What makes a good teacher?
Sandra Stotsky, the Twenty-First Century Chair in Teacher Quality in the College of Education and Health Professions, replies:
At a time when the states are trying to develop a far more effective teacher corps than they now have, this question becomes one of the most important for policymakers to answer. It is a question that many researchers have sought to answer empirically. And what educational research tells us consistently is that the chief characteristic of effective teachers is knowledge of the subject they teach. In other words, academic proficiency is the key element in teacher quality. There may well be other characteristics of effective teachers, but they have not yet been identified by a credible body of research. This is a matter of common sense as well. How can a teacher teach what he or she doesn’t know — or know well?
However, it takes more than a deep knowledge of a subject to be good at teaching. Good teachers try to stimulate curiosity about the subject they have chosen to teach as well, rewarding effort but praising learning only when it has clearly taken place. Good teachers are sensitive to differences in students’ interests, attention spans and talents and do not ignore other aspects of their students’ lives. Above all, good teachers know they are responsible for their students’ intellectual growth, and if their growth in understanding, knowledge and independent thinking does not take place in school, it may not take place anywhere else.