Four Characteristics of Outstanding Teachers
By: Maryellen Weimer, PhD in Effective Teaching Strategies
1. Presence: “The term presence for this study is defined as a deeper level of awareness that allows thoughts, feelings, and actions to be known, developed, and harmonized within. Presence is also the essence of a relationship and of interpersonal communication.” (p. 13) Illustrating this particular category were comments in the essays indicating how important it is for teachers to get to know their students. “The classroom should not be a sea of faceless forms,” writes one teacher. (p. 13) Another observes, “In helping students achieve their highest potential, I realize I must cherish their individuality—their special needs, interests, and rich life experiences.”
2. Promotion of learning: These teachers also wrote of the importance of student learning and their roles in promoting it. They held their students and themselves to high standards, seeing students’ work in their courses and programs as preparation for lifelong learning. They also wrote of the need for students to do more than just memorize material. “Mere possession of scientific knowledge without the ability to apply it is of limited value in nursing practice,” wrote one nurse educator. (p. 14) Equally important was their shared view that promoting learning goes beyond content acquisition. Education is also about personal development, and teachers have a role in promoting that kind of learning as well.
3. Teachers as learners: These exemplary teachers described themselves as learners, each making it a priority to keep their teaching current. “As teachers, we must continue to re-engineer our curriculum, experiment with new and different methods of delivering course content, and bring emerging technologies into our classrooms.” These teachers valued opportunities to revise course content, to teach new courses, and to work on degree-program curricula.
4. Enthusiasm: “Effective teaching presupposes a command of the material and facility in communicating it with clarity, grace, fairness, and humor. But most of all it supposes enthusiasm.” This enthusiasm starts with a love of the content, but it goes beyond that and includes a genuine love of teaching and a passion for students and their learning. “I am also concerned that my students develop a passion for learning that goes on well after the course has ended.”