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Read About Best Practices in Defining Characteristics of Effective Teachers

Introduction/Overview

This module explores the characteristics of effective teachers. You will examine observable behaviors that indicate effectiveness as a leader of instruction in the classroom, campus, and community.


Definition/Purpose

According to Harry Wong, there are three main characteristics of an effective teacher:

  • Has positive expectations for student success
  • Excels at classroom management
  • Designs lessons for mastery

Since effective teachers trust that their students are capable of the tasks set before them, positive expectations are the cornerstone of their beliefs. Effective teachers know that students can achieve their goals if given proper, differentiated instruction and guidance.

Effective teachers run their classrooms efficiently. They have set procedures for handling daily tasks that could otherwise become overwhelming and consume instructional time. Effective teachers are able to identify what needs to be done and find ways to consistently achieve order. They understand that the greatest discipline/management problems stem from lack of procedures. If teachers can address potential difficulties ahead of time, these situations can easily be avoided.

Effective teachers also know the content of their subject(s) and what their students need to learn. They use this knowledge to design lessons for mastery. Effective teachers are familiar with national and state standards for the content, and are able to examine data to understand the strengths and weaknesses of their students. Effective teachers teach the student, not the subject.

In his book Qualities of Effective Teachers, James Stronge defines five specific, critical areas of teacher effectiveness:

  • The teacher as a person
  • Classroom management and organization
  • Organizing for instruction
  • Implementing instruction
  • Monitoring student progress and potential

The Teacher as a Person

Effective teachers possess certain personality traits.

  • Caring: The effective teacher shows deep care and concern for his students. Effective teachers always return to the question, “Is this best for the student?” when making decisions.
  • Listening: The effective teacher listens to students, parents, administrators, and colleagues when making decisions for instruction.
  • Understanding: The effective teacher has a deep understanding of the students in her classroom. Decisions are made on a case-by-case basis and are fair because the total student is considered.
  • Knowing Students: The effective teacher knows his students and their lives. Effective teachers instruct each student as an individual.

Classroom Management and Organization

Organizing a classroom can be a daunting task. Effective teachers approach organization with a distinct plan focusing on increased student performance. Following are some considerations that help when preparing for classroom management and organization.

  • Time Management: Keep a calendar and a to-do list. Set goals for yourself, prioritize your tasks, and learn shortcuts from veteran teachers. Be prepared for lessons, surprises, and for the needs of your students.
  • Materials: Organize everything. Create files for yourself and use them. Develop a system for collecting and returning student work, for assigning and collecting make-up work, and for keeping the essentials, such as grades, lesson plans, seating charts, emergency plans, and substitute teacher information.
  • Space: Arrange your room so that you are able to walk next to every student desk. Make decisions regarding the view from the windows, wall decorations, and posted information that will either detract from or enhance student concentration. Remember that the lighting, temperature, and scent of the classroom also affect student learning.
  • Student Behavior: Things to consider as you set up your expectations for student behavior are: classroom rules, procedures, routines, and creating a work-oriented atmosphere of respect.

Organizing for Instruction

The effective teacher has a plan for instruction. It is important to know the exact requirements for each grade level and subject, so start by examining national, state, and district standards. The next step is to develop a blueprint for delivering the instruction. The goals for each student must be at the heart of the planning process. Everything from the supply list to how you set up your room is dependent upon your instructional goals.


Implementing Instruction

Now that you know what to teach, you face the challenge of figuring out how to teach it! Since not all methods work with all students, it is your job to continually search for the best ways to inspire each of them. This will require you to stay up-to-date in current research and best-practice instruction by reading, attending conferences, participating in workshops, and joining professional organizations. The effective teacher knows how to find effective strategies to ensure that all students are learning.


Monitoring Student Progress and Potential

Effective teachers know how each student in the classroom is doing at all times and how to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of each. These teachers continually push the students to the next level, always keeping them in Vygotsky’s “zone of proximal development.” Effective teachers are able to manage their classrooms to meet with individual students or small groups of students to ensure maximum learning.

Effective teachers do not just “happen.” They are constantly working to improve their practices through continued learning, action research, and listening to the parents, students, and communities they serve.