What makes a teacher great?

What makes a great teacher? And how can we identify great teachers?

Is teaching an art? Or a science? Can we boil down all the magic that happens in great classrooms to just a few key actions? Many of us say we know great teaching when we see it – but how can we work together to define exactly what good teaching is?

Over the last few years we’ve seen scores of data released to try to answer that question. First we saw Teach For America release more than a decade of data about teacher practice (see the Atlantic for the complete story http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/01/what-makes-a-great-teacher/307841/). More recently we’ve seen the Gates Foundation release information from their national project, the Measures of Teacher Effectiveness (MET) project.

Teach For America’s data tells us that teachers who are phenomenally successful are those who set big goals for their students, and are constantly looking for ways to improve their practice and who plan purposefully and exhaustively.


If you ask students, they’ll give these answers:

  1. The teacher explains things well and makes the subject interesting.
  2. The teacher is funny and has a lot of personality.
  3. The teacher is interested in what students have to say.

(source: http://kidshealth.org/kid/feeling/school/great_teacher.html )

If you ask administrators, they will tell you they are looking for passion, enthusiasm, sensitivity, heart and humor.

So where does the real answer lie? And has it changed with the introduction of the Common Core Learning Standards? Check out the Insight Core Framework (found here: http://www.insighteducationgroup.com/teacher-effectiveness ) for Insight’s take on what practices a great teacher focuses on.

What do you think makes a teacher great?

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