What Makes a Teacher Effective

What are the essential attributes that distinguish teachers from other educated people? 
What knowledge, skills, and attitudes are demonstrated by the effective teacher? 

Effective teaching is much more than an intuitive process. A teacher must continually make decisions and act on those decisions. To do this effectively, the teacher must have both theoretical knowledge about learning and human behavior and knowledge about the subject matter to be taught. A teacher also must demonstrate a repertoire of teaching skills that are believed to facilitate student learning and must display attitudes that foster learning and genuine human relationships. 
• Teachers are required to make many decisions, both preactive and interactive, as they make plans for instruction, implement teaching strategies, and evaluate outcomes of their planning and strategy. 
• Four major types of teacher attitudes affect teaching behavior: 
(1) attitude toward self; 
(2) attitude toward children; 
(3) attitude toward peers and parents; and 
(4) attitude toward the subject matter. 
• A teacher should have an intimate knowledge of the subject matter being taught, both the instructional content and the discipline from which it derives. 
• To be able to recognize and interpret classroom events appropriately, a teacher should be familiar with theoretical knowledge and research about learning and human behavior. 
• Effective teachers demonstrate a repertoire of teaching skills that enable them to meet the different needs of their students. 
Research has identified a number of these skills in, to name a few areas, classroom management, effective questioning, and planning techniques. 
In a broad study, David Berliner attempted to provide an answer, based on contemporary research on teaching, to the question, “What is an effective teacher?” His answer focuses on teacher behaviors that give students the opportunity to spend sufficient time engaged in and succeeding at tasks that help them achieve intended learning. Several behaviors seem to distinguish effective teachers: 
• They monitor students’ independent work, checking on their progress and providing appropriate feedback, to maintain a high level of student engagement with the task at hand. 
• They structure lessons to let students know what is expected of them and what procedures to follow. 
• They pace instruction rapidly to deliver a maximum amount of the curriculum to students. 
• They ask questions at a high level requiring students to analyze, synthesize, or evaluate, demand answers at the same level as the question, and wait at least three seconds for students’ answers. 
• They communicate high expectations for student success. 
• They provide a safe and orderly classroom. Deviant behavior is managed sensibly, and academic achievement is rewarded. 
• They foster a convivial atmosphere in their classrooms. 
• They capitalize on the instructional and motivational uses of tests and grades. 
• They provide feedback to students in the forms of praise, use of student ideas, and corrective forms that allow students to respond appropriately. 
This list is not comprehensive; these nine categories of teaching behaviors are only examples of behaviors that distinguish effective teaching. But the relationship of this collection of attitudes, knowledge, and skills to a research base indicates their importance in the repertoire of the professional teacher. 

(David C. Berliner, “Effective Classroom Teaching: The Necessary but Not Sufficient Condition for Developing Exemplary Schools,” in Research on Exemplary Schools)

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