Becoming an Effective Teacher

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  1. 0:05 Introduction and Background
  2. 1:02 Professional Knowledge and Skills
  3. 2:26 Reflection
  4. 3:10 Professional Growth
  5. 4:23 Lesson Summary
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Taught by

Melissa Hurst

Understanding the principles and theories of educational psychology is essential for teachers but simply understanding is not enough. Future teachers must embrace sound educational principles and seek opportunities for growth throughout their careers. This lesson will focus on the qualities of an effective teacher, including pedagogical content knowledge awareness, reflective teaching and action research.

Introduction and Background

Meet Andi. Andi is starting her first day as a third grade teacher. Andi thinks she is ready. She made all As in her classes, received excellent letters of recommendations from faculty and passed all of her certification exams with high marks.

Oh, here come Andi's students. Let's follow Andi through her first year as a teacher.

Effective teaching does not occur naturally. Effective teaching is not achieved through simply knowing educational principles and theories. Effective teaching is not like a one-size-fits-all t-shirt. In order for effective teaching to occur, teachers must:

  1. Master professional knowledge and skills
  2. Perform reflection activities
  3. Seek out opportunities for professional growth

Let's check in on Andi; it's her third week. It looks like Andi is having a rough morning! Maybe some veteran teachers can help her out on her path to becoming an effective teacher.

Professional Knowledge and Skills

In order to be effective, a teacher must be a subject matter expert. Being a subject matter expert is more than just having a general knowledge of facts and concepts. Being a subject matter expert includes:

  • Knowledge about organizing ideas, connections among ideas, ways of thinking and arguing and patterns of change within a discipline
  • Beliefs about discipline
  • The ability to carry ideas from one discipline to another

An effective teacher must also know pedagogical content knowledge. This is knowledge about effective methods of teaching a specific content area. Effective teachers have a large number of strategies for teaching. They are also aware of common errors students tend to make and can anticipate when difficult situations may arise out of student frustration or lack of understanding.

An effective teacher must engage in critical thinking, which is the process of evaluating the accuracy and worth of research and information. An effective teacher will engage in critical thinking to not only analyze what he or she reads as best teaching practices but also use critical thinking to analyze what the students' reasoning and thought processes might be. This may help to catch misconceptions and minimize classroom frustration levels.


An effective teacher must engage in reflection, internally and externally. Internal reflection refers to assessing one's self-efficacy as a teacher. Self-efficacy is belief that one is capable of executing certain behaviors or reaching certain goals. A teacher must believe that he or she can make a difference in the students' lives. Research indicates that teachers who are confident and persistent will produce students who achieve at higher levels, too.

External reflection refers to reflective teaching. This is the ongoing process of critiquing one's assumptions and strategies and revising them as often as necessary in order to increase a student's development and understanding.

Professional Growth

Effective teachers must continue to take courses in teacher education. The education for a teacher should not cease once he or she obtains a degree. Additional coursework will allow teachers to stay up-to-date with current best practices and principles of teaching.

Effective teachers should also conduct their own classroom research. This is referred to as action research. Action research is research conducted by teachers and other school officials to address issues and problems in their own classrooms and schools. Action research is becoming more popular due to technology and the ability for teachers to disseminate their action research findings through the web. One word of caution, however; like a teacher would approach any practice or theory, careful critical analysis should be conducted before implementing another teacher's ideas in the classroom. What works for one classroom many not work for the next.

Effective teachers should try to learn as much as they can about the population of students they are serving. Teachers should try to learn about the culture and diversity of the community surrounding the school and become aware of students' cultural beliefs and practices.

Lesson Summary

Let's check back in on Andi. She has had a long year. Oh, it looks like she is becoming an effective teacher thanks to the helpful advice from her colleagues. Andi now knows that in addition to book knowledge, she should master additional professional knowledge and skills, such as instructional strategies, and try to become a subject matter expert. She should also engage in internal and external reflective practices. Finally, she should look for continued opportunities for professional growth and development through conducting her own classroom research and through the research of other educators.

People are saying…

"This just saved me about $2,000 and 1 year of my life." — Student

"I learned in 20 minutes what it took 3 months to learn in class." — Student

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