Monday, February 23, 2015

Effective Teaching

In The First Days of School — Implementation Guide, Dr Wong posits that three characteristics make for an effective teacher:

  • Positive Expectations

  • Classroom Management

  • Lesson Mastery

Ineffective Teachers

Discussion question #5, Chapter 2, page 8 asks:

Why are all three characteristics of an effective teacher necessary?
Could you imagine a successful teacher only displaying two of the three characteristics?
Why, or why not?

It is easy to imagine teachers that fulfil only two of these three characteristics; none of them effective:

The Substitute

Positive Expectations + Classroom Management

These teachers know how to manage a classroom effectively and use appropriate praise and encouragement to inspire and motivate their students. The problem is, they don’t know their subject matter, or they don’t know how to effectively teach it. It’s great to have such teachers substitute for you in an emergency, but you wouldn’t want them carrying your core.

The Friend

Positive Expectations + Lesson Mastery

With well behaved students, these teachers appear to be effective. They encourage and motivate students with the right amount and type of praise and they really know how to teach their subject so that students are genuinely learning in class. The problem is when they are faced with unruly students. They lack the Classroom Management skills necessary to maintain an orderly room and recover from a chaotic one quickly & effectively. The misconception that they should be their students' friends causes an incorrect power distribution in the student-teacher relationship, rendering it ineffective.

The Moper

Classroom Management + Lesson Mastery

These teachers are capable of running a classroom efficiently and fairly. They know their subject matter and they really know how to teach it. The problem is they have somehow become jaded and as a result they have completely dropped all expectations of their students. They secretly or openly believe that there is no point in trying harder or expecting the students to try harder. They’ve lost faith in the system, their students and themselves.

The Tyrant

Classroom Management + Lesson Mastery

Just like the Miserable Moper, these teachers lack Positive Expectations. But rather than dropping them altogether, they have instead impossibly High Standards. Nothing seems to please these teachers and students rapidly grow weary of reaching for unachievable heights under the demoralising barrage of criticism relentlessly dished out by this mean and unyielding teacher.

The Effective Teacher

Positive Expectations + Classroom Management + Lesson Mastery

Positive Expectations

  • Give the right amount of praise for the right thing at the right time.

    • Carol Dweck says: Don’t praise their intelligence and talent; praise their process: their effort, strategies, focus, perseverance and improvements.

  • Encourage students to reach and extend themselves in a realistic way with clear expectations and constructive feedback.

Classroom Management
When I think of teachers with good Classroom Management skills, I remember them as being fair but firm. They have reasonable rules and are consistent in their application. Dr Wong recommends the use of Procedures to establish and maintain this situation.

Lesson Mastery
Knowing your subject matter is necessary but not sufficient to be an effective teacher. You must also be able to impart your knowledge and skills to your students. There are a vast number of techniques that teachers learn in order to ensure their students learn from their lessons.

The Accelerated Learning Handbook suggests these four components to ensure that learning occurs:


Prepare your students' minds for what they are about to learn and spark within them the desire to learn it.


Present the material in an engaging manner that embraces the learner as an active creator rather than a passive consumer.


Practice the material across many sessions spread out over increasing time gaps. Knowledge and skills are not consumed, they are created through deliberate, conscious, appropriate practice.


One of the single most effective ways to ensure learning is through testing. The mere act of being tested on material causes a greater amount of retention. This applies equally well to summative, formative and informal testing (where the student tests themselves).

Personal Reflection

I have certainly played The Moper and The Friend at various times throughout my career. I have occasionally stumbled on as The Tyrant. There have been rare moments in which I have felt out of my depth on the subject matter — teaching High School maths in Thailand, for instance — where I begrudgingly donned the robes of The Substitute.

Looking back, I have sometimes accidentally pulled off The Effective Teacher. The goal, looking forward, will be to do that deliberately.