California Department of Education
Taking Center Stage – Act II


The Qualities of Exemplary Teachers

from Caught in the Middle, pages 118 and 119.

Motivation: The teachers have a strong commitment to their work and to their students. “These teachers not only demand achievement, but they provide opportunities for it… They select appropriate materials, teach the material thoroughly, monitor frequently, provide much feedback to each student, reteach if necessary, and are especially careful to ensure student success on new materials or individual work.” They express expectations verbally and clearly.

The teachers are committed to students outside of class. Not only do they get involved in students’ activities, but they “sacrifice their personal time in order to be accessible to their students who need more guided instruction.”

The teachers establish personal goals and determine a course of action for attaining them. They hold role models to be very important to them.

The teachers have what the researchers call an “integrated perception” of students—they view them as “whole individuals operating in a broader context beyond the classroom.”

Also, the teachers stay professionally enthusiastic through a “reward orientation.” They are rewarded when students exhibit understanding and achieve their goals. “It appears,” say the researcher, “that great teaching is inspired by the simple, yet beautiful act of one human being touching another through the learning process.”

Interpersonal Skills: The teachers’ routines are carefully patterned to prevent disruptions; they have a variety of “preventive maintenance” behaviors. The researchers noticed “withitness,” or constant awareness of what was going on in the classroom; and “overlappingness,” the ability to do more than one thing at a time. When disruptions do occur, “these teachers approach the problem objectively and methodically.”

The teachers are “active listeners.” The most common technique is paraphrasing, restating students’ responses with phrases like “Are you saying that…?” The teachers also “listen” on paper, sensitive to nuances in students’ writing. And they are sensitive to the mood of a class or individual.

Teachers build rapport with students by showing them respect, treating them fairly, and trusting them. They show empathy by being able to “perceive the thoughts and emotions of their young, teenage students…” They are warm and caring and set high expectations “by laying well-planned paths to success for their students.”

Cognitive Skills: The teachers have individualized perceptions of their students. They try to find out about them as individuals, “diagnose their needs and learning styles, and then incorporate that knowledge into planned instructional activities.” The effective teaching strategies used by the teachers include skillful and enthusiastic teaching; well-organized courses; student-centered style; careful monitoring and evaluating; a structured, yet flexible, approach; and active involvement of students. The teachers are deeply involved with their classes. To win over students, good teachers use a combination of techniques, and for them, “no two days are alike.”

Having knowledge of a subject area and teaching techniques basic, but the exemplary teachers, “continually engage in professional development, thus presenting and considering themselves as lifelong learners who value the learning process itself.” They discuss their “perpetual renewal of knowledge” with enthusiasm.

The teachers actively see innovation. “Our teachers talk animatedly about change to improve students’ learning and bout taking risks in an attempt to find and adopt new approaches to enhance teaching effectiveness,” according to the researchers. In addition, the teachers “take time to reflect on the changes they propose and avoid change for the sake of change.” These findings convey a significant set of expectations for the professional preparation of teachers—expectations that are poorly articulated in too many teacher preparation programs.