In addition to acknowledging that an effective teacher is the key to students' success (more than the curriculum or the school), an interesting article in The Atlantic
outlines researchers' conclusions on the traits of effective teachers. They defined effective teaching as resulting in significantly raising student achievement, as measured by students' test scores. They looked at particularly successful teachers in the Teach for America program, and identified common traits:
- Great teachers tended to set big goals for their students.
- Great teachers constantly reevaluate what they are doing.
- They avidly recruited students and their families into the [educational] process.
- They maintained focus, ensuring that everything they did contributed to student learning.
- They planned exhaustively and purposefully by working backward from the desired outcome.
- They worked relentlessly.
- They have "grit"—perseverance, and a passion for long-term goals.
- They establish well-executed classroom routines.
- They typically score high on "life satisfaction."
The researchers found some predictors of being an effective teacher include having overcome adversity, having made achievements and/or leadership with measurable results, having attended a selective college, and holding a high GPA, especially for the last two years of college (they discuss GPA in the context of overcoming adversity.) Holding a master’s degree in education was not a predictor of being an effective teacher.
I'm curious, based on your own experience of teaching or working with teachers, what you might add to this list? I feel like many of my best teachers were ones who "knew" all of their students, and had a very open social-emotional affect. Perhaps this is part of #3. I also feel like they were passionate about their subject, and were content-experts. Two other things that resonate with me are having a good sense of humor and a performer's instincts.1
An article in Science News
discussing the research of Christopher Day quotes him as saying, "Effective teachers create a positive climate for learning by challenging pupils’ ideas, inspiring them, being more innovative in their practice, and differentiating amongst pupils according to their abilities and interests where appropriate so that pupils have more control over and engagement in their learning and more opportunities for success.”