Qualities of an effective educator

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Qualities inherent in teacher effectiveness can be enumerable and factors related to defining the qualities most important for student outcomes, or what the best student outcomes even are, are widely debated. In the determination of what defines an effective teacher, it is important to consider that the fundamental qualities of what is to be described as effective would be largely dependent on the disposition of the definer, the theoretical foundation and the domains in which quality is to be considered fundamental; as well as the perspective or ideological foundation from which such determination would be based. Thus it is necessary to first determine the domains in which would best describe contemporary attributions of effective teaching, distinguishing passive attributions which would describe interpersonal characteristics such as disposition and temperament, and those of active influence, such as pedagogy, and communication style. These perspectives include primarily institutional descriptions of effective teacher practices, described within current policy such as no child left behind, which seeks to describe what influences student achievement; primarily, a teacher's measurable cumulative qualifications and academic or professional experiences to determine what practices are most consistently productive in student achievement on standardized testing. This paper will focus on a more practical perspective, including what could be considered the most influential personal as well as external characteristics of effective, quality teaching professionals, based on research promoting those attributes evaluated to affect student achievement within various domains.

Characteristics from the review of the literature promote five specific qualities which are inherent in effective teachers. These include personal and professional disposition, pedagogical knowledge, content knowledge, organizational and leadership skills and classroom management, and Personal disposition can be used to describe a multitude of personal factors contributing to the efficacy of a person as a teacher and in relation to behaviors which promote professional development as well as student achievement and development. According to Taylor and Wasicsko, dispositions are often defined as, “the personal qualities or characteristics that are possessed by individuals, including attitudes, beliefs, interests, appreciations, values, and modes of adjustment.” (2000, p. 2).

These dispositions can be applied to teaching, according to The National Council Accreditation for Teacher Education (NCATE) as:

“The values, commitments, and professional ethics that influence behaviors toward students, families, colleagues, and communities and affect student learning, motivation, and development as well as the educator's own professional growth. Dispositions are guided by beliefs and attitudes related to values such as caring, fairness, honesty, responsibility, and social justice. For example, they might include a belief that all students can learn, a vision of high and challenging standards or a commitment to a safe and supportive learning environment” (NCATE, 2006).

Disposition then, is additionally implied as not only an obligation for educators to develop a moral and ethical standard with regard to the appropriateness of teaching as a career and obligation for professionals to continue to develop additional skills, but also a obligatory commitment to personally engage in the profession and, equally ensuring the learning needs all students are of primary concern, continually develop and enact an effective teaching method and philosophy. Thus it seems evident that the primary characteristic upon which all other qualities build is a fundamental disposition or strong interpersonal and professional ability; in addition to, but well beyond, a primary desire to teach effectively.

Effective teachers not only have an ethical desire to teach equally and effectively, they ground their methods and techniques in theoretical and scientific foundations.

In endeavors to identify indicators of teacher quality, some researchers have looked at teachers' intellectual competence, academic ability, and achievement as evident in college GPA, SAT, ACT and PRAXIS scores. They have discovered a positive relationship between teacher's verbal ability, content knowledge, and pupil achievement (Ehrenberg & Brewer 1995; Ferguson & Ladd, 1996; Greenwald, Hedges, & Laine, 1996; U.S. Department of Education, 2002).