What Makes a Teacher A+ Effective? (Part 2)

In the first installment of this short series, we looked at the first 2 areas of responsibility which enables a teacher to be effective at his or her craft: the teacher as a person and the teacher as classroom manager and organizer.  In today’s article, we will consider the 5 more areas teachers need to master in order to be effective in the classroom.

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The Teacher as Instructional Leader

Fogarty and Pete (2007) describe the teacher as designer, organizer, and artist. “The three actions include (1) planning, (2) providing, and (3) preparing.” (Fogarty & Pete, p.57) The effective teacher thinks through every aspect of the lesson making sure to incorporate different teaching styles to accommodate different learning styles. Polish and creativity accompany lessons to enhance student participation.

“It is perhaps self-evident that more effective teachers use more effective instructional strategies.” (Marzano, 2003, p.78) Stronge (2002) believes that “teachers who successfully employ a range of strategies reach more students because they tap into more learning styles and student interest” (p.43). While preparing for a lesson, effective teachers reflect on each student’s learning style. The many different learning styles are then incorporated into the lesson or unit. Effective teachers will use presentation, direct instruction, concept teaching, cooperative learning, problem-based instruction, and classroom discussion to teach a class. The effective teacher will incorporate Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence theories into his or her teaching style. This guarantees that each student will get the information in his or her own learning style.

The Teacher as Evaluator

Effective teachers use both authentic and alternative assessment to monitor student progress and potential. According to Arends (2004), “Assessment usually refers to the full range of information gathered and synthesized by teachers about their students and their classrooms” (p.217). Assessment can be both informal and formal. Effective teachers use informal assessments such as observation and questioning, and formal assessments like homework, tests, and reports to gain important feedback from the students. “Teacher’s assessment activities are aimed at one of the following three goals: diagnosing prior knowledge and skills, providing corrective feedback, and evaluating and grading student achievement.” (Arends, p.229) Assessment can be documented through the use of portfolios or narrative descriptions.

“Authentic assessments have students demonstrate their abilities to perform particular tasks in real-life settings.” (Arends, 2004, p.246) This assessment type tests whether a student can apply what he or she has learned. Effective teachers use authentic assessment to determine if the student will perform correctly in real-life settings. According to Wiggins and McTighe (1998), “Authentic learning experiences shift a student from the role of a passive knowledge receiver into a more active role as a constructor of meaning” (p.11).

Effective teachers use alternative assessment to assess students. Alternative assessment is any type of assessment other than paper-pencil. Some students are poor test takers. Alternative assessment gives these students another way to demonstrate their abilities. Some effective teachers allow students to take tests orally because of certain learning disabilities. Other teachers assign projects, speeches, or group assignments.

Effective teachers have an extraordinary questioning style. They teach through questioning. These teachers have written questions according to Bloom’s Taxonomy to create higher-level thinking questions. Their questioning style keeps the students interactive in the class discussion.

The Teacher as Communicator

“A teacher’s ability to give clear and focused explanations to students and to clarify expectations for achievement are important aspects of effective instructional delivery.” (Stronge, 2002, p.45)  Teachers must be able to explain directions and explain content. “The teacher’s job requires clear articulation of expectations, encouragement, and caring, as well as content knowledge.” (Stronge, p.63) The effective teacher communicates clearly with co-workers, students, and parents. “Effective communication in teaching requires that a teacher have a clear understanding of the subject matter and of how to share that material with students in a way that they come to own and understand it deeply.” (Stronge, p.63)

The Teacher as Change Agent

Johnson (2002) wrote, “If you do not change, you can become extinct” (p.46). Effective teachers recognize Johnson’s concept and realize that change will happen. Adapting to change quickly is a characteristic of effective teachers. They not only adapt quickly to change, but they enjoy the change.

The Teacher as Reflector

Effective teachers need time to reflect on the daily classroom events. Reflection time “offers opportunities to step back and think about teaching practices” (Fogarty & Pete, 2007, p.149). Teachers need to self-reflect accurately to envision how they come across to students, to see how they are perceived. Student work and assessment need reflection to determine if teaching methods need to be changed.

There are numerous ways effective teachers reflect. Some journal; others discuss openly with co-teachers the stressful points of the day. Some reflect privately and make notes of what to do differently the next day. Reflection offers time to capture the highlights and low points of the day.


According to Marzano (2003), “The art of teaching is a holistic endeavor. Effective teachers employ effective instructional strategies, classroom management techniques, and classroom curricular design in a fluent, seamless fashion” (p.77).  Effective teachers also communicate expectations and knowledge well with students, parents, and co-workers. He “likens an expert teacher to a chess master, capable of seeing many things simultaneously and making judgments with seeming ease and fluency” (Marzano, p.77).

What do you think makes a teacher A+ effective?  

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Resources mentioned in this series:

Dr. Cathy Dotson serves as the Elementary Principal of Wilmington Christian Academy in Wilmington, NC. Her 21 years in Christian education and expertise in early childhood and elementary learning ideally equip her to share with FOCUS readers.

Please note: we reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Edward Earwood

    I keep going back to everything I read and everything research shows us–the teacher is the key to the learning process. Great thoughts!

  • Lynda V. Jordan

    I believe an effective teacher has to have a passion for learning, drawing from an endless well of knowledge. The passion that a teacher possess, he or she uses themselves as conduits for that knowledge to pass through them reaching an eagerness that is visible or not so visible in the student to know more. There has to be an excitement that generates from the educator that speaks I’m not good until you are good, meaning once I feel the connection that the students have tapped into what I know and now their understanding has been enlighten that their very countenance echoes I got it, I got it, I got it!!!!

    • Matt Ticzkus

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting Llyunda!