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The present paper is devoted to the research of the notion of effective teaching and the aspects that contribute to being an effective teacher. The paper is aimed at developing a short but apt instruction for becoming an effective teacher, and it argues that knowing how to communicate, manage, and inspire can help one to build the foundation for one’s effectiveness as a teacher. The position is supported by the evidence that is supplied by practitioners and researchers in teaching, which demonstrates that effective teaching is impossible without effective management, can be facilitated and greatly enhanced with the help of inspiration and engagement of a variety of stakeholders, and should be enabled through effective communication. It is concluded that the three elements are interrelated and form the system that can be termed as effective leadership, which is apparently required for effective teaching. The paper emphasizes that the suggested list of the significant elements of effective teaching is not exhaustive; it is maintained that the personal views, professional development needs and priorities of the author are likely to have influenced the choice of the listed components. The work is concluded with the suggestion that the present view needs to be supplemented with other views for a more comprehensive understanding of the “formula” for effective teaching.
A Soldier of mine is a translator, and she likes to joke that to be one, you only need to know how to read and write, but both activities are much more challenging than they seem. I wonder if I can offer a similar instruction to becoming a good, effective teacher. As the theory of teaching and learning progress, the education and practice of teachers become more informed but also more sophisticated, and as a result, new requirements are developed that a teacher is supposed to take into account. It is a positive development that enables us to improve the quality of our work, but it may become difficult to bring the qualities of an effective teacher together in a short but apt phrase. However, this essay will attempt to offer a concise overview of what it means to be an effective teacher by arguing that the foundation of becoming one can be built through simply knowing how to communicate, manage, and inspire, even though there is nothing simple about the three activities.
It is apparent that communication is among the most important aspects of teaching that are necessary for the creation of an effective learning environment. For example, when describing an effective classroom, Ornstein, Levine, Gutek, and Vocke (2013) mention at least four aspects that demonstrate a teacher’s communicative skills, including the ability to communicate a point personally and enable students to communicate a point (mostly an issue), the monitoring of nonverbal signs that are demonstrated by the students, and the demonstration of an appropriate culture of communication, in particular, “being careful to avoid embarrassing students in front of their classmates” (p. 450).
Therefore, the authors insist that without extensive and diverse communicative skills, a teacher is unlikely to be able to organize and manage his or her classroom effectively, and disagreeing with them is difficult. Similarly, Walker, Smart, and Frey (2013) consider the significance of communication for effective teaching and describe related skills as a part of professional standards for the position. They also highlight the fact that a professional teacher uses communication skills and the knowledge of communication strategies to improve his or her ability to become a successful facilitator and leader for the students and other stakeholders. Therefore, the authors insist that a teacher cannot be called a professional unless he or she possesses sufficient theoretical knowledge of communication strategies and methods and is able to use them in practice to enhance its effectiveness.
As a result, without communication skills, a teacher is unlikely to be able to perform his or her duties effectively and professionally. It is also apparent from this evidence that Walker et al. (2013) discuss communication skills in the context of effective teaching leadership and consider the former to be a part of the latter. Lyon (2013) and Ornstein et al. (2013) also express this idea. Therefore, communication skills are a component of the leadership abilities that a teacher is supposed to exhibit. It can be concluded that communication skills are a significant part of effective teaching practice, which justifies its choice for the formula of the phenomenon. However, this element is not the only important component of effective teaching or effective teacher leadership.
The second aspect of an effective teaching practice that is going to be discussed here consists of the teacher’s ability to manage a classroom, which is a very complex activity that requires creativity and individual approaches to the majority of cases. Ornstein et al. (2013), for example, offer twelve aspects that can help to manage a classroom effectively, including the above-mentioned communication as well as the content of the lesson and the form of its presentation with an emphasis on the means of “ensuring that all students are part of a classroom learning community” (p. 450), and these twelve points do not appear to be exhaustive. It can be suggested that communication skills predict the ability to manage to an extent, but the latter is not composed solely of the former, which is why the two elements can be distinguished and considered separately. Similarly, Marshall (2016) also discusses the challenge of appropriate management in teaching and introduces several elements that Ornstein et al. (2013) do not mention, including time management, goal setting and communication, and the existence of appropriate transitions between lesson segments. It can be suggested that when it is compared to communication, management is a more extensive phenomenon that partially includes communication together with other multiple activities that are predominantly aimed at structuring the lesson, thus improving its effectiveness.
Marshall (2016) also points out that given the typical level of multitasking that teachers are usually expected to exhibit, effective management strategies are necessary for a successful lesson. The author uses the example of time management to demonstrate how multitasking can be facilitated with the help of appropriate planning, goal-setting, and the monitoring of the use of time. The evidence suggests that the lack of suitable classroom management is likely to result in inefficient lessons, and the teacher who is not familiar with management techniques and methods is likely to work ineffectively. As a result, the element of management is absolutely necessary for an effective teacher.
To sum up, the ability to manage and managerial skills are a significant component of effective teaching, and their combination with communication skills is likely to enhance one’s teaching practice greatly. It is also clear that the two factors are interrelated, but they do not appear to be sufficient for an exhaustive definition of effective teaching practice, and I suggest taking into account another leadership element and applying it to teaching.
The third aspect of an effective teaching practice that I propose to take into consideration is the ability of an effective teacher to inspire and engage every stakeholder, in particular, the students, their families, and their communities. For example, Zacarian and Silverstone (2015) advocate the need to engage various stakeholders throughout the process of facilitating students’ education and development. The authors insist that this process can become much more effective and meaningful “when we are in it together” (p. 4), implying the collaboration of all the people who are somehow connected to it. However, the authors emphasize that while the teacher is not unlikely to be assisted in the process, particularly if stakeholders exhibit genuine interest in it, he or she is bound to play a central role in searching for the means of engaging and inspiring others.
According to the authors, the aim of the engagement is to develop relationships that are directed at collaborating to improve student learning. In other words, the ultimate aim of engagement is the improvement of the effectiveness of the teaching process. The alternative is disengagement, the lack of interest and collaboration, which leaves the teacher without any support and reduces the effectiveness of teaching. This idea also implies that an effective teacher is not limited to the management and inspiration of the classroom itself; the engagement of other stakeholder is also a requirement for effective practice, which is aimed at employing all possible stakeholders in the common “enterprise” of learning, as Zacarian and Silverstone (2015) put it (p. 2).
The specific outcomes of stakeholder engagement should also be mentioned. Positive relationships with stakeholders are most significant for effective teaching: the need for their establishment is pointed out by Marshall (2016), Ornstein et al. (2013), Walker et al. (2013), and Zacarian and Silverstone (2015). These authors believe that appropriate collaboration with multiple stakeholders brings along multiple benefits that depend on the particular type of stakeholder. For example, a successful relationship with a student improves the effectiveness of instruction and provides a vehicle for support and empowerment. On the other hand, the parents who collaborate with the teacher can learn how to supervise their children with greater success, which has a positive impact on the learning processes of the latter. Also, the empowerment of parents to supervise more effectively can have a positive effect on the relationships between the parents and the children, which improves the quality of life of the family.
While this effect is not directly connected to teaching effectiveness, it can also have an indirect positive impact on the learning and teaching process. Apart from these direct stakeholders, a teacher can improve the relationships with the community. For example, the teaching community is likely to contribute information and share ideas; also, the community together with parents can be engaged in various advocacies that are aimed at the improvement of the learning environment or local and even governmental educational policies (Ornstein et al., 2013; Zacarian & Silverstone, 2015). Additionally, Zacarian and Silverstone (2015) emphasize the fact that all the stakeholders are capable of contributing ideas concerning the improvement of the learning and teaching processes. To sum up, the potential value of the development of relationships with stakeholders is immense while the alternative (disengagement) is harmful to teaching, and, therefore, the choice of the final element of the effective teaching practice that is described here is justified.
Finally, it should be mentioned that, as pointed out by Walker et al. (2013), the relationships between a teacher and stakeholders are enabled through successful communication. The previously discussed evidence demonstrates the interrelation between communication, management, and the engagement of stakeholders (which involves the development of relationships and the inspiration and empowerment of stakeholders). Therefore, it can be suggested that the three elements that I have chosen for the description of an effective teacher are interrelated and can be united in a system that may be termed as effective teaching leadership. Having defined the key elements of this system and explained their significance for effective teaching, I can draw some conclusions based on the information that is presented above.
My research indicates that the foundation of an effective teacher practice consists of complex components, and the definition and explanation of these elements requires a certain amount of investigation and consideration. Also, their definition is complicated by the fact that they are interrelated and interconnected and are unlikely to be able to exist without each other. Here, I propose that communication, management, and inspiration (engagement) are the key aspects, the pillars of an effective teacher practice. I also demonstrate that a number of practitioners and researchers would agree with this view and that the amount of evidence, which proves that these elements are important for teaching, is immense. I suggest that all the three components can be united in the system that may be termed as good, effective leadership, which, apparently, is a requirement for an effective teacher. However, in this paper, a simplistic approach, which is similar to the joke of my Soldiers, is used: the mentioned aspects are rather unlikely to be exhaustive, and I do not hope to produce a universal or final recipe of effective teaching.
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In fact, I am not certain that such a recipe can be developed: every teaching practice is likely to be unique and created in accordance with one’s individual views and principles. As a result, I believe that the presented system of skills and abilities is likely to reflect my personal view on teacher effectiveness, and some components of an effective practice might have been overlooked in this paper. As pointed out by Marshall (2016), the needs of a teacher are individual, and I suppose that my view is likely to support my personal needs and priorities in professional development. Since I am able to provide evidence to my ideas and prove the importance of the three elements, I suggest that this view can be regarded as a justified one, but it cannot offer a final formula for effective teaching. If such a formula can be expressed (which is questionable), it should be developed with the help of multiple ideas from different people with different worldviews and priorities. As a result, I think that searching for other perspectives that are capable of complementing mine could lead to the development of a more comprehensive picture of effective teaching, and I would welcome a discussion of the topic.
Lyon, H. (2013). Person-centered management and leadership. In T. Rogers, H. Lyon, & R. Tausch (Eds.), On becoming an effective teacher (pp. 95-103). Hoboken, NJ: Taylor and Francis.
Marshall, J. (2016). The highly effective teacher. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Ornstein, A., Levine, D., Gutek, G., & Vocke, D. (2013). Foundations of education. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.
Walker, S., Smart, M., & Frey, P. (2013). Standards of practice for teachers. Hoboken, NJ: Taylor and Francis.
Zacarian, D. & Silverstone, M. (2015). In it together. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.