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What does the Australian teacher look like? Australian typologies for teacher-student interpersonal behaviour

Tony Rickards
Curtin University of Technology
Perry den Brok
Utrecht University
Darrell Fisher
Curtin University of Technology
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Development of an Australian typology of interpersonal teacher behaviour has not been done before. This study reports on the first such typology. Teacher interpersonal behaviour was measured by asking students for their perceptions of their teachers' interpersonal behaviour using the Questionnaire on Teacher Interaction (QTI). Earlier work of the QTI in the Netherlands revealed eight different interpersonal styles. These eight styles were later confirmed in an American sample of Secondary school teachers.

The present study investigates to what extent the earlier found typology also applies to a sample of Australian secondary school teachers. For this purpose, student perception data have been aggregated to the class level. We first checked with SPSS whether the eight types found in the Netherlands and USA were also present in the Australian data. A cluster analysis using various clustering methods and procedures was used to determine Australian typologies and compare this to earlier Dutch findings. Results of the cluster analyses were verified by analyses of variance (ANOVA), by plotting QTI scale scores graphically and by presenting a set of sector graphics to two independent researchers and having them sort these into different styles as found in the statistical analyses.


According to the systems approach of communication (Watzlawick, Beavin and Jackson, 1967), behaviour of the participants involved in communication can be studied at three levels: single acts (molecular level), series of acts (interaction level) and recurring and repeating series of interactions (pattern level). Research on teacher interpersonal behaviour has shown that, in the classroom, teacher-student communication patterns develop during the first few weeks of the school year and after this period remain relatively stable (Wubbels & levy, 1993; Wubbels, Creton & Hooymayers, 1985; 1987). Moreover, this research has also shown that these patterns are distinct and take typical, very recognisable forms (eg. Wubbels, Brekelmans & Hermans, 1987; Wubbels & Levy, 1991).

To map, analyse and describe teacher behaviour at the pattern level, and with both research and teacher (training) feedback purposes in mind, a typology of interpersonal teaching styles was developed (Brekelmans, Levy & Rodriguez, 1993). Evidence was found for the existence of 8 distinct interpersonal types: directive teaching, authoritative, tolerant and authoritative, tolerant, uncertain and tolerant, uncertain and aggressive, repressive and drudging teaching. These 8 types consistently appeared in both American and Dutch samples of teachers (eg. Wubbels & Brekelmans, 1998). Using classroom observation, each of these styles was further described in terms of typical student and teacher behaviour (eg. Levy, Rodriguez & Wubbels, 1992; Wubbels, et al., 1987).

This study was conducted with several goals in mind. First, apart from a typology by Fraser (1986) and the typology of interpersonal teaching styles described above, not much research has been conducted to typify learning environments[1]. Research checking for the cross-cultural validity of such styles is even less common (eg. den Brok, Fisher, Brekelmans, Rickards & Wubbels, in press). Third, while the typology of interpersonal teaching styles has been validated for teachers in the Netherlands and the USA, there is no information with respect to its applicability to Australian teachers. The current study tries to investigate to what extent the existing typology applies to Australian teachers and what types of interpersonal styles appear to be present in a large sample of Australian secondary school teachers.

Teacher-student interpersonal behaviour

Because teachers communicate in many ways, they naturally develop different types of relationships with students. Some teachers are businesslike and others lenient. Some are distant and others friendly. To describe these characteristics more clearly, the communication model of Timothy Leary (Leary, 1957), a clinical psychologist, was adopted. Leary stated that communication can be described along two dimensions - a Dominance/Submission dimension, and a Cooperation/Opposition dimension.

Figure 1

Figure 1: The Leary model for interpersonal communication.

Occasionally, the dimensions have been given different names by educationalists, such as 'status' and 'solidarity' (Brown, 1985), 'warmth' and 'directivity' (Dunkin & Biddle, 1974), or 'authority' and 'affiliation' (Slater, 1962). We can record the behaviour of all participants in a discussion according to these dimensions on a graph like the one shown in Figure 1.

The communication of both (or all) parties in an interaction can be recorded on the chart according to how cooperative they are (Proximity), who is controlling the interaction and to what degree (Influence). Researchers subsequently applied the model to teaching (Wubbels & Levy, 1993). They built a paradigm which divided Leary's original two dimensions into the eight different sectors shown in Figure 2, which demonstrates how the Leary model can be translated to the classroom: the Model for Interpersonal Teacher Behaviour (MITB).

Figure 2

Figure 2: The model for Interpersonal Teacher Behaviour
(from: Wubbels & Levy, 1993)

The figure shows how the interactions described above may be represented in the model. The eight sectors are labelled DC, CD, etc. according to their position in the co-ordinate system (much like the directions on a compass). For example, the two sectors DC and CD are both characterised by Dominance and Co-operation. In the DC sector, however the Dominance aspect prevails over the Co-operation aspect. Thus, a teacher displaying leadership (DC) might be explaining something to the class, organising groups, making assignments, and the like. The adjacent helpful/friendly (CD) sector includes behaviours of a more co-operative and less dominant character, and the teacher might be seen assisting students, or acting friendly or considerate. The boundaries between sectors are not strict, as there is ove rlap between neighbouring categories. For example, behaviour such as listening to students has both Helpful/Friendly and Understanding characteristics. On the other hand, sectors opposite each other on the chart describe opposite behaviour (Student Responsibility/Freedom vs. Strict, for example).

It is important to note that teachers can exhibit acceptable behaviour in each sector. There are situations in which it is appropriate for a teacher to be dissatisfied, or uncertain, or admonishing (or any other category). It appears that most teachers have communication styles with behaviours in every category.

To assess interpersonal teacher behaviour, the Questionnaire on Teacher Interaction (QTI) was designed according to the two-dimensional Leary model and the eight sectors. It was originally developed in the Netherlands and consisted of 77 items (Wubbels, et al., 1985), a 64-item American version was constructed in 1988 (Wubbels & Levy, 1991) and an Australian 48-items version in 1993 (Fisher, Fraser & Wubbels, 1993). Items were formulated, based on large numbers of interviews with both teachers and students, and the construction process of the questionnaire included many rounds of careful testing (Wubbels & Levy, 1993).

The QTI has a five-point response scale, ranging from "Never/Not at all" to "Always/Very." It is scored on the basis of eight sectors or two summarising dimensions of Influence (or DS) and Proximity (or CO). The Dominance/Submission (DS) dimension is primarily comprised of behaviours in the sectors closest to the DS axis - strict, leadership, uncertainty and student responsibility/freedom. The sectors that mostly make up the Co-operation/Opposition (CO) dimension are helpful/friendly, understanding, dissatisfied and admonishing. In Table 1 typical items are provided for each of the eight sectors of the QTI.

Table 1: Typical items of the English version of the QTI

Scale (sector)Typical item
DC - leadershipThis teacher acts confidently.
CD - helpful/ friendlyThis teacher is friendly.
CS - understandingThis teacher is patient.
SC - student responsibility/freedomWe can influence this teacher
SO - uncertainThis teacher is hesitant.
OS - dissatisfiedThis teacher is suspicious.
OD - admonishingThis teacher gets angry quickly.
DO - strictThis teacher is strict.

The QTI has acceptable reliability and validity when used in grades 7 to 12 (Wubbels & Levy, 1993). A recent review on the validity and reliability of over 20 studies that have used the QTI during the last 17 years (den Brok, 2001) showed that reliability of the eight scales (sectors) is sufficient and consistent across classes. Moreover, the review showed that the theoretical structure of the Model for Interpersonal Teacher Behaviour was represented in the items and scales of the instrument.

Research on interpersonal teaching styles

Using data gathered with the QTI, researchers conducted cluster analyses (Wishart, 1978; Everitt, 1980) to come up with a typology of interpersonal teaching styles (eg. Brekelmans, et al., 1993; Wubbels, et al., 1987). As noted before (see Rationale section) these interpersonal types have been labelled as directive, authoritative, tolerant and authoritative, tolerant, uncertain and tolerant, uncertain and aggressive, repressive and drudging. These types can be characterised in terms of the two dimensions in the Model for Interpersonal Teacher Behaviour. In Figure 3 we summarise each of the eight types by means of a main point indicated by the first letters of their names in the co-ordinate system of the two dimensions.

The Authoritative, the Tolerant/Authoritative and the Tolerant type are patterns in which students perceive their teachers relatively high on the Proximity Dimension, with the Tolerant type lowest on the Influence Dimension. Less cooperative than the three previous types are the Directive type, the Uncertain/Tolerant and the Drudging type, with the Uncertain/Tolerant type lowest on the Dominance Dimension. The least cooperative pattern of interpersonal relationships have Repressive and Uncertain/Aggressive type classes. In Repressive type classes, teachers are the most dominant of all eight types.

Figure 3

Figure 3: Main points of the eight types of patterns of interpersonal relationships.
A = Authoritative, Di = Directive, Dr = Drudging ,T = Tolerant, R = Repressive,
TA = Tolerant/Authoritative, UA = Uncertain/Aggressive, UT = Uncertain/Tolerant

In Figure 4 the types are also characterised by means of graphic representations using the eight sections of the Model of Interpersonal Teacher Behaviour. The greater the shaded part in each section the more the pattern of interpersonal relationships is characterised by this sector [2] (see Figure 2).

Figure 4

Figure 4: Graphic representations of the 8 types of patterns of interpersonal relationships.

Research also linked the eight interpersonal types to various class and teacher characteristics (see Appendix A). For example, Brekelmans et al. (1993) found that directive, authoritative and tolerant teachers realised more reality learning, activity learning and participation learning in their classroom than the other interpersonal types. A later study confirmed these findings by showing that tolerant and authoritative, authoritative and directive teachers realised more active learning in their classroom (Brekelmans, Sleegers & Fraser, 2000). Teacher experience and age also appeared to be linked to communication type (Brekelmans, et al., 1993; Wubbels, et al., 1987). Older, experienced teachers are represented more frequently among the directive and repressive types. Younger, less experienced teachers appear more frequently in the drudging, authoritative and tolerant categories. Associations have also been found between the way in which teachers would like to relate to the students and the students' view of their interpersonal type (Brekelmans, et al., 1993): drudging teachers prefer to be least dominant and highly cooperative (but never achieve this goal), directive and repressive teachers prefer to be most dominant and only want to show average cooperation. It is argued that repressive teachers, who realise least cooperation, might mistake aggression for dominance, which is one of the reasons why their classes are tense. Drudging teachers have found to be most open to innovation, repressive teachers least inclined to innovate (Brekelmans, et al., 1993). In the Brekelmans study, job satisfaction was not found to relate to teacher-behaviour styles.

Of course, each of the eight interpersonal types have also been linked to student outcomes (Brekelmans, Wubbels & Levy, 1993). Repressive teachers, followed by tolerant and directive teachers, realised highest achievement. Lowest achievement was found in classes of uncertain-tolerant and uncertain-aggressive teachers. Highest motivation has been found in classes of authoritative, tolerant-authoritative and directive teachers, lowest motivation in classes of drudging and uncertain-aggressive teachers. The pattern found for the tolerant-authoritative teachers approximates the image of the 'best' or 'ideal' teacher closest.

One study investigated how supervising teachers' interpersonal style related to student teachers' satisfaction with their supervision and perceived school climate by the student teachers (Kremer-Hayon & Wubbels, 1992). It was found that supervising teachers with a tolerant-authoritative or authoritative style realised high student teacher satisfaction with supervision, whereas drudging teachers realise d low satisfaction in their student teachers. Interestingly, student teachers' perception of the school climate was most positive if their supervising teacher showed a tolerant-authoritative, uncertain-tolerant or drudging interpersonal style.

In a cross-national study comparing teaching styles from science teachers in Australia, United States, the Netherlands, Singapore and Brunei (den Brok, et al., in press), a similar distribution of interpersonal styles was found for the Netherlands and USA, while only three types of teachers were found in Singapore, Brunei and Australia: authoritative, tolerant-authoritative and directive teachers. While the authors argued that this result in part might have been caused by sampling and use of different QTI versions, a relevant question would be to what extent the typology found and constructed with American and Dutch samples applies to Australian samples. This study was initiated with that particular question in mind.

Research questions

This study investigated the following research questions:



For the purpose of the present study, one large data set was constructed out of several prior studies conducted in various stages in Australia during the past decade. In total, five data sets containing students' perceptions of their teachers were combined. The first set consisted of 103 students from 5 teachers originating from Queensland; the second set of 416 students from 17 teachers from Victoria and Queensland; the third set of 3707 students from 191 teachers in Tasmania and Western Australia; the fourth set of 323 students from 5 teachers (14 classes) from Victoria; and the fifth and last set consisted of 1599 students from 65 teachers teaching in Queensland. In total, data from 6148 students from 283 teachers were combined, resulting in the largest database of student perceptions on the QTI in Australia to date. The sample thus consisted of teachers from four states in Australia and was sufficiently diverse to encompass the possible range of interpersonal behaviours to be found in Australia.


The Australian 48-item version of the QTI was used in all five sets that comprised the sample for this study. In order to make sure that sectors and dimensions of the Model for Interpersonal Behaviour were adequately represented by QTI scales, reliability and validity of the instrument for this sample were carefully checked.

Table 2 contains reliability (Cronbach Alpha) at the student and class level for each of the scales of the QTI, as well as intra-class correlation coefficients, which indicate the ratio of variance between the class and student level.

Table 2: Reliability (alpha) of QTI scales at the student and class level
and intra-class correlation coefficients (ICC)

Student level
Class level
DC - leadership.81.92.26
CD - helpful/friendly.86.93.25
CS - understanding.83.93.23
SC - student responsibility/ freedom.65.85.21
SO - uncertain.69.82.18
OS - dissatisfied.79.90.15
OD - admonishing.77.86.24
DO - strict.62.79.17

Reliability of all scales of the QTI at the class level are satisfying and close to or above .80, with the lowest reliability for the strict (DO) scale and the highest reliability for the understanding (CS) scale. Intra-class correlations are around .20, indicating that the scales are sufficiently able to distinguish between different classes and teachers. Intra-class correlations are lowest for dissatisfied (OS) and highest for leadership (DC).

Validity was investigated in a number of ways. First, an exploratory factor analysis was conducted on the (aggregated) scale-scores in order to see whether two dimensions were present in the data (see den Brok, Fisher, Brekelmans, Rickards, Wubbels, Levy & Waldrip, 2003). This analysis indicated that two factors with an eigenvalue larger than one could be extracted, explaining 75 percent of the variance. Inspection of the factor loadings suggested two dimensions that could be labelled in terms of influence and proximity. Second, correlations were computed between scales at the class level (these can be found in Appendix B). This correlation matrix was then investigated for its circular structure by computing a Correspondence Index (with the RANDALL-software; Tracey, 1994; Tracey & Schneider, 1995). The correspondence index indicates to what degree and with what probability a correlation matrix corresponds to a circumplex structure. If a circumplex model applies to the data, correlations should be highly positive for neighbouring scales, dropping until they become highly negative with scales on the opposite end of the interpersonal circle (Gurtman & Pincus, 2000). CI for the correlation matrix in Appendix B was .74 (p=.0004), indicating that a circular ordering applies to the scales of the QTI for the present sample.

To further explore whether the MITB applied to the data we conducted multilevel confirmatory factor analyses (with Mplus). Two models were tested, the ideal interpersonal circumplex model (eg. den Brok, et al., 2003; Levy, den Brok, Wubbels & Rodriguez, 2003; Fabrigar, Visser & Browne, 1997; Gaines, Panter, Lyde, Steers, Rusbult, Cox & Wexler, 1997) and the irregular circumplex model (a model with two, independent dimensions and free factor loadings; eg. Fabrigar, et al., 1997; Gaines, et al., 1997). In both models, no particular model was specified for the student level of the data (meaning that correlations were reproduced at this level with a saturated (eg. Hox, 1995) model). The ideal circumplex model, specifying scale positions exactly as shown in Figure 2, displayed reasonable fit (Chi-squared = 608.74 with p = .000; CFI = .97; TLI = .93; RMSEA = .06 and SRMR = .17 for the between level). While some of these model fit indicators suggested acceptable fit, others indicated that model fit could be improved. Model fit for the irregular circumplex model was satisfying (Chi-squared = 239.94 with p = .000; CFI = .99; TLI = .95; RMSEA = .05; SRMR = .05 for the between level). Factor loadings of the irregular model are graphically displayed in Figure 5.

Figure 5

Figure 5: Graphical representation of the factor loadings for QTI scales.

As can be seen in Figure 5, it seems that the Model for Interpersonal Behaviour applies to the sample to a large degree, as scales seem to follow a circular ordering and are represented by two, independent dimensions. Some of the scales displayed dislocation compared to their theoretically hypothesised positions, in particular CS and OD, which had moved counter-clockwise considerably.

Finally, dimension scores based on empirically found factor loadings (as displayed in Figure 5) were correlated with theoretically hypothesised dimension scores (eg. den Brok, et al., 2003; Levy, et al., 2003) in order to see to what degree the two dimensions could be reproduced by our empirical findings. The correlation was .82 for the influence dimension and .99 for the proximity dimension. It seemed that while both dimensions could be reproduced to a large extent, this was particularly true for the proximity dimensions.

Validity and reliability for the present sample seem to align with previous findings investigating these properties for the QTI (eg. den Brok, et al., 2003).


In order to answer the research questions, a number of analyses were performed. First, with SPSS it was determined which of the eight existing interpersonal types resembled the classes of each participating teacher best. In this way, it could be established what kind of distribution of (earlier constructed) interpersonal types was present in our sample. If this distribution is different from those found in the USA and the Netherlands, this might be an indication of weak applicability of the existing interpersonal typology to the Australian context.

Second, to create a specific typology for the Australian sample of teachers we performed a cluster analysis. According to Brekelmans (1989), it is important in the construction process to look for differences between types with respect to the magnitude within each of the eight sector scores (elevation), with respect to variance in the sector scores (scatter) and with respect to the overall pattern displayed in the sector scores (shape). She therefore suggest to use the 'complete linkage' method to group classes and the 'similarity ratio' to determine whether a class belongs to a specific type. Since she used CLUSTAN and we used SPSS, which lacks the similarity ratio, we decided to use 'squared Euclidian distances' instead, as this method approached the similarity ratio best in her study. To compare the outcomes of our cluster analysis to those of the Brekelmans study we calculated the percentage of pairs of units that in both analyses were classified in the same cluster.

Third, outcomes of the cluster analysis described above were verified. An analysis of variance (ANOVA) on the eight sector scores with the constructed typology as the explanatory variable was used to check if sufficient amounts of variance could be explained by the cluster outcomes. In order to interpret findings, outcomes of the Australian classification were also represented graphically, both in terms of the eight sector or scale scores as well as in terms of the two interpersonal dimensions of influence and proximity.


Frequency distribution and mean scale scores for the existing typology are presented in Table 3. As can be seen, more than 85 percent of the teachers could be classified as either being directive, authoritative or tolerant-authoritative. Uncertain-tolerant, uncertain-aggressive and repressive teachers were hardly present in our sample.

While all teachers could be classified as belonging to one of the previously found types, the typology explained between 30.7 (student responsibility/freedom) and 80.4 (helping/friendly and understanding) percent of the variance in scale scores. In terms of the two interpersonal dimensions, the existing typology could explain 31.8 percent of the variance in influence and 85.4 percent of the variance in proximity. The teachers from the sample are graphically displayed on the two dimensions in Figure 6.

Table 3: Frequency of occurrence for existing types in the present sample.

Interpersonal type
FrequencyPercentagePercentage in
Brekelmans et al. 1993 study
Tolerant and authoritative9633.910.4
Uncertain and tolerant41.415.3
Uncertain and aggressive31.16.5

When comparing the percentages in the Australian sample with those of the Brekelmans study, it seems there are more authoritative and tolerant-authoritative teachers in the Australian sample, while the Dutch/US sample contains more tolerant, uncertain-tolerant and uncertain-aggressive teachers. If these findings resemble sampling differences, differences in QTI versions or cultural differences, cannot be determined in this study.

Figure 6

Figure 6: Graphical depiction of teacher sample on the two interpersonal dimensions.

To determine whether class scale scores of the present sample empirically would lead to a similar or different typology as the one found for Dutch and USA teachers, a cluster analysis was performed (see Analysis section). This analysis, using Squared Euclidian Distances to classify teachers and Complete Linkage as a grouping procedure, indicated that the best and most distinctive typology consisted of 7 teachers. Table 4 contains the frequency of teachers according to each of the seven types and the percentages of variance explained by the cluster solution in each of the QTI scale scores. Figure 7 provides a graphical display of these seven types in terms of the two interpersonal dimensions; Figure 8 in terms of the eight QTI scales.

Table 4: Frequency of occurrence of teachers in terms of the eight-cluster solution,
percentage of variance explained in QTI scales.

(new, Australian typology)
FrequencyQTI scalePercentage
explained variance
Type 189DC78.2
Type 2115CD79.8
Type 36CS79.1
Type 443SC32.5
Type 515SO46.2
Type 67OS66.0
Type 78OD59.8

Figure 7

Figure 7: Graphical depiction of the cluster solution in terms of the two interpersonal dimensions.

A comparison of the Brekelmans typology and the typology of Australian typology indicated that 73.1 percent of the teachers was classified in similar types. Looking at the graphical patterns as displayed in Figure 8, these teachers, in both samples could be classified as tolerant-authoritative (Australian type 1), authoritative (Australian type 2), directive (Australian type 4) and uncertain-aggressive (Australian type 7).

Figure 8

Figure 8: Graphical depiction of the sample cluster solution in terms of the eight QTI scales.

Three types of teachers (3, 5 and 6) could not be labelled instantly, since their patterns deviated somewhat from the original Dutch/US typology. The third type contained similar amounts of leadership, helping/friendly, and understanding as the authoritative (or tolerant-aut horitative) type, but contained also a high amount of strictness and a relatively small amount of student responsibility/freedom. However, given the fact that amounts of admonishing, dissatisfied and uncertain were low in this type, it could not be classified as repressive. Since this type seemed to combine characteristics of both the (original) directive and authoritative types, it was labelled as directive-authoritative. The fifth and sixth type were similar pattern-wise. However, while both types contained relatively high amounts of helping/friendly and understanding, added with some leadership and student responsibility/freedom (and low amounts scored in the other sectors), this was particularly true for the sixth type. Therefore, the sixth type of teacher was labelled as flexible, while the fifth type was labelled as cooperative (or supportive). The fifth type resembles the tolerant teacher of the Dutch typology best, but contains less student responsibility/freedom. The sixth type resembles the tolerant teacher also best, but contains much more leadership. They are both different from the Dutch/US uncertain-tolerant teacher because they contain less uncertain behaviour, but are different from the tolerant-authoritative teacher because they contain more student responsibility (in case of the sixth type) or less leadership (in case of the fifth type). When performing a similar cluster analysis (squared Euclidian distances, complete linkage) on a subset of the sample (data set 3, 191 teachers), it appeared that 77 percent of the teachers could be classified as belonging to a similar type. This means that the typology found appears to be relatively stable.


In this study, it was investigated whether an existing typology of interpersonal communication styles (Brekelmans, et al., 1993) applied to an Australian sample of secondary school teachers. While all existing types were located in this sample, results nevertheless suggest that the existing typology only partially applies to the Australian context. It seemed that several types were less common in the Australian sample, such as the tolerant, uncertain-aggressive and uncertain-tolerant types, whereas other types were much more common, such as the authoritative and tolerant-authoritative types. These findings reflect a lower presence of uncertainty in Australian teachers' behaviour. Compared to the USA and the Netherlands, interpersonal communication between teachers and students in the classroom in Australia might be characterised by a higher degree of respect and formality, finding their origin in a historical strong link with the English system (and which can still be seen in certain elements, such as school rules, school uniforms or mutual politeness in conversation).

Using cluster analysis, a new Australian typology was created and compared to the existing Dutch/US typology. The results of this analysis, providing support for the existence of a relatively stable typology of seven distinct interpersonal patterns, again confirmed that earlier classifications only partially applied to the Australian situation. Four out of the seven types resembled earlier constructed types to such a degree, that they were considered similar: tolerant-authoritative (type 1), authoritative (type 2), directive (type 4) and uncertain-aggressive (type 7). One type seemed to be a clear-cut combination of two existing types and was labelled as directive-authoritative (type 3). The two remaining types seemed unique to the Australian context and were labelled as flexible (type 6) and cooperative/supportive (type 5). The two new types were characterised by high amounts of helping/friendly and understanding, and moderately high amounts of both leadership and student responsibility/freedom. Thus, both of these types of teachers are able to display both leadership and provide responsibility, depending on the situation. These types seem to be particularly relevant in learning environments that require much independent and self-directed learning by students.

While the findings of this study seem to indicate that additional styles might be necessary to describe the interpersonal climate in Australian classes, future research is needed to verify our findings. No explanation could be provided or were sought for the emergence of new styles. Therefore, alternative explanations to cultural differences could not be ruled out. One such alternative cause might lie in the sampling procedure. In the Netherlands (and USA) typologies were constructed using data of one large school with all teachers and their students participating. Another alternative might lie in specific characteristics of teachers or their students that were not taken along in this study. Earlier work with the QTI has shown that students' perceptions of their teachers are related to characteristics of themselves - eg. gender, age, report card grade, ethnic background - as well as characteristics of the teacher and class - eg. class size, teacher gender, teacher experience, teacher ethnicity (den Brok, Levy, Rodriguez & Wubbels, 2002; Levy, den Brok, Wubbels & Brekelmans, 2003; Rickards, 1998). Depending on the distribution of these characteristics, perceptions in terms of QTI scales or dimensions, and, consequently, types, might differ, causing possible differences with respect to earlier work on typologies. A third alternative explanation might lie in the use of different versions of the QTI: while the Australian version (Fisher, et al., 1993) consisted of 48 items, the American version consisted of 64 items (Levy & Wubbels, 1991) and the Dutch version of 77 items (Wubbels, et al., 1985). However, analyses comparing these three versions of the QTI indicate only minor differences in terms of reliability, construct validity and discriminant validity (den Brok, Fisher, et al., 2003).

The outcomes of this study are important for both researchers and teachers. For teachers, the typology can be used as a feedback tool. For professional development, teachers not only can compare their own perceptions with their ideals or the perceptions of their students (eg. Fisher & Rickards, 2000), but they can also compare their own perceptions or that of their students with each of the different types and see to which they fit best. Typologies have the advantage that they provide an instant picture of teaching and summarise the learning environment in just one word, rather than in terms of several scales or many items. Also, student motivation and achievement could be linked with the various profiles, as well as other variables (see the section describing Research on interpersonal communication styles). In this way, schools and teachers are provided with benchmarks that help them in determining their own goals and policy, as well as their vision on teaching. For research it is important to verify the stability of these findings and provide suggestions for differences with earlier work. Such research should also include qualitative data, such as interviews and observations, in order to provide descriptions for newly found types and validate the labels attached to them. Moreover, such observations could also verify the descriptions (as given in Appendix A) of types that have been found to apply to the Australian setting. While profiles might be similar in different cultures, it may very well be that they are based on different behaviours and situations, or inferred from different observational cues.


  1. However, within the domain of research on teaching many studies have constructed typologies of teaching (eg. Bennett, 1976; Brophy & Good, 1986; Ramsay & Ransley, 1986; in Brekelmans et al., 1993).

  2. These graphic representations are achieved by shading in each sector of the model of interpersonal teacher behaviour. The ratio of the length of the perpendicular bisector of the shaded part and the length of the perpendicular bisector of the total sector equals the ratio of the observed score and the maximum score for that sector.


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Appendix A

Description of the eight types of interpersonal behaviour
(from: Brekelmans et al., 1993)

Type of interpersonal profileClassroom environment
Appendix diagram 1 1: Directive

The learning environment in a class with a teacher with a directive profile is well-structured and task-oriented. The Directive teacher is organised efficiently and normally completes all lessons on time. S/he dominates class discussion, but generally holds students' interest. The teacher usually isn't really close to the students, though s/he is occasionally friendly and understanding. S/he has high standards and is seen as demanding. While things seem businesslike, the teacher continually has to work at it. S/he gets angry at times and has to remind the class that they are there to work. S/he likes to call on students who misbehave and are inattentive. This normally straightens them up quickly.

Appendix diagram 2 2: Authoritative

The Authoritative atmosphere is well-structured, pleasant and task-oriented. Rules and procedures are clear and students don't need to be reminded. They are attentive, and generally produce better work than their peers in the Directive teacher's classes. The Authoritative teacher is enthusiastic and open to students' needs. S/he takes a personal interest in them, and this comes through in the lessons. While his/her favourite method is the lecture, the authoritative teacher frequently uses other techniques. The lessons are well planned and logically structured.

Appendix diagram 3 3: Tolerant and authoritative

Tolerant and Authoritative teachers maintain a structure which supports student responsibility and freedom. They use a variety of methods, to which students respond well. They frequently organise their lessons around small group work. While the class environment resembles Type 2, the Tolerant/Authoritative teacher develops closer relationships with students. They enjoy the class and are highly involved in most lessons. Both students and teacher can occasionally be seen laughing, and there is very little need to enforce the rules. The teacher ignores minor disruptions, choosing instead to concentrate on the lesson. Students work to reach their own and the teacher's instructional goals with little or no complaints.

Appendix diagram 4 4: Tolerant

There seem to be separate Dutch and American views of the Tolerant teacher. To the Dutch, the atmosphere is pleasant and supportive and students enjoy attending class. They have more freedom in Type 4 classes than in those above, and have some real power to influence curriculum and instruction. Students appreciate the teacher's personal involvement and his/her ability to match the subject matter with their learning styles. They often work at their own pace and the class atmosphere sometimes may be a little confused as a result.

In the USA, however, the Tolerant teacher is seen to be disorganised. His/her lessons are not prepared well and they don't challenge students. The teacher often begins the lesson with an explanation and then sends the students off to individually complete an assignment. While the teacher is interested in students' personal lives, his/her academic expectations for them aren't evident.

Appendix diagram 5 5: Uncertain/tolerant

Uncertain/Tolerant teachers are highly cooperative but don't show much leadership in class. Their lessons are poorly structured, are not introduced completely and don't have much follow-through. They generally tolerate disorder, and students are not task-oriented. The Uncertain/Tolerant teacher is quite concerned about the class, and is willing to explain things repeatedly to students who haven't been listening. The atmosphere is so unstructured, however, that only the students in front are attentive while the others play games, do homework, and the like. They are not provocative, however, and the teacher manages to ignore them while loudly and quickly covering the subject. The Uncertain/Tolerant teacher's rules of behaviour are arbitrary, and students don't know what to expect when infractions occur. The teacher's few efforts to stop the misbehaviour are delivered without emphasis and have little effect on the class. Sometimes the teacher reacts quickly, and at other times completely ignores inattentiveness. Class performance expectations are minimal and mostly immediate rather than long-range. The overall effect is of an unproductive equilibrium in which teacher and students seem to go their own way.

Appendix diagram 6 6: Uncertain/aggressive

These classes are characterised by an aggressive kind of disorder. Teacher and students regard each other as opponents and spend almost all their time in symmetrically escalating conflicts. Students seize nearly every opportunity to be disruptive, and continually provoke the teacher by jumping up, laughing and shouting out. This generally brings a panicked over-reaction from the teacher which is met by even greater student misbehaviour. An observer in this class might see the teacher and student fighting over a book which the student has been reading. The teacher grabs the book in an effort to force the student to pay attention. The student resists because s/he thinks the teacher has no right to his/her property. Since neither one backs down, the situation often escalates out of control. In the middle of the confusion the Uncertain/Aggressive teacher may suddenly try to discipline a few students, but often manages to miss the real culprits. Because of the teacher's unpredictable and unbalanced behaviour, the students feel that s/he is to blame. Rules of behaviour aren't communicated or explained properly. The teacher spends most of his/her time trying to manage the class, yet seems unwilling to experiment with different instructional techniques. S/he prefers to think `first, they'll have to behave'. Learning is the least important aspect of the class, unfortunately.

Appendix diagram 7 7: Repressive

Students in the Repressive teacher's class are uninvolved and extremely docile. They follow the rules and are afraid of the teacher's angry outbursts. S/he seems to overreact to small transgressions, frequently making sarcastic remarks or giving failing grades. The Repressive teacher is the epitome of complementary rigidity. The Repressive teacher's lessons are structured but not well-organised. While directions and background information are provided, few questions are allowed or encouraged. Occasionally, students will work on individual assignments, for which they receive precious little help from the teacher. The atmosphere is guarded and unpleasant, and the students are apprehensive and fearful. Since the Repressive teacher's expectations are competition-oriented and inflated, students worry a lot about their exams. The teacher seems to repress student initiative, preferring to lecture while the students sit still. They perceive the teacher as unhappy and impatient and their silence seems like the calm before the storm.

Appendix diagram 8 8: Drudging

The atmosphere in a Drudging teacher's class varies between Type 5 and 6 disorder. One thing is constant, however: the teacher continually struggles to manage the class. S/he usually succeeds (unlike Types 5 and 6), but not before expending a great deal of energy. Students pay attention as long as the teacher actively tries to motivate them. When they do get involved, the atmosphere is oriented toward the subject matter and the teacher doesn't generate much warmth. S/he generally follows a routine in which s/he does most of the talking and avoids experimenting with new methods. The Drudging teacher always seems to be going downhill and the class is neither enthusiastic nor supportive nor competitive. Unfortunately, because of the continual concern with class management the teacher sometimes looks as though s/he's on the verge of burnout.

Appendix B

Correlations between QTI scales at the class level (N=283)


CD.82 *1

CS.82 *.89 *1

SC-.00.38 *.29 *1

SO-.74 *-.52 *-.55 * .32 *1

OS-.70 *-.75 *-.79 *-.02.62 *1

OD-.56 *-.69 *-.78 *-.13.49 *.84 *1
DO-.07-.42 *-.38 *-.60 *-.15 *.35 *.48 *1
* = significant at .05

Contact person: t.rickards@curtin.edu.au

Please cite as: Rickards, T., den Brok, P. and Fisher, D. (2003). What does the Australian teacher look like? Australian typologies for teacher-student interpersonal behaviour. Proceedings Western Australian Institute for Educational Research Forum 2003. http://www.waier.org.au/forums/2003/rickards-2.html

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