The Power of an Effective Teacher

Teacher, Apple, Jarvis BuckmanEducators play a role of the utmost significance in society. Teachers mold the minds of future generations, prompt natural curiosity and stoke the fires of passion in children who are not even aware their passion exists yet. These vital individuals inspire young minds to perceive and understand, to witness and analyze, to learn and retain. Education could possibly be considered one of the most important occupations of today. Yet, how we assess these essential labor roles is often subject to debate.

What makes one teacher more effective than another? More engaging? Better? ASCD has a fantastic article speaking to the qualities of these more effective teachers; and while there is certainly a variety of influencing factors in regards to what makes a good teacher good and a great teacher great, there are a few specific attributes that stand out more than others. To elaborate, formal teacher preparation training, at least three years of experience, high expectations, and the willingness to devote extra time to lesson planning have been evidenced to play pivotal roles in distinguishing high-performing teachers from low-performing ones. In fact, there is measurable data illustrating just what exactly the difference is between these low-performing and high-performing instructors.

In addition to providing a more comprehensive and engaging experience as a whole, more effective teachers also bolster students’ academic achievements. Bill Sanders, a former member of the University of Tennessee’s Value-Added Research and Assessment Center, conducted a conclusive study that offers actual tangible data assessing teachers’ impact on preadolescent children. Sanders tracked the academic progression of students in what he deemed were “low-performing” classrooms as well as the progression of students in “high-performing” classrooms.

To preface, all children in question had comparable achievement histories before the study began tracking them.  After a period of three years, Sanders found that children who were placed in the high-performing classrooms scored on average in the 96th percentile on the Tennessee standardized tests. For those children placed in a low-performing class, the average test score was at the 44th percentile.Thus, it would seem that teachers are potentially responsible for a massive 52 percent differential in performance.

Just as well, Sanders stated that the “the results of this study well document that the most important factor affecting student learning is the teacher”. Clearly, instruction plays a tremendous role in aiding academic prowess. Yet, how we foster and cultivate an environment of instructional excellence remains open to question.

Perhaps if we were to increase the effectiveness of our evaluation methods, or if we were to increase the objectivity of instructional feedback, we could better provide a more effective learning experience for both teachers and students, and ultimately better educational institutions everywhere.

While I do not know the exact answer to the question of education, I do know we should be working together to solve it. Students need teachers and teachers need us. Let us be there for them.