What makes an effective teacher?

Essay, 2014

14 Pages, Grade: 72


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. The shifting ideals of education over time and their relevance towards being an effective teacher

3. ICT and being technologically literate

4. Reflection and Creativity

5. Conclusion

6. References

What makes an effective teacher?

1. Introduction

Being a teacher clearly entails more than being an instructor and helping pupils fulfil their educational potential. Teaching is a complex and multi-faceted area, one which is constantly evolving and is in a state of continual flux. In this assignment, the attributes which constitute an effective teacher will be disseminated, alongside a critical analysis of my own personal views and teaching ideology (primarily centred on creativity, adaptability and other such variables). The conclusions and points this assignment makes will be discussed with relevance towards my own practice. Recent and empirical literature will be consulted, in addition to a backlog of government reports and other such authoritative educational documents.

Furthermore, a critical appraisal will be evident throughout the course of this assignment, with the point that being an effective teacher may not just depend on one solitary attribute, indeed a plethora of traits need to be exuded in one’s practice for them to be deemed an effective teacher, particularly adaptability which is ever more pertinent in the educational climate that exists in the contemporary era. Although this assignment will adopt a general stance on what constitutes an effective teacher (not distinguishing particularly between educational levels), there will be some discussion (limited by the scope and wordage of this assignment) over the criteria which constitutes an effective teacher varies by the educational level (i.e. primary or secondary school) they are operating at.

2. The shifting ideals of education over time and their relevance towards being an effective teacher

Prior to discussing to a specific discussion over what makes an effective teacher, it seems apt to consider the issue from an empirical perspective and discern whether attitudes towards what constitutes an effective teacher vary over time or not. Intriguingly, Coe et al. (2014) noted that, in terms of teaching styles at least (in a study commissioned with the primary objective of discerning the optimum teaching style), little has changed over time, with ‘traditional’ (passive, rote learning and so forth) teaching methods being deemed to have a more tangible effect than new pedagogical methods which have been implemented recently (such as multi-sensory learning and other such initiatives and schemes) (DfE, 2010), indicating that in terms of pedagogical style espoused, little has changed in determining what constitutes an effective teacher. Whilst this point may be valid and relevant, in some aspects it disregards the other aspects of the dynamic and multi-faceted profession of being a teacher (or educator in any capacity), with (ironically), the teaching responsibilities of a practitioner no longer being the only attribute which is demanded of them in their teaching role.

Shuayb and O’Donnell (2008) note the changing attitudes towards education in the last 40 years- with a paradigm shift from focussing solely on the academic attainment of pupils (which is represented by the inauguration of the ’11 plus’ exam and the prevalence of grammar schools) towards educating the child as ‘a whole’ and focussing on a more ‘child centred’ method of education where their personal attributes are recognised in addition to their academic assets and potential. Whilst the aforementioned study may have been restricted towards formative (primary) education of children, the point that there is a more a ‘child-centred’ movement of education is applicable to all levels of the educational hierarchy (i.e. primary, secondary, tertiary and quaternary education). Ultimately, this movement is known as ‘holistic’ education (an ideology of education which had been pioneered empirically by notable individuals such as Rudolf Steiner and Maria Montessori) and has become commonplace in the educational movements accepted in the contemporary era. Rudge (2008) notes that ‘holistic’ education is an eclectic and dynamic paradigm which requires teachers to continually adapt their skills and account for the changes which have taken place in education, of which there have been an innumerable amount in the last decade (e.g. a move from modular to linear assessments; ICT being replaced with Computer Science; the difficulty of GCSE exams increasing and the amendments in the standards which qualified teachers must meet) (DfE, 2010; DfE, 2013).

The child-centred nature of education (with an increased emphasis on recognising children as individuals and having their emotional needs met by learning) is illustrated by schemes such as Every Child Matters (DfE, 2004), SEAL (Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning) (DfES, 2005) and PLTS (Personal, Learning and Thinking Skills) (QCDA, 2011). Clearly, this illustrates how the child-centred approach (also known as ‘personalised’ learning) has become so prevalent in education today, which contrasts markedly with the academically-orientated curriculum which has been historically in evidence. Subsequently, referring back to the scope of the assignment, what makes an effective teacher has seemingly altered over time- now teachers are required to be much more than educators, being coaches, role models, mentors and in some cases even having to act in ‘loco parentis’ (assuming parental responsibilities in the school environment to compensate for a lack of familial support at home) (Patel, 2003). This implies that becoming an effective teacher in the contemporary era is a more challenging prospect than in the prior decades, primarily because of advances which have been made in this time in terms of understanding and knowledge. Ritzer (2007) defines the increased emphasis on the emotional and spiritual tenets (or purposes) of education as being the ‘informal’ curriculum in lessons which are delivered sub-consciously by the teacher such as how to behave appropriately and correctly and displaying respect and compassion towards others (particularly those of different cultures and faiths). Such needs could be potentially understood by studying Maslow’s (Dye et al., 2005) hierarchy of needs, which categorises the needs which people have according to their importance:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 1: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (2004)

The ultimate goal in this theoretical model is individuals attaining the highest level in the hierarchy of ‘self- actualisation’ (in other words, fulfilling one’s potential), something which is the pinnacle in achievement of human life (Dye et al., 2005). Assuming the ‘deficiency’ needs (safety, physiological and love/belonging) are met at home or elsewhere for pupils, teachers could be responsible for propelling pupils to access the upper levels of the hierarchy, which seems to embody the holistic ethos of education referenced in the discussion above. The propensity and likelihood of teachers to achieve this may be affected by how influential they are. Riggio (2010) argues that the functions of teachers and leaders have a significant cross-over, with both being transformational (being capable of inspiring change amongst other individuals). Arguably, this may be easier for teachers rather than leaders to achieve as they are dealing with impressionable young minds, rather than adults who may have pre-conceived thoughts, behaviours and ideals. However, Maslow (Dye et al., 2005) also enunciates that only a minority (2%) of individuals are capable of attaining this landmark state of being, which perhaps devalues the impact that teachers can have, although displaying and possessing leadership qualities is clearly an integral component of being an effective teacher.

Clearly, being an effective teacher certainly entails both an awareness of the ‘informal’ (hidden) curriculum and an ability to demonstrate it in practice. This could be potentially attained by adhering to Bandura’s (1977) theoretical stipulations in that young children (i.e. pupils) are often influenced by the behaviours and attitudes of their caregivers or those adults who play a significant role in their lives. Bandura termed this phenomenon as ‘modelling’, which could be useful in assisting teachers in modelling the correct behaviours they wish to observe in pupils and enabling them to become effective teachers.

Upon the premise of this discussion above, the conjecture could be made that effective teachers need to be well-versed in the theoretical concepts surrounding education and how they can be applied in practice.

This assignment will now focus on the individual characteristics and dimensions of what makes an effective teacher, before reaching an eventual definitive conclusion over the attributes which an effective teacher possesses.

3. ICT and being technologically literate

One additional responsibility which teachers now have in comparison with the past to become an effective teacher is being technologically literate and display the capacity to integrate it effectively into their lessons, regardless of what subject they teach or what level they practice at. With the technological advances that have been made in recent years, Prensky (2001) speaks of the development of a group of people called ‘digital natives’ i.e. those who are used to residing with technology and it becoming an integral component of their daily lives (they could not imagine a life where technology was not at the forefront of their lives). This is seemingly accompanied by the assumption that teachers who are currently entering the profession automatically display some level of competency in technology, which seems to be reinforced by the abolishment of the ICT Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) skills test in 2012, in the sense that it seemed impractical to test prospective trainee teachers on a skill they were automatically assumed to possess in the digitally-dominated present era (DfE, 2012). This illustrates that being competent at technology is one attribute of being an effective teacher, even if it may not be the most important one.

Interestingly, ICT has been scrapped (and replaced with a new incarnation, Computer Science), with the requirement being that Teachers integrate ICT into every subject that they teach, in a cross-curricular modality of pedagogy which embraces the assets of technology (DfE, 2015). However, the conjecture could possibly be made that being a effective teacher involves more than simply being aware of how to integrate ICT within lessons. However, it must be conceded that it still takes considerable skill to effectively utilise ICT within a lesson, although it is the Government’s mandatory expectation that teachers do so in the contemporary era (DfE, 2015). Certainly, with the explosion of technology and the inundation of developments of it which have infiltrated the educational sphere, a teacher must be equipped with the sufficient skill to deploy it as a teaching vehicle effectively within a lesson or learning episode. Exemplifying this point in practice, Cogill (2008) notes that even with a seemingly simple piece of equipment such as an Interactive Whiteboard, a teacher must still have sufficient pedagogical assets to exploit its learning potential to the optimum.

In essence, in order to be an effective teacher (at least in the dimension of technology), a practitioner should possess the technical knowledge of using apparatus and the ability to incorporate it appropriately within a lesson.


Excerpt out of 14 pages


What makes an effective teacher?
University of Cumbria
Secondary Teaching with Mathematics
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
689 KB
Education, Pedagogy, Teaching, Educational Science
Quote paper
Sam Curran (Author), 2014, What makes an effective teacher?, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/427209


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