. I believe it is about practice and to what limit you want to discipline the class without being authoritarian.

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