Mate, D., Brizio, A., Tirassa, M. (2010)

Effectiveness of teaching styles on learning motivation

Proceedings of the 15th Annual International Conference of the European Learning Styles Information Network (ELSIN 2010 – Aveiro, Portugal, 28-30 June 2010), eds. M.H. Pedrosa-de-Jesus, C. Evans, Z. Charlesworth & Eva Cools (pp. 290-298).




Effectiveness of teaching styles on learning motivation


Davide Mate

Adelina Brizio

Maurizio Tirassa


Davide Mate (corresponding author)

Universitˆ di Torino

Dipartimento di Psicologia e Centro di Scienza Cognitiva

via Po, 14 - 10123 Torino - Italy

phone +39-011-6703066, fax +39-011-8146231



Adelina Brizio

Universitˆ di Torino

Dipartimento di Psicologia e Centro di Scienza Cognitiva


Maurizio Tirassa

Universitˆ di Torino

Dipartimento di Psicologia e Centro di Scienza Cognitiva




Abstract. It is common wisdom in the area of adult education that the educator's relational attitudes influence knowledge construction on the part of the learners. It is the aim of this paper to contribute to an empirical evaluation of this idea. We identified four basic relational attitudes of the educator's, namely: (i) favoring cooperation, (ii) directivity, (iii) flexibility, and (iv) ability to focus on the participants. Then, we identified 31 prototypical types of behavior that are commonly enacted by educators in the classroom. We performed multiple observations of several adult education courses, scoring each educator on the list of 31 behavior types. We performed factor analysis and then correlated such scores and the corresponding attitudes to indexes of the participants' levels of attention, participation and comprehension. The results corroborate our hypotheses. Interestingly, several differences was found between novice and expert teachers. Overall, our findings support the socio-constructivist idea that knowing is a transformational process of learning that takes place within a relational context.


Keywords. Knowledge construction; Adult learning; Cognition and communication; Classroom interaction




1. Introduction


It is a common assumption of several theoretical perspectives on adult education, as well as of most practitioners in the field, that the educator's relational attitudes influence the process of knowledge construction on the part of the participants. Effective teaching would require more than just being an expert of a topic and presenting it to the participants: a teacher would instead have to lead the learning process appropriately, guiding the participants toward the individual construction of new knowledge.

The aim of this paper is to contribute to an empirical evaluation of this perspective. We identified four basic relational attitudes of the educator's, namely: (i) her tendency to favor cooperation with and between learners, (ii) her directivity, (iii) her flexibility in the management of the contents and of the learning process itself, and (iv) her tendency to focus on the participants. Then, we identified 31 prototypical types of behavior that are commonly enacted by educators in the classroom. We made multiple observations of several adult education courses, scoring each educator on the list of 31 behavior types. Factor analysis allowed to associate each type of behavior to the attitude of which it is prototypical. The scores and the corresponding attitudes were then correlated to indexes of the participants' levels of attention, participation and comprehension.

The results corroborate our hypotheses, confirming that the educator's relational attitudes provide an important prerequisite and incentive for knowledge construction.

Overall, our findings support the socio-constructivist idea that knowing is a transformational process of learning that takes place within a relational context.




2. Theoretical background


The idea that the educator's interactional moves may affect the entire learning process is rooted in a constructivist approach to knowledge and learning.

Constructivism views individuals as actively constructing, maintaining, and using knowledge of their own (Mate & Tirassa, 2010; Tirassa & Vallana, 2010). Knowledge is subjective, embodied, and meaning-laden; because it is the product and the property of the mind, it can only be someone's knowledge. Its seemingly objective nature is merely a side effect of our common biological and socio-cultural heritage, which allows us to share meanings.

To learn is the transformative process whereby an individual constructs new knowledge. This process builds on the subjectively driven interaction between the knowledge which the individual has already available and the mental and material experience which he is currently going through and narrating to himself (Carassa, Morganti & Tirassa, 2004, 2005). Learning is thus an unavoidable side effect – or an intrinsic property – of the continuing functioning of the individual's mind.[1]

A teacher is more a guide to and a catalyzer of learning (Brookfield, 1997) than a source of knowledge; to promote learning, she has to govern the conditions that will open the way for the learners' construction of knowledge and, eventually, for the relevant changes in their way of thinking and acting.

Social constructivists (e.g. Vygotsky & Luria, 1930/1993; Vygotsky, 1978; Luria, 1976, 1979) and cultural psychologists (e.g. Cole, 1996) have studied formal and informal learning within socio-cultural contexts. When learning takes place in a social environment, the relations in which the participants are engaged need be taken into account: the sharing of knowledge between peers and their participation to real activities with experts are crucial features of paradigms like experiential learning (Dewey, 1916; Kolb, 1984; Andersen, Boud & Cohen, 1995; Brookfield, 1995; Fenwick, 2001), situated learning (Lave & Wenger, 1991), collaborative learning (Keyser, 2000), and action learning (Revans, 1982; Marquardt & Waddill, 2004). Underlying all these approaches is the assumption that the relations between peers and with the educator provide the context in which knowledge construction is partially or totally embedded.[2]

Therefore, to provide learning opportunities for the participants, the educator has to create a relation with them. Indeed, since the existence of such relation is just unavoidable, what she has to do is to guide it in the most appropriate directions and to survey and maintain its functioning and effectiveness. It follows that different kinds of relational experiences will differently affect how and how effectively knowledge construction takes place. The quality of the relations between learners and with the teacher will necessarily influence learning and the learners' attitudes toward knowledge (Cranton, 2006; Cranton & Carusetta, 2004).

The forms of a social relation are rooted in the actions that the interactants carry out and in the interpretations that they give of each other's knowledge, feelings, intentions, emotions, etc. The explicit or implicit relational structures that, based on institutional facts, social hierarchies, authoritativeness, age, roles, previous encounters, etc., are embedded in the interaction may allow one party a bigger influence on the ongoing form and contents of the exchange. This individual may shape the relation from its inception, thus creating the grounds on which the interaction will build. In educational contexts, the teacher has precisely this type of power.




3. Theoretical model


The actions that the educator enacts toward the learners may be taken as local cues of her underlying general attitudes in and about the situation. If, as we have argued, she acts as a guide and a catalyst, these attitudes will influence the structure and the dynamics of the interpersonal relation and therefore the learning process.

A theoretical model may be drawn that connect the teacher's manifest actions – described as a set of empirically observable indexes – to the construction of knowledge on the part of the learners. Just as the educator's relational attitudes can be explored through the identification and the observation of certain indicators, the learners' mental attitudes (which prelude to knowledge construction) can be explored through the identification and the observation of other indicators. Then, the correlations between the two sets of indicators may be empirically investigated.


3.1 The mental attitudes of the learners


Starting from the tail of the process, learners need entertain appropriate mental attitudes that favor the construction of knowledge.


Attention. To understand something one obviously needs keep one's attention on the topics that are discussed or the actions that are or have to be performed. The attentional level is therefore a manifest aspect and indicator of the general attitude of a learner or a group of learners.


Participation. Participation in real and practical activities is commonly viewed as another important precondition of learning. This is true of Piaget's (1936) intra-psychic constructivism as well as of Vygotsky's and Luria's social constructivism. The role of activity in adult learning has been emphasized by Dewey (1916) and in the paradigm of action learning (Revans, 1982). Participation becomes still more important in the perspective of situated cognition (Clancey, 1997) and lies at the very heart of the notion of communities of practice (Wenger, 2000). All these approaches share the idea that knowledge is systematically entangled with experience (Fenwick, 2001, 2003; Boud & Walker, 1990; Brown, Collins & Duguid, 1989). To participate in group interactions – each individual in his own way – is thus another indicator of real and concrete learning experiences.


Comprehension. To appropriately change their frames of reference, their knowledge and their ways of thinking and acting, learners have to comprehend the relevant conceptual and practical issues. The construction of knowledge takes place as the concepts or practices understood become integrated with previous knowledge in a new global framework. The comprehension of topics on the part of the learners thus is a third indicator of the mental attitudes that favor the construction of new personal knowledge.


We take these to be individual, intrapersonal attitudes of the learner's mind, like a predisposition to move one's mental processes toward new directions. The educators' relational attitudes described in the next subsection are instead relevant to interpersonal interaction.


3.2 The relational attitudes of the educator


Starting from the theoretical assumption described above, we attempted to identify a basic set of a teacher's relational attitudes that may exert an influence on the relations in the classroom.


Favoring cooperation. Behind the many different actions with which an educator may improve, reduce or anyway govern interactions and communication within the classroom, there will be her attitudes toward cooperation in the current context. Cooperative interactions are characterized by relaxed climate and uncomplicated communication. We view the teacher's favoring cooperation as an important feature of effective learning situations.


Directivity. Leadership of a group may be exerted in different ways. The paradigm of self-directed learning (Houle, 1961; Tough, 1967, 1971; Merriam & Caffarella, 1999) stresses the importance of giving learners the opportunity to influence the learning process by making their decisions about the contents and the dynamics of the learning process and negotiating them with the teacher. Therefore, we expect directivity to play an adverse role on the learners' mental attitudes.


Flexibility. The agenda should be adapted according to the learners' desires. For example, if the topic of the course has been decided by the top management of an organization, participants may perceive it as something that is being imposed on them. The teacher might then adapt the topic to meet needs and expectations emerging from the group, not necessarily by putting aside the original topic, but simply by being flexible enough to merge it with the participant's requests. This suggests to choose flexibility as another attitude of the educator that can influence the interpersonal relations and the climate in the classroom.


Focusing on the group. Knowles (1980) reconceptualized the notions of andragogy and pedagogy, rejecting the idea that they were antonymous and instead representing them on a continuum ranging from teacher-centered to participant-centered learning (Merriam 2001). From the vantage point of the educator, this means that there are two directions on which she can focus: herself and the contents at issue, or the group of learners: another crucial attitude of the educator's is thus her focusing on the group.


3.3 Empirical indexes


To sum up: to study the educator's and the learners' attitudes it is necessary to identify appropriate empirical indexes, that is, observable types of behaviors that the counterpart in the classroom (as well as a researcher) may use as cues of the underlying attitudes. We identified four main relational attitudes of the educator which we think may have a direct positive or negative influence on the relations in the classroom and the ongoing learning processes. These are: favoring cooperation, directivity, flexibility, and focusing on the group. Furthermore, we identified three main attitudes of the learners that may exert a positive influence on the construction of new knowledge. These are: attention, participation, and comprehension. These attitudes become manifest in the respective behaviors of the actors involved. Behaviors are the material counterpart of an actor's plans and actions; the latter are in turn inspired by the actor's attitudes and overarching mentality.




4. Empirical observations


15 training courses for adults, each involving different educators, learners and topics, were observed by three independent judges.

Each course lasted 1-3 days (mean: 1.5). The average attendance was 20 persons (range: 26-53) whose mean age was 40 years (range: 18-60).

All the courses took place in a classroom context. The topics varied, ranging from computer use to leadership, project management, etc., so to avoid biases originating from course contents.

The educators (one for each course) were 8 females and 7 males, with an average age of 43 years (range: 26-53). 8 of them had extensive professional experience (more than 5 years working in the area and/or post-graduation degrees in adult education).

The observers were two psychologists and a graduand in psychology; their task was to observe and score every 30 minutes the behaviors of both the educators and the learners. Educators were scored based on the list of 31 relevant behaviors described in Table 1; learners were scored on three motivational indexes (Attention, Participation and Comprehension). The observers did not participate in the interactions, even if addressed directly. They gave their score individually, but discussed their scores after the observations until reaching consensus.

Neither the educators nor the participants were aware of the goals of the observations.


4.1 Materials and procedures


We began listing a range as wide as sensible of possible relevant behaviors that educators may enact during classroom interactions. Three observers separately attended several courses (not included in the sample) with the aim of empirically improving the list by adding, removing or re-describing behaviors.

The final list consisted of 31 relational actions that are commonly enacted by educators during their lessons (Table 1). Each observer scored the frequency of each behavior on a Likert scale ranging from 0 (the behavior has never occurred in the preceding 30 minutes) to 5 (the behavior has recurred constantly).

The same procedure was followed for the indexes of the learners' attitudes. For example, to score participation, the observers took notice of the number of questions posed by the participants, of their willingness to take part in exercises like role play, group games, etc. The participants' capability to reorganize and reframe concepts in their own words was used as an index of comprehension; their focusing their gaze on the educator or the slides was an index of the group's attention, and so on.


Table 1 - The 31 main relational actions performed by educators.

Uses examples long enough to be clearly understood

Uses universal (abstract, historical, etc.) examples

Uses personal examples

Uses examples provided by participants

Uses examples taken from the ongoing interaction

Reformulates remarks made by participants

Reformulates questions posed by participants

Redirects to the group questions posed by participants

Leaves participants time to reflect and intervene

Rewords concept

Smiles, jokes mildly etc.

Helps participants to take part in discussions

Refers to participants using their first name

Maintains eye contact with participants

Keeps focus on main topics

Gestures fluently and flexibly

Maintains varied and fluent prosody

Moves around in the classroom

Answers immediately to questions posed by participants

Uses yes/no questions or closed questions

Uses open questions

Talks incessantly

Gives short time for discussion

Uses technical language

Interrupts on-topic interventions

Interrupts off-topic interventions

Expresses personal opinion

Is judgmental about opinions expressed by participants

Makes decision about activities and proceedings

Gives order to participants about group activity

Rambles off-topic




5. Results


5.1 Measuring the educators' attitudes


The educators' behaviors, were grouped with factor analysis into four factors, each describing a different aspect of teaching style. These were: Favoring cooperation, Directivity, Flexibility, Focusing on the group. Each may be represented as a continuum ranging from "the attitude is seldom manifested" to "the attitude is continuously manifested".


Favoring cooperation. This factor reflects the teacher's ability to welcome and value the audience's contributions and opinions. The main positive behaviors that make up this factor are: Reformulates remarks (the teacher welcomes a remark from a participant and reformulates or reframes it; loading = .787); Reformulates question (the teacher reformulates a question so to let the participants find the answer; loading = .785); Leaves time (the teacher allows learners time to reflect individually or together about a topic or problem; loading = .730); Reuses example (the teacher reuses an examples or a remark previously provided by a participant; loading = .439). Negative loadings are: Talks incessantly (loading = -.602); Makes decisions (the teacher makes a decision independently from the desires and opinions emerging from the group; loading = -.852); Judges (the teacher is judgmental about the participants' views or actions; loading = .829).


Directivity. This factor describes the educators' tendency to attempt to obtain the audience's agreement with their opinions. Its composing behaviors are: Answers immediately to questions (that is, without leaving time for reflection; loading = .670); Talks incessantly (loading = .465); Expresses personal opinions (loading = .726); Interrupts intervention (loading = .818), Asks open question (loading = -.665); Returns question (the teacher redirects to the audience a question posed by a participant, to elicit answers from the group; loading = -.750).


Flexibility. A flexible attitude toward the topics at issue is shown e.g. when the teacher values questions and comments, even if they are not strictly on-topic (Interrupt digressions; loading = -.744) or when she moves and speaks in fluid, fluent and variable ways (Prosody; loading = .531). A more rigid attitude comes from Asks closed questions (loading = -.504) or Uses jargon (loading = -.727).


Focusing on the group. These are the behaviors that hint to the educator's tendency to focus on the group and maintain relational contact with it. The main positive behaviors are: Moves around (loading = .619), Gestures fluently and flexibly (loading = .606), Uses first names (loading = .417), and Uses examples provided by participants ( loading = .409). These behaviors may also be seen as signals of low anxiety, resulting in the teacher's greater capability to focus on the group.


5.2 Correlations


Exploratory analysis suggested that teaching expertise (more than 5 years as a professional and/or possess of a relevant post-graduate diploma) can be a relevant criterion to interpret data. Therefore, we split the sample into two subgroups and correlated the data separately.

The results are shown in Table 2.


Table 2. Relational attitudes of the educators and mental attitudes of the learners.

Educators subgroup

Educators' attitudes



Participants' attitudes




Favoring cooperation





















Focusing on the group







Favoring cooperation





















Focusing on the group








Novices. Courses taught by novices showed a remarkable variability both in teaching styles and in the motivation of the learners. Cooperative orientation correlated positively with Participation, Attention and Comprehension (p < .001). Flexibility correlated positively with Attention and Comprehension (p < .001). Directivity correlated negatively with Attention and Comprehension. These data corroborate the hypothesis that favoring cooperation and flexibility impact positively on the participants' proneness to learn, while directivity brings about the opposite effect.


Experts. Courses taught by experts showed a very low variability in teaching styles; they also appeared to be more successful. Directivity correlated negatively with Attention (p < .001). Focusing on the group correlated positively with Participation, Attention and Comprehension (p < .001). Cooperative orientation and Flexibility did not correlate significantly with either learners' index; this, however, was due to the low variability within this group and to their high scores, in agreement with the literature on cooperative learning (e.g. Slavin, 1980, 1983).


Table 3 shows the correlations for each attitude and group index.


Table 3. Correlations between educators attitudes and group indexes.




Educators attitudes

Group index



Group index



Favoring cooperation







< .001

< .001

< .001







= .483

= .205

= .170








< .001

= .086

< .001







< .001

= .424

= .072








< .001

= .593

< .001







= .208

= .721

= .247

Focusing on group







= .552

= .975

= .104







< .001

< .001

< .001

The asterisk (*) denotes statistical significance (p < .001).




6. Discussion


Globally, our results appear to confirm the basic assumptions of the paradigm of self-directed learning; only, we viewed it from the educator's side rather than, as more commonly happens, from the learner's.

The role of the educator, rather than that of a treasure of knowledge or of a mediator in the transfer of contents from books to the classroom, is that of a guide who leads and fosters the entire learning process. This is achieved at least in part by managing the relations with and between the learners in the classroom.

In the model we have proposed, certain relational attitudes of the educator contribute to influence the participants' mental state and therefore the overall learning process. The evidence we found is that these attitudes of the educator (favoring cooperation, directivity, flexibility, and focusing on the group) indeed correlate positively or negatively with indexes of the learners' mental state (attention, participation and comprehension).

In this section we will discuss a few relevant issues in better detail.


6.1 How the educator may favor cooperation


Promoting cooperation with and between the learners fosters their attention, participation and comprehension. An example of what an educator may do to this aim is to give the audience time to try and find their own answer to a question or problem (that is, the opposite of Answers immediately to questions that have been posed). This allows the participants to individually or socially construct their personal meanings about the issue. Of course the educator needs be able to keep silent without feeling uneasy, even when the group appears to expect her to talk.

She can also Reformulate a question to better frame it or to provide some cues to the answer. The fear to be resisted here is that the audience may think that she just does not know what to say. Often, indeed, there is no right answer and the educator could only give her personal opinions; however, her goal should not be to have learners agree with her only because they fail to see alternatives; furthermore, to immediately provide an answer would put them in a substantially passive role. The educator's goal is instead to co-construct an appropriate answer together with the audience: this may or may not be precisely what she would have thought in a different context, but what really matters is to let the participants develop and consider their own results and knowledge. Of course the educator is there to help in this process and can even provide an answer of her own at the end of the process.

To Reorganize a comment is another way to value the participants' contribution to the construction of knowledge. This may occur, for example, when the educator welcomes a comment from the audience and tries to reformulate or to reframe its contents, premises, or consequences. After doing so, it also appears to be useful to ask the participant whether such reformulation does correspond to what he intended to say. This way, the participants become more aware of their personal and essential contributions to the construction of knowledge.

Other actions of the educator can instead jeopardize cooperation with and inside the learning group. To Interrupt an intervention or a digression from the audience, for example, would correspond to a denial that all contributions are in one way or another useful to the ongoing process. Actually, any action that interrupts the expression of personal ideas may end up hampering learning: even if what a participant is saying is "objectively" wrong or off-topic, it is important that the educator allows enough time for him to express it.

What appears to really matter is not to keep a close focus on the topic at issue, but to maintain as strong a relation as possible to the ongoing psychological dynamics of the classroom. Sometimes, the best skill of the experienced educator is her use of silence.


6.2 The use of examples for cooperation


Another type of action that appears important in guiding a learning group toward cooperation is the use of examples. Examples may be universal (that is, historical, generic, or abstract) or may be taken from the educator's personal experience, from the previous experience of one of the participants as he reports it, or based on events that have occurred in the classroom during previous discussions, group games, role-play, and so on.

The latter type of examples appears from the data to be particularly relevant to cooperation. Noteworthy events that may be taken as prototypical of certain ways of human beings often happen in the classroom. The educator can reinterpret and reuse them on a later occasion as examples of something she is discussing. This way, meaningful links are created from concepts that might otherwise appear abstract and unintelligible to real experiences that all participants have shared. This is one of the moments when the crucial role of cooperation in the co-construction of knowledge most clearly shows.

Our results confirm that the higher the educator's score at favoring cooperation, the higher the score of all the group indexes: the entire learning process is bolstered if the teacher stimulates the learners to actively participate in classroom interactions. Correlation analysis on this attitude of the educator confirms the idea – common in the practice of adult education – that a cooperative climate better guides the learning process toward a shared construction of knowledge.


6.3 Directivity and flexibility


When the participants have a degree of freedom in the management of the overall learning process, its contents and its agenda, they are more inclined to pay attention to the ongoing interaction and they better comprehend the issues at hand. These data, too, confirm some of the assumptions of the paradigm of self-directed learning: the more the learners are allowed to responsibly participate, the better their attitude toward the construction of knowledge.

Adult learners need be active in the entire learning process and able to make relevant decisions in agreement with the rest of the group and the educator. The perception – both individual and collectively shared – that they are entitled to as much freedom in deciding the learning goals and strategies as possible makes them jointly responsible with the educator for the ultimate results of the learning process. This becomes a motivation not only to the achievement of the final desired results, but first and foremost to actively participate and to entertain a positive attitude toward the ongoing interactions and the overall learning situation. This way, the learners feel that they are the actual focus of the process (self-centered, self-directed learning) and that the educator is, truly, a facilitator.


6.4 Focusing on the group


That the educator focuses on the learners also contributes to the latter's perception that they are at the center of the process. However, this attitude appears to be the most difficult to control. Inexperienced educators appear substantially incapable of doing so, which shows in our data as the irrelevance of such attitude in influencing the learners' indexes. Also the experts' scores, though, are highly variable; on the other hand, those with the highest scores at focusing on the group also appear to be the most capable of influencing the learners' attitudes.

The educator's fluent speech and relaxed attitude, combined with her ability to favor cooperation, to be flexible and not directive, positively influence the climate inside the classroom. Being substantially based on extralinguistic and paralinguistic behaviors, the attitude to focus on the group probably is the most difficult to learn and that which requires the longest professional experience.


6.5 What skills of the educator are most important?


Our findings support the socio-constructivist idea that learning is a transformational process that takes place within a relational context. What they add to this view is the empirical evidence that such context – and, consequently, the learning process – can be heavily influenced by the educator.

Of course, we are not saying that the teacher's expertise about the matter at issue is irrelevant: there can be no arguing that it is a necessary prerequisite for any educational activity. If, however, we take it for granted that an educator knows the matter she is teaching, as all those that we observed did, the crucial factor that influences the learning process is her ability to create and maintain a fruitful relation with the participants.

These arguments are further strengthened by the comparison of novice versus expert educators. Extensive experience in adult education appears to influence the educator's attitudes and her ability to guide a learning group. The main difference between novices and experts is not the knowledge of topics; often, the former may even be more up-to-date than the latter. The difference instead appears to be the respective skills in conducting group interaction. This conclusion is also supported by data from the novices: those with the highest score at favoring cooperation also obtained high scores in group attention, participation and comprehension.




7. Conclusion


This work aimed at providing an observational perspective of some concepts that, albeit widely diffused in the literature and in the practice of adult education, have seldom been investigated empirically. Of course, many variables were not included in the model and are therefore out of experimental control. The main suggestion that we derive from our work, though, is that it is possible to develop empirical research in the highly complex area of adult education and adult learning.

On the theoretical level, to objectify explicit actions as "behaviors" is not, in our view, a return to realism, even less to behaviorism. We believe that actions only exist in the meanings that the actor(s) ascribe them: in this sense, phenomenology is the only way to capture anything of psychological value. Yet, communicative and relational meanings are, by definition, the shared construction of the participants (Tirassa & Bosco, 2008): the teachers and the learners which we observed, as well as the observers themselves, shared a common biological and socio-cultural heritage. It cannot be surprising that they acknowledged similar meanings in however subjectively viewed classroom interactions: not because behaviors convey objective meanings, but because all human beings, or all human beings belonging to a certain historical context, will probably share certain ways of viewing each other and the world. Intersubjectivity and empathy are just the other side of subjectivity and phenomenal experience. Were it not so, no communication or interaction could ever be possible.




Acknowledgments. We are grateful to Barbara Brassesco and Miriam Borra for participating in the observations, and to the educators of IAL Piemonte and PRAXI S.p.A., Torino, for letting themselves be observed. The research was supported by the Compagnia di San Paolo.






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[1] We will conventionally use the feminine for the educator and the masculine for the participant(s). The educators that we observed in reality, however, were evenly distributed between genders.

[2] Since humans are continuingly immersed in sociocultural contexts, whether actual or internalized, learning just cannot but take place within such contexts. The research presented here deals with learning in actual social environments, formally defined by the presence of a group of learners and a person appointed as a teacher.