This paper attempts to explore and identify the characteristics of an effective teacher who teaches English as a second language to 10 year old students from different ethnics, various social economic background and multi-level language ability, at a private primary school in Malaysia. The study focused on classroom management using a case study methodology where data was collected using both interviews and classroom observations. The findings concur with previous literature reviews on effective teacher models whilst providing in-depth details on what transpires during classroom activities, thus clarifying further the meaning of effective classroom management. The implications of this study suggest the need to include six new classroom management behaviours of an effective teacher. Further research is warranted to help policy makers and school administrators in identifying the significance of these behaviours for the selection and training of future teachers.
Keywords: effective teacher, classroom management, teacher training
What does it take to be an effective teacher? While aspiring teachers can increase their knowledge and develop their skills, their intrapersonal and interpersonal character, in addition to their spiritual beliefs, are likely to remain the same (Cantor, 1990). As noted by Cantor, "Having is not the same as doing." So, while teachers can develop both knowledge and skills through experience and training, without the ability and the disposition to make use of them, very little will happen. Thus, he concluded that it is very difficult to identify these effective teacher characteristics because personal traits are rooted in feelings and beliefs, which we can neither observe directly nor assess using simple questionnaires (Ostorga, 2003). These setbacks make the characteristics difficult to identify.
Nevertheless, policy makers, administrators, teacher educators and aspiring teachers would benefit significantly from knowing the characteristics of effective teachers, as this knowledge would likely improve the quality of the field. New teachers and those at a crossroads in their career would also benefit if they could confirm that the interpersonal and intrapersonal beliefs they possess are those demanded by the field. With these goals in mind, this article aims to share the findings of an empirical study on the key characteristics teachers need to excel in their job, focusing on classroom management.
The Malaysian National Education Philosophy states that:
"Education in Malaysia is an on-going effort towards further developing the potential of individuals in a holistic and integrated manner, so as to produce individuals who are intellectually, spiritually, emotionally and physically balanced and harmonic, based on a firm belief in and devotion to god..."
National Education Blueprint 2006-2010: ix
Thus, as educators, our main responsibility is to produce such students and to prepare them to face myriad world challenges upon graduation. Apart from parents, the teacher is the next crucial factor, who patiently, year in and year out, goes into the classroom to teach and mould the children under his or her care. Some students even study under the same teacher for a number of years. Thus comes the famous quote "A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops," by Henry Brooks Adams (1838-1918:Chp. 20). Therefore, the power of teachers to influence students cannot be denied.
What sort of influence is crucial? What makes one teacher effective and another ineffective? There are definite reasons to why a teacher is effective. A study by Johnson (1980) determined four key characteristics that correlated with teacher effectiveness: having sound knowledge of subject matter; taking personal interest in each student; establishing a caring and warm atmosphere; and showing enthusiasm with students. Other studies have identified several characteristics of an effective teacher, which include enthusiastic, effective communicator, adaptable to change, lifelong learner, competent, accepting of others, patient, organized, hardworking, and caring (Glenn, 2001; Mujis, 2005: Malikow, 2006; Goe, 2007; Daniel, 2010; Korthagen, 2004, Vallance 2000); Hattie 2003) defines excellent teachers, effective teachers or expert teachers as teachers who are able to teach and at the same time create a learning environment within the class to the point that the students enjoy learning and love to learn under that teacher. …