These are just seven suggestions of the qualities that highly effective teachers should have. It is definitely not an complete list!
This is a big one, which is why it is first. To know where they are with you and their studies, students must know the framework. That means you have to be consistent. Certain things mean detentions, this is the way we set things out, these are the things I will allow you to do, etc. Some of this is set by school policies which you merely enforce, some varies teacher to teacher. Teachers new to the profession or to a job in a new school need to sit down and think about the framework within which their students will work. It’s very important to see things from the student’s point of view.
2. Treat students as individuals
It’s unknown whose great idea it was for class sizes of around 30 to be the norm in western education, but it doesn’t exactly encourage close teacher-student relationships. This is a great shame as it’s only with effective relationships that true learning takes place. Try to find out as much as possible about your students. Knowing what they like and dislike, motivates them and de-motivates them helps you use metaphor and simile in your teaching – always powerful tools. It also helps them take you more seriously as someone who is to be respected not just for your position of authority.
3. Make your physical classroom environment as learning-oriented as possible
Having your tables/desks in rows works in some subjects; in many it doesn’t. Try having your desks in islands to encourage peer learning and experiment with where you put your teacher’s desk. Do you really need a ‘front’ to your classroom? Are the things on your walls interesting and colourful? Is your classroom well-lit? Are resources easy to get at? All these things matter to students.
4. Assess often, but for a purpose
Students like to know how they’re doing, especially on exam-related courses. Try doing some “Assessment for Learning” related activities so that the testing contributes towards learning rather than just being numbers on a page. Use different kinds of assessments – creative tasks mixed up with essays and ICT-based activities. Variety is the spice of life! :
5. Get feedback on your ‘performances’
Performance management classroom observations only tell us so much about the way we teach. A far better barometer is to either see or hear yourself teach (via video camera or audio recorder). Another way would be to get some student feedback, although with the latter they tend to be far too polite! The advantage of video is that you can notice not only the effect your voice has on students but your body language as well. Remember, around 60% of communication is non-verbal, around 20% is tone of voice, and only 10% is what is said. That’s probably why you can remember a lot of how your teachers from school looked and sounded when they taught, but not what they actually said…
6. Connect with other teachers for informal professional development and sharing
It has been said that teaching in the 21st century is less like McGyver and more like the A-Team. In other words, it’s about operating as a team even though at any given time you may be working as an individual. The fact that you’re reading this means that you’ve put at least one step inside the ‘world of sharing’ – an informal network of educators. Get involved, don’t just be a wallflower!
7. Appeal to every facet of the learner
Using the theory of Multiple Intelligences is a very useful guide for educators as to how to hit every base with their students. Using (targeted, relevant) music for ‘accelerated learning’, role-play, word-play, group work, and so on is really just good teaching. But it’s good to be reminded of that every so often.