Features of effective teachers

In my previous school, every year my department has about 10 sections of Principle of Biology Lab and I was TA for some of those. With the same class content, different teachers have very different ways to convey the materials to their students. Some teachers have to teach more than one class. But the way they teach Monday class is not identical to that of Friday class. Since teachers have a great impact on student learning and the impact might even last for years, it has always been so important to have effective teachers in the classroom. I completely agree with Deel (2004) that there is more than one way to become an effective teacher. But I think effective teachers often share certain features in common. Here is the list based on my own experiences and reading materials.

  1. Effective teachers know the subject they teach, love the subject, and commit to sharing it with their students.
  2. Effective teachers enjoy teaching and concern about the quality of their teaching.
  3. Effective teachers have clearly-defined standards of conducts as well as goals and expectations for their students.
  4. Effective teachers create a learning environment with mutual respect. In this environment, students feel they are a part of the classroom and comfortable to speak out their own thoughts.
  5. Effective teachers clearly explain the objectives of the course and each class. Also, they tell students the position of each class and how it connects with others in the overall picture of the course or even the discipline.
  6. The classes of effective teachers are well-prepared with plenty of additional information related to course materials such as the context for material, examples, and various ways of explanations to make materials more understandable and memorable. The class contents are often used to explain real-life phenomena or to link with their practical applications. Information is delivered in different ways, therefore, students of different learning style have the opportunity to absorb it.
  7. Effective teachers can explain complex ideas in simple ways.
  8. Effective teachers are willing to address students’ questions and discuss various viewpoints other than their own.
  9. Effective teachers know that not all students learn in the same way and at the same pace.
  10. Effective teachers have different methods to assess and evaluate students’ performance. They provide feedback (recognition as well as ways to improve) to individual students and explain the gap that the majority of class miss it. Also, they can adjust their teaching strategy if it does not work for the class.
  11. Effective teachers make themselves available for their students even on matters not directly related to the course.

5 thoughts on “Features of effective teachers

  1. Kyriakos Tsoukalas

    While I agree with you that lessons of effective teachers will share some common features, it may not be so much about the information they share, but the way they do it. For example military instructors don’t teach how to argue, they teach discipline with a purpose. The common features are about simplifying concepts and shaping learning environments.

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  2. Dalya Ismael

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. I agree about the items on the list. I went through them myself but couldn’t tick them all off for myself. Maybe because of my major, or teaching responsibilities. I consider some of them as goals for myself to achieve throughout my teaching career.

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  3. Sarah Donnelly

    #11 is such a critical, yet often overlooked, aspect of teaching. The needs of students will not always directly relate to the course material, and if you truly TRULY want your students to trust and respect you, you need to show them that you care about them holistically. Not their grades or their writing skills, but who they are as people! Great list.

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  4. hsmart3

    I love the entire list. Although, I can see where #11 can be the most difficult to achieve. We should throw this list in a pdf and blast it to every professor on the face of the earth. ;0)

    Thank you for the post. It’s now in my teaching toolkit in my Google Drive.

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  5. Catherine Einstein

    I agree with your list. I would add (which may have been implied) that you do not have to enjoy teaching all the time. I often have moments when I connect with a student or when I see the lightbulbs turn on that I really enjoy teaching. But I also have moments when I feel like my students aren’t trying nor do they care to try that I feel disappointed and frustrated with teaching.

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