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Sidebar: Characteristics of an effective teacher

Both students and master teachers agree on the characteristics of an effective teacher.

Classroom atmosphere

A good teacher:

  • Is positive
  • Models good behavior
  • Shows interest in student and subject
  • Is relaxed, not arrogant or defensive
  • Carefully listens
  • Is empathic
  • Is genuine
  • Appears to enjoy teaching
  • Has a sense of self-confidence
  • Is approachable

Teaching skill

A good teacher:

  • Answers questions or admits to not knowing
  • Holds students accountable for their actions
  • Talks at the students’ level
  • Is well-prepared
  • Asks thought provoking questions
  • Uses examples, analogies, or metaphors that relate the material to the students’ world
  • Makes the objectives of the course and each session clear.
  • Presents viewpoints different from their own
  • Can pace the class
  • Encourages independent thought and critical thinking
  • Knows if the class is following the material and takes action when the class is not
  • Is concerned about the quality of their teaching
  • Draws upon the students’ prior knowledge and skills in order to shape the class and help students learn


  • Keeley, S. M., & And Others. (1995). Coping with student resistance to critical thinking: What the psychotherapy literature can tell us. College Teaching, v43(n4), p140
  • Kearney, P., & And Others. (1991). College teacher misbehaviors: What students don't like about what teachers say and do. Communication Quarterly, v39(n4), p309.
  • McFarland, D. A. (2001). Student resistance: How the formal and informal organization of classrooms facilitate everyday forms of student defiance. AJS, 107, 612-678.
  • Petty, G. (2006). Evidence-based teaching. Nelson Thornes Publishing; London
Virginia Commonwealth University  |  Center for Teaching Excellence
Last updated: 06/20/2013
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