Despite the erroneous assumption of many that almost anyone can teach, teaching is a sophisticated craft that requires professional development (training), mentoring, and experience. What specifically makes a good teacher? What are some of the important knowledge, skills, and dispositions essential to good teaching? The literature on teacher education is complex, but there are research-proven strategies that characterize good teaching.
In this brief introduction I certainly cannot cover the depth that the topic deserves (perhaps, we can do so in follow-up articles), but among the most important ideas that characterize good teachers is their ability to reflect on their practice (See, e.g.., Marzano, 2017). Good teachers take the time to reflect about what they do. They think about their failures as much as they consider their successes. They try to improve themselves by reading, attending conferences, taking online workshops/courses, and seeking advice from others (Glanz, 2015).
If you have never audio-recorded, or especially visually recorded yourself teaching, then you are missing an invaluable opportunity at professional reflection about your teaching. Sharing the video with a mentor is most helpful. You can focus on a variety of areas including, for example, your use of questioning. Were the questions clearly phrased? Did you allow enough wait time (the amount of the time you wait before you call on someone to answer)? Did you utilize techniques such as prompting or probing effectively? Of course, there is so much more.
The survey that follows is a good start to reflect on your teaching practice. Read the brief intro to the survey. Upon reflection and analysis of your responses, I’d recommend a conversation with a mentor or colleague whom you respect and displays, in fact, a keen understanding of effective teaching.
Perhaps, we can delve further into the areas addressed in the survey in future articles. Wishing you much enjoyment and success in teaching.
Charlotte Danielson, in a 2007 work titled Enhancing Professional Practice: A Framework for Teaching published by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, developed a framework or model for understanding teaching based on current research in the field. She identified “components” clustered into four domains of teaching responsibility: planning and preparation, classroom environment, instruction, and professional responsibilities. I developed the questionnaire below based on her framework. Please take the questionnaire because it will serve as an important reflective tool. A short activity to assess your responses can be found at the end of the questionnaire.
Planning and Preparation
SA A D SD 1. I make many errors when I teach in my content area.
SA A D SD 2. I display solid content knowledge and can make connections with the parts of my discipline or with other disciplines.
SA A D SD 3. I rarely consider the importance of prerequisite knowledge when introducing new topics
SA A D SD 4. Although I am content knowledgeable, I need additional assistance with pedagogical strategies and techniques.
SA A D SD 5. I know the typical developmental characteristics of the age groups I teach.
SA A D SD 6. I have a solid understanding of learning styles and multiple intelligences theories and can apply them to instructional practice.
SA A D SD 7. I do not fully recognize the value of understanding students’ skills and knowledge as a basis for my teaching.
SA A D SD 8. I don’t believe that setting goals for my class is ever helpful because they may influence my expectations for them in a potentially negative way.
SA A D SD 9. I am very aware of teaching resources and seek to use them in preparing for lessons.
SA A D SD 10. I plan for a variety of meaningful learning activities matched to my instructional goals.
SA A D SD 11. I teach the whole class most of the time without utilizing instructional groups.
SA A D SD 12. My lessons are well-planned, organized and matched to my instructional goals, most of the time.
SA A D SD 13. I have a well-defined understanding of how I will assess my students after a unit of instruction.
The Classroom Environment
SA A D SD 1. I realize I sometimes use poor interaction skills with my students, such as use of sarcastic or disparaging remarks.
SA A D SD 2. My interactions with students are generally friendly and demonstrate warmth and caring.
SA A D SD 3. Students in my class, generally, don’t get along with each other and conflicts are not uncommon.
SA A D SD 4. I convey a negative attitude towards the content suggesting that the content is mandated by others.
SA A D SD 5. I convey a genuine enthusiasm for the subject.
SA A D SD 6. Students in my class demonstrate little or no pride in their work and don’t perform to the best of their ability.
SA A D SD 7. Students meet or exceed my expectations for high quality work.
SA A D SD 8. I communicate high expectations for all my students.
SA A D SD 9. Students in my class are sometimes on-task, but often off-task behavior is observed.
SA A D SD 10. Transitions in my class occur smoothly, with little loss of instructional time.
SA A D SD 11. Routines for handling materials and supplies in my class are not well-organized causing loss of instructional time.
SA A D SD 12. I pride myself on the well-established system of rules and procedures in my class.
SA A D SD 13. I have difficulty enforcing standards for acceptable conduct in my class.
SA A D SD 14. I monitor student behavior and I am aware of what students are doing.
SA A D SD 15. I am alert to student behavior at all times.
SA A D SD 16. My classroom is safe and the furniture arrangements are a resource for learning.
SA A D SD 1. My directions are not clear to students often causing confusion.
SA A D SD 2. My spoken language is often inaudible and crude.
SA A D SD 3. My use of questions needs improvement.
SA A D SD 4. I mostly lecture (talk) to my students without enough student participation.
SA A D SD 5. Only a few students participate in class discussions.
SA A D SD 6. My ability to communicate content is sound and appropriate.
SA A D SD 7. Activities and assignments are inappropriate to students, and don’t engage students mentally.
SA A D SD 8. I am very familiar with grouping strategies to promote instruction.
SA A D SD 9. I select inappropriate and ineffective instructional materials and resources.
SA A D SD 10. My lessons have little, or no structure and my pacing of the lesson is too slow, rushed or both.
SA A D SD 11. I rarely provide appropriate feedback to my students.
SA A D SD 12. Feedback is consistently provided in a timely manner.
SA A D SD 13. I rarely, if ever, rely on the teacher’s manual because I can adjust a lesson appropriate to the needs and level of my students.
SA A D SD 14. I often ignore students’ questions or interests.
SA A D SD 15. I often blame my students for their inability to learn by attributing their lack of success to their background or lack of interest or motivation.
SA A D SD 16. I don’t give up with slow learners and try to encourage them all the time.
SA A D SD 17. I tend to go off on tangents.
SA A D SD 18. I ask multiple questions that sometimes confuse students.
SA A D SD 19. I use wait time effectively.
SA A D SD 1. I have difficulty assessing my effectiveness as a teacher.
SA A D SD 2. I am aware of what I need to do in order to become an effective teacher.
SA A D SD 3. I don’t have a system for maintaining information on student completion of assignments.
SA A D SD 4. I don’t have a system for maintaining information on student progress in learning.
SA A D SD 5. I rarely encourage parental involvement in my class.
SA A D SD 6. I reach out to parents consistently.
SA A D SD 7. I collaborate with my colleagues in a cordial and professional manner.
SA A D SD 8. I often volunteer to participate in school events.
SA A D SD 9. I generally avoid becoming involved in school projects.
SA A D SD 10. I rarely seek to engage in professional development activities.
SA A D SD 11. I am active in serving students.
SA A D SD 12. I am not an advocate for student’s rights.
SA A D SD 13. I rarely desire to serve on a school-based committee.
Note that the items above draw from research that highlights good educational practice. Review your responses and circle responses that concern you. For instance, if you circled Strongly Agree for “I ask multiple questions that sometimes confuse students,” ask yourself, “Why is this is a problem?”, “How can I remedy the situation?”, and “What additional resources or assistance might I need?” If you agree, share and compare responses with another educator. The dialogue that will ensue will serve as a helpful vehicle to move towards more effective teaching practice.
In summary, review your responses for each of the four domains as noted below:
Domain 1: Planning and Preparation. This domain demonstrates your content and pedagogical knowledge, knowledge of students and resources, ability to select instructional; goals, and the degree to which you assess student learning.
SA A D SD 1. I am satisfied that my planning and preparation knowledge and skills are satisfactory.
Domain 2: The Classroom Environment. This domain assesses the degree to which you create an environment of respect and caring, establish a culture for learning, manage classroom procedures, manage student behavior, and organize physical space.
SA A D SD 1. I am satisfied that my knowledge and skills of classroom environment are satisfactory.
Domain 3: Instruction. This domain assesses the ability to communicate with clarity, use questioning and discussion techniques, engage students in learning, provide feedback to students, demonstrate flexibility and responsiveness to student’s instructional needs
SA A D SD 1. I am satisfied that my knowledge and skills of instruction are satisfactory.
Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities. This domain assesses the degree to which you reflect on teaching, maintain accurate records, communicate with parents, contribute to the school, grow and develop professionally, and show professionalism.
SA A D SD 1. I am satisfied I am professionally responsible.
Rabbi Dr. Jeﬀrey Glanz is former Silverstein Chair in Professional Ethics and Professor of Jewish Education at Yeshiva University, and currently, living in Eretz Yisroel, serving as Head of the Master’s Degree Program in Educational Administration at Michlalah Jerusalem College. email@example.com
Glanz, J. (2015). Teaching 101: Classroom strategies for the beginning teacher. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press: Applying tools and concepts (3rd ed.).
Marzano, R.J. (2017). The new art and science of teaching. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.