What Characteristics Make a Good Teacher?

Learn what the research says about what makes a good teacher?

Can you remember a favorite teacher from when you were in school? They were inspiring, made you laugh, or helped you learn a lot. Perhaps they did all three of these things. Good teachers leave an amazing impression on their students.

Many teachers wonder if they possess the qualities of a good teacher – even if they’ve been teaching a long time! We strive to do our best, but are we really good, effective, transformation-achieving teachers?

Everyone has their own idea of what it means to be a good teacher. However, the research is what can really guide us to the answers we can trust. Take a look at some of the characteristics that will truly earn you the title of “good teacher.”

Areas to Consider
In their paper, The Characteristics of Effective and Ineffective Teachers, Richard T. Walls, Anne H. Nardi, Avril M. von Minden and Nancy Hoffman discuss the attributes of effective and ineffective teachers.

In the paper, they explain that there are certain areas of teaching and the teacher’s skill to consider. The main areas include:

– Emotional Environment of the Classroom
– Teacher Skill
– Teacher Motivation
– Student Participation
– Rules and Grades

These are the main areas of effective teaching we’ll explore below, with a few others thrown in. You can use the above list as a guide to help you think through your own experiences as a learner and a teacher.

Caring: Creates a Positive Emotional Environment
In their study, Walls et al. examined the perceptions of what makes a good teacher. Some of the strongest characteristics of a good teacher were effective. In other words, what was the emotional environment of the classroom like?

As you can imagine, effective teachers were perceived as caring, warm, and friendly. On the other hand, ineffective teachers’ classrooms were seen as cold and tense.

This was the most important characteristic of a good teacher! So, if you are caring and warm, then you’re off to a great start.

Other experts, such as Patricia Miller argued that having space for humor is also important in the classroom. In addition, having a generally positive attitude and good mental health are other important characteristics of good teachers. Finally, Miller explains that teachers must be available to their students. When children ask questions, teachers that reply warmly and take the time to answer, even after the bell’s rung, are more effective and viewed more positively by students.

Strong Teacher Skills
Teacher skills refer to how well the teacher organizes class time and how learning happens in the classroom. According to Walls, et al., signs of a good teacher include being organized, prepared, and clear. Another characteristic of a good teacher is that they use creative ways of learning that involve students. On the other hand, ineffective teachers are unproductive, boring, and/or disorganized.

Strong Teacher Knowledge
Teachers must have a strong grasp of the subject matter in order to teach it well. That way, they can answer questions as they come up, offer clear explanations, and adapt to students.

As they say, the best way to see if you know something is to try to teach it. If you can teach it easily, then you know the subject matter. If not, it’s time to go back and hit the books again!

Teacher motivation is another characteristic of good teachers. Enthusiastic, motivated teachers are much more effective. However, teachers are perceived as ineffective when they sit at their desks all day or fail to show interest in their own lessons.

Encourages Participation
Effective teachers encourage student participation. They welcome student questions and try to offer authentic, hands-on learning activities. They know how to use discussion as a learning experience and get their students involved. However, ineffective teachers may even discourage participation or shut-down questions.

Are you fair about the rules and grades in your class? Or is your classroom an authoritarian style dictatorship? Wall, et al., states that effective teachers often have few classroom management problems. They make sure the rules are fair and clear. Plus, they make sure that assignments are aligned to what is being learned in the classroom. Ineffective teachers are often viewed as unfair. They may also assign unreasonable assignments for which students haven’t been prepared.

Has High Standards and Expectations
According to Miller, one of the qualities of a good teacher is that they have high standards and expectations. For example, a language teacher that speaks in the target language at all times holds high standards. Furthermore, teachers that hold these high standards often achieve better performance from their students.

Believes He or She Makes a Difference
As discussed in Effective Teaching by Daniel Mujis and David Reynolds, teachers must believe that they can make a difference to be effective. Teachers who don’t believe they make much of a difference, or don’t have much influence over their students, will generally be less effective. So, know the power that you wield as a teacher! You can be the difference in your students’ lives.

As you can now tell, there aren’t just a few things that teachers need to be able to do well. There are many things teachers must be able to do well, as Mujis and Reynolds discuss in their book.

The good news is from this is that you don’t have to worry that you’re doing one thing totally wrong and it will ruin your effectiveness as a teacher. Instead, you must do your best to slowly improve the many qualities of a teacher that will make you even more effective. Over time, many teachers can improve and become even better teachers than they were the year before.

What do you believe makes a good teacher? Share your ideas with us on social media! Add links to social media.

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