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What makes a good teacher

10 July 2019

A teacher will have a direct impact on student and school performance, but being a great teacher requires more than just raising test scores. Here are five qualities every good teacher needs.

A good teacher is not a sage on a stage

Gone are the days of the teacher-centred classroom. Current research on teaching techniques shows that effective teachers are guides on the side, rather than a sage on the stage. According to the Department of Education and Training teachers with ‘credibility’ tend to adopt a particular communication and teaching style that fosters a collaborative learning environment. Instead of teachers acting like lecturers and asking their class to regurgitate that information in a test, they take a student-centred approach.

Albert Einstein is thought to have said, “Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.” A teacher’s ability for creativity, critical thinking, and
instructional communication can make the difference between whether a subject sparks a student’s interest or not. Much like a coach, what makes a good teacher is the ability to encourage students, but also to provide them with the tools to succeed. High levels of motivation in teachers relate to high levels of achievement in students.

The Department of Education and Training explains that to develop inclusive educational environments and to achieve advanced or improved student learning, teachers are required to encourage ‘possibility thinking.’ Teachers also need to practice self-reflection, to not only be aware of their own strengths and weaknesses but also to be aware of their own cultural competence. This will determine how successfully they can teach students from multilingual backgrounds and different ethnicities.

A good teacher inspires and establishes rapport

Teachers have a lifelong influence on their students. They can be the sole motivation for how students learn, what they learn, and how they apply their knowledge. Therefore, the characteristics and behaviours of a teacher matter in the classroom. As does building strong relationships with students.

According to James H. Stronge’s book, Qualities of Effective Teachers important elements of teacher effectiveness include the ability to demonstrate caring, fairness and respect for students. The book states that good teachers adopt a range of strategies to interact with their class including giving students responsibility and allowing them to participate in decision making.

Teachers who are dedicated to teaching see themselves as a key component in the success of their students.

Much like a motivational leader, what makes a good teacher is the ability to encourage students to be responsible for their own learning and set high standards for themselves. Good teachers account for the fact that all students learn differently, and through variation of instruction can help all students to learn.

A great teacher understands that students have a life outside of school and they show interest in those activities. Whether it’s a weekend game of AFL or a weekly piano class, by making genuine connections, a teacher is able to stir enthusiasm in the classroom.

A good teacher knows their content

Teachers who are incredibly knowledgeable in a specific subject matter are better performers.

Having an in-depth understanding of the concepts being taught allows teachers to go beyond textbook explanations and connect the subject matter to meaningful, real-life contexts. Studies show that teachers who have subject matter expertise, tend to ask higher-level questions, involve students in the lessons, and allow more student-directed activities. Teachers who are able to present material in a confident and enthusiastic manner are able to get buy-in from students and encourage a thirst for knowledge.

Along with subject matter knowledge, teachers who have strong instructional skills are able to plan and organise lessons that are accessible to all students. By understanding a student’s academic readiness, good teachers design learning experiences that incorporate appropriate strategies. Teachers who adopt the 10-steps of high impact teaching strategies (HITS) are able to develop and implement rich, authentic learning tasks. This process allows for goal setting and structured lessons. It also includes explicit teaching through: modelling; collaborative learning, which involves students negotiating roles and responsibilities; and, differentiated teaching which incorporates adjustments for content, process and product.

In essence, what makes a good teacher is extensive content knowledge, having an organised and consistent lesson plan, and the ability to create a rigorous learning environment with high expectations and appropriate support for all students.

A good teacher is a good classroom leader

Just like a company executive or manager, what makes a good teacher is the ability to manage people and boost motivation. Classroom behaviours can at times be challenging and unruly. Through proactive classroom management and reinforcing positive behaviours, good teachers are able to build a relationship of trust.

To manage classroom behaviour effectively and to ensure a good and safe learning environment, trust is a key component. To earn the trust of students, good teachers uphold a high standard of ethics and behaviour and have proper regard for school policies and practices, such as punctuality. Teachers who set clear expectations through rules and responsibilities and role modelling create more constructive classrooms.

Giving students ownership around procedures also allows them to understand the consequences of breaking the rules, therefore creating fewer discipline problems. This helps foster a sense of teamwork and overall respect in the classroom. Behavioural management strategies are also linked to long-term achievement and success.


A Master of Education student sitting on a chair, holding reading material.

A good teacher is a life-long learner

What makes a good teacher is not just committing to encouraging students to be lifelong learners, but also committing to continuously better themselves. Good teachers are in a process of endless learning, in an effort to expand their skills so they can appropriately respond to diverse learning needs. Teachers who invest the time to build their knowledge or gain a specialisation get better results when it comes to student engagement. When teachers are passionate learners themselves, they are more likely to review and refine their own teaching methods to achieve the best results for their students.

For teachers, lifelong learning is a professional necessity. By learning to use new materials and drive new technologies, teachers are able to remain confident in their ability to facilitate student learning. This love of learning can also be infectious, stirring the pursuit of knowledge across the classroom.

Find out more about learning these skills and more by studying a Master of Education with SCU Online.