Effective Teacher

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Twelve Characteristics of an Effective Teacher
A Longitudinal, Qualitative, Quasi-Research Study of In-service and Pre-service Teachers’ Opini For fifteen years, the presenter has engaged college students in discussions and writing assignments that pertain to the outstanding characteristics of their most effective teachers—“effective” meaning that these teachers made the most significant impact on their lives. Based on those recurring themes, the conclusion is that effective teachers share at least twelve clear characteristics. Those characteristics consistently affected students in positive ways. This article results from a longitudinal, qualitative, quasi-research study of students in education, including in-service as well as pre-service teachers. An out-of-class essay assignment asked this question: What were the qualities of the most memorable teacher who encouraged you to teach?

Participants and Courses Involved in the Study
his study utilized both traditional and nontraditional students the author taught in the past fifteen years. The undergraduate students (pre-service teachers) in the study were working toward bachelor’s degrees in teaching and not actually teaching when they wrote their essays. Most of the graduate students were in-service education professionals who had returned to school for advanced degrees. “Traditional” students were defined as on-campus students with tuition support from parents or student loans. “Nontraditional” students were defined as those living off campus and working or raising a family.


educational HORIZONS

Fall 2008


The students were enrolled in various courses, some held during the day, others at night. The courses included Methods of Teaching Science; Methods of Teaching Math; Methods of Teaching Social Studies; Curriculum Development; Child Development; Introduction to Special Education; Problems in the Elementary School; Educational Technology; and Teaching in the Urban Setting. More than one thousand students matriculated through these undergraduate and graduate classes, held in the United States, Canada, Bermuda, and the Caribbean. Several students from Africa participated. The courses were taught at both predominately white and historically black institutions, including two private colleges; three public universities; a junior college; and a technical college. The multiplicity of institutions and courses over the years provided the study with a diverse student population: young and old, black and white, Hispanic, those of Asian nationality, males, and females. The students were mainly early childhood majors, training to teach nursery to grade three (N–3); elementary education majors, training to teach kindergarten to sixth grade (K–6); and secondary education majors, training to teach seventh to twelfth grades (7–12) in specific subject areas such as physical education, mathematics, science, history, and music. The elementary education majors formed the largest contingent.

Twelve Characteristics of an Effective Teacher

Besides the undergraduate and graduate students, there were also students working on alternative master’s degrees. Those students had obtained bachelor’s degrees in other fields such as social work, psychology, mathematics, and biology and later decided that they wanted to teach. Some alternative master’s degree students were changing careers after working in other professions. Many had already begun teaching using emergency teaching certificates.

Definition of Terms
Effective described a particular teacher who had been the most successful in helping respondents to learn. Characteristics described a particular teacher’s special personal qualities that the respondents felt had enabled the teachers to achieve success.


Research Instrument
During the first week of each course taught at the various institutions (listed above in “Participants and Courses Involved in the Study”), I assigned students an essay on their most...
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