7 Common Mistakes Teachers Make

While reviewing some research on the qualities of effective teachers, I ran across a list of mistakes that commonly occur in the classroom.  Because research reinforces what we know from experience–teachers are the key component in the education process–avoiding these mistakes can improve the quality of learning in any classroom.


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As a young teacher, I was committed to helping my students progress and learn.  Nothing encouraged me more than to see the class mean score rise on a test.  And a smile certainly came to my face when a struggling student “got it.”

But like many teachers, I expected all of the improvement to be on the part of the student.  I failed to realize that as I improved my pedagogy, students perform better and student scoring would rise.

So what were some common mistakes identified?

#1  Teacher uses poor questioning skills.   Before asking a question, the teacher “calls on” a student or a small group of students to answer; the rest of the class immediately disengages.  Questions often only require lower-level thinking skills, only asking who, what , where, and when information.  Questions do not probe for understanding, analysis, and rarely ever reach evaluation level.

#2  Teacher overuses technology, especially powerpoint.  Teachers that tend to rely heavily upon the lecture method often used the powerpoint as a form of “electronic notes.”  Many continued to rely almost exclusively on the lecture method.  Rather than effective use of technology, these teachers found comfort in their “rut,” not improving their instruction with electronic tools.

#3  Teacher fails to implement a variety of teaching methods.  Many teachers are stuck in “ruts!”  If variety is the spice of life, these teachers lead classes that suffer from the stench of a “near death” experience.  It is a mistake to become dependent upon any one or few methods of instruction.  Review your lesson plans for the past two weeks–how many different methods have you implemented in each subject area taught?  Don’t live in a “RUT!”

#4  Teacher fails to establish relevance.    I remember as a sixth grade teacher a cute, blonde 12-year old gal coming to my desk after class one day.  She had long struggled with mathematical concepts.  But today was different.  She comes to my desk, grinning from ear to ear and says quietly, “Mr. E, did you know that percents, decimals, and fractions are really all the same thing, just in different forms?”  Wow!  The light had come on!  Now, percents were relevant.  Without relevance, learning takes place in a vacuum.

#5  Teacher uses poor assessment tools.  Many teachers concentrate on content delivery, strong methodology, and effective biblical integration; however, quality instruction can be derailed with poor assessment.  Assessments should be developed using the same objectives used in lesson development.  Poor assessments over focus on rote information and lower-level learning skills.  Many teachers use only pen-and-paper tests as assessment tools, forgetting that alternative assessment tools are often more effective.

#6  Teacher teaches without clear learning objectives.  Someone has said, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit your mark every time.”  Teaching without clear written objectives is akin to “aiming at nothing” or “shooting into the dark.”  Besides poor instruction, this type of teaching handicaps effective  assessment.  Testing becomes like shooting at a target and then going to the target and drawing circles around the arrows.

#7  Teachers demonstrate a lack of professionalism.  If a teacher expects to be treated professionally, the it stands to reason that the teacher must demonstrate professionalism.  Weak teachers often disrespect parents, students, co-workers, or even school leadership.  Some teachers tried to be “friends” with students and parents.  Failure to maintain a quiet, yet firm control of the classroom jeopardizes a teacher’s leadership and ability to make a difference in students and their families.

These are seven common mistakes made by teachers.  Perhaps you can think of others that should be added to the list.  If so, please take a minute and share with us.

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Edward is the founder and managing editor of Focus on Christian Education. He also serves as the Executive Director of the South Carolina Association of Christian Schools.