Effective Teaching

What constitutes effective teaching and learning in classrooms is a wide, complex and subjective area of debate for all involved in the process, including politicians, parents, teachers and students. There are three features one must account for when trying to understand what people in classrooms are trying to achieve. The first, quite simply, is teachers teach and students learn. It is the way they try to achieve this and the problems they encounter that are the key factors to consider when trying understanding effective classroom teaching. Second, is by understanding the thinking behind the practices and the limitations of the classroom. Third combines these two elements to be able to create effective teaching methods and education, and plan curricula and development of classroom practice.

Effective teaching is a continual learning process, and each school year brings changes to which competent teachers must adapt. These changes include the students themselves, the curriculum, building issues, colleagues, administrators, finances, health and safety concerns, families, communities and an abundance of other influences affecting the daily lives of teachers. A teacher's ability to adapt to changes and successfully navigate the complexities of the classroom is dependent on their personal abilities and experiences, and is an essential competency of a teacher, acquired before they step foot into a classroom environment.

Research suggests effective teachers have five prerequisites: Good verbal communication, which has a positive effect on student achievement; content knowledge, i.e. majoring or minoring in the subject area of professional expertise; and educational coursework, deemed as a stronger predictor of teaching effectiveness. Alongside these, those who embrace life-long learning and continued professional development yield results in increased student achievement; certification, as certified teachers regardless of type are more effective than those without; and teaching experience, with respect to areas of planning classroom management, questioning and reflection.

Wubbels, Levy & Brekelmans (1997) suggest that the teacher's interpersonal skills are the basis for creating strong, working relationships and a positive learning climate. Individuals remember the relationship with a good teacher, which is a powerful motivator to learning. Looking beyond classroom management, instruction and assessment, the personal characteristics the teacher possesses are important when considering their effectiveness. It is understood that most effective teachers are passionate about their profession and are good with all students, regardless of their age or subject being taught. These characteristics include being caring, understanding fairness and respect, and their attitude toward the teaching profession, social interactions with students, promotion of enthusiasm and motivation for learning. These factors reflect the complexity of teaching as an interpersonal activity.

When studying methods of effective teaching Schon (1987) noted the continuing temptation to conduct research from within theoretical frameworks, assuming good teaching is necessarily a ‘reflective' practice. The dominant model of the 1970s was the process-product model, examining the correlations between product measures, for example desired student attainment and processes such as classroom activities. This approach now is largely abandoned, because it fails to take into account complexities of the classroom. Management of the classroom and student achievement is closely correlated. The teacher is the leader, driver and motivator to enable students to reach their destination. Sokal, Smith and Mowat (2003) report new and experienced teachers consider classroom management to be a high priority, but also an area of concern. Mastering effective classroom management techniques takes time and work, considering preventative, proactive and positive approaches to ensure learning is occurring. Effective teachers manage and organize their class and expect students to contribute in a positive and productive manner. The classroom environment impacts student learning, as much as the aptitude the student has.

Implementing instruction so the students learn is a difficult task where the teacher must consider each individual student's unique needs and abilities. The information teachers present to their students and what they expect from them in return influences what the students will understand and apply. Research shows that effective teachers constantly monitor and collect evidence of student understanding. Educators know that high expectations are the key for effective schools. However, teachers' actions must demonstrate they believe in the power of expecting results.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Effective Teaching and Learning: Teachers' and Students' Perspectives
Paul Cooper; Donald McIntyre.
Open University Press, 1996
Teaching for Understanding: What It Is and How to Do It
Douglas P. Newton.
Routledge, 2000
The Exceptional Teacher: Transforming Traditional Teaching through Thoughtful Practice
Elizabeth Aaronsohn.
Jossey-Bass, 2003
Handbook for Qualities of Effective Teachers
James H. Stronge; Pamela D. Tucker; Jennifer L. Hindman.
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2004
Qualities of Effective Teachers
James H. Stronge.
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2002
School Improvement: What's in It for Schools?
Alma Harris.
Routledge, 2002
Librarian’s tip: "Effective Teaching" begins on p. 93
Educational Values and Cognitive Instruction: Implications for Reform
Lorna Idol; Beau Fly Jones.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1991
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 8 "Motivation and Effective Teaching"
Effective Teaching in Higher Education
George Brown; Madeleine Atkins.
Routledge, 1988
Learning to Teach in Higher Education
Paul Ramsden.
Routledge, 1992
Exemplary University Teachers: Knowledge and Beliefs regarding Effective Teaching Dimensions and Strategies
Hativa, Nira; Barak, Rachel; Simhi, Etty.
Journal of Higher Education, Vol. 72, No. 6, November-December 2001
Principles of Effective Teaching in the Online Classroom
Renée E. Weiss; Dave S. Knowlton; Bruce W. Speck.
Jossey-Bass, 2000
Becoming a Successful Teacher of Mathematics
Howard Tanner; Sonia Jones.
Routledge, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "Effective Teaching Approaches"
The Enneagram Intelligences: Understanding Personality for Effective Teaching and Learning
Janet Levine.
Bergin & Garvey, 1999
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