Five Habits That I Believe Define Effective Teaching
I consider teaching a passion and truly feel that if you do something you love, it will never feel like work. I remember when I first started teaching, ten years ago, I would accumulate countless teaching concepts from books and professional development courses. I was enthusiastic, motivated to learn and eager to try out new ideas. I am still like this today. However, instead of simply following the latest trend or trying a new teaching strategy simply for the sake of “trying something new.” I base my instructional decisions on two key elements. First, I ask myself what do I know to be true from experience? Second, I consider research based evidence on how students learn best? Answering these two questions has helped me to compose five habits I believe define effective teaching. These habits are:
Encourage and Inspire
As Socrates said, “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” I believe that this is true even today, thousands of years later. Instead of standing in front of a class and preaching information, effective teachers know when to step off the podium. Being skilled at facilitating student interactions and providing time for metacognition is critical to preparing students to meet the highly cognitive demands of the twenty-first-century.
When teaching anything, whether it is a new unit of study or a new procedure it is important to be clear with what is expected. Students need to know exactly what the criteria is for achieving success. Providing a purpose, models, examples and a clear definition of the desired end result characterizes a well prepared lesson. My Manageable Modeling Lesson is a great example of providing clear examples for students.
Feedback is what keeps students steadily moving forward with their learning. How will students know if they are making progress if teachers do not provide feedback? Along with whole class feedback, teachers need to find ways to confer individually with students. This can be challenging especially with a class of twenty plus students demanding teacher attention. It is possible, however, with strategies such as Praise, Polish & Press.
Give Regular Formative Assessments
One of the only ways to know for sure if students are ready to advance is to collect accurate and effective formative assessments. Formulating assessments that are directly linked to lesson goals should be frequent and utilized as a tool for guiding instruction. Without a clear understanding of what students know, how can teachers plan what to teach?
Collaborate With Colleagues
Sharing tricks and tips with colleagues is one thing, however the best way to improve student achievement in a school is to foster a culture of sharing and collaboration among teachers. For the past five years I have had the privilege of working at a school where the entire staff was immersed in the same ambitious professional development. I have witnessed first had the positive effects on student achievement when teachers come together with a unified vision and collaborate as a team.
Effective teachers exhibit all five of these behaviors. They manage their classroom by utilizing what they know from experience and combine that with compelling research. There is, however, one more factor. No habit or approach can take the place of a teacher’s passion for what they are teaching. It is passion and enthusiasm that separates the good teachers from the great teachers. Great teachers want their students not only to be able to pass the test, they want their students to love learning, be confident and reach their highest potential in the classroom and beyond.