The Qualities of Great Teachers

In many ways the debate about great teaching goes to the very heart of the debate about education’s purpose, objectives and what teachers ought to be held accountable for (and hold themselves accountable for). If we can figure out what it is that great teachers do, or at least do more of, we all hope and believe that we can bring about significant improvement in quality and standards of education for all the children in our schools.

In these days of obsession with data as ways of measuring and defining when good education is or isn’t happening, it’s dangerously possible to forget that there can’t be good education without good teaching. Whilst I’m an advocate of things like Khan Academy, I truly believe that the school and the teachers in school have the ability to support critical learning of 21st Century skills in ways that IT alone cannot (the key is to have teachers harnessing the powers of IT as critical tools in the process).

Over the last few months, I’ve been gathering together some interesting materials that reflect on these issues of what makes a great teacher. One of the things that i found most interesting is the combination of timeless attributes and ‘new’ 21st Century skills.

The first resource is a video presentation by Sir Michael Barber for an education conference in Jamaica. He was one of the presenters in the film “We are the people we’ve been waiting for”, a senior adviser to the Tony Blair government in UK on education and now a thought leader for Pearson’s on education policy and future directions:

Next we have a debate/ exchange of ideas amongst a panel of five prominent educators with some interesting reflections:

NPR-Ed - 5 Great Teachers on What Makes a Great Teacher

The third piece is an ASCD blog post by educational consultant, Elliott Seif who deliberately sets out to discuss 12 qualities that are given less attention, but are nevertheless vitally important. He sets them out as a brief list first and then elaborates in some detail on each of the 12:

ASCD Blog Post - One Dozen Qualities of Great Teachers

I would love to hear what people think. Do you agree with specifics in some of these pieces, or think the writers and presenter are missing the point? Are there some qualities listed here that you really think shouldn't be focused upon? Are the qualities of great teachers culturally specific or do the same qualities hold good in every education system in the world?

If we were to agree that these represent a great foundation for defining great teachers, is it realistic to look for these qualities in all teachers, or is that just too far beyond what's possible?

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