Psychologists interested in understanding what constitutes a “Master Teacher” have conducted several studies to identify various traits. One resource can be found at the Society for the Teaching of Psychology’s (STP) resource center (OTRP) and is written by Jeffrey Stowell, from Eastern Illinois University, and Eric Landrum, STP President from Boise State University. This article, http://teachpsych.org/resources/Documents/otrp/resources/stowell13.pdf , contains 73 different clips of professors teaching who are demonstrating Master Teacher Qualities.
In this article, Stowell and Landrum provide a short but detailed summary of the research in identifying what constitutes a master teacher. They focus on 8 of those qualities.
As I read through their qualities I noticed 3 categories.
The stuff a faculty member has to come to class with in order to be a Master Teacher.
- Knowledgeable – if you don’t fully know the material, you can’t teach it. Nothing more needs to be said.
- Enthusiastic about the topic AND teaching – Enthusiasm translates into actions outside of the classroom like attending conferences, reading journals, conducting research, and seeking out time to think and talk about your discipline and teaching.
- Creative and Interesting – Though this category has more to do with the delivery of information, let’s face it, coming up with a creative method for teaching and keeping your students interested, especially in applied statistics takes time and effort outside of the classroom. Master teachers want to keep their students intellectually engaged, and come to class ready to do just that.
Qualities associated with having high expectations for student success while still referencing the needs of the students.
- Realistic Expectations – Professors have to keep their expectations high but still within reach of their students. Those of us teaching in the United States, especially at state sponsored universities or community colleges are teaching students who are coming to us woefully ill prepared. It is our goal is to meet the students where they are, not where we wish them to be. With such expectations, it shapes the efforts a professor will entertain to assure student success.
- Flexible – it is not enough to have high expectations, Master Teachers reference the needs of the student, that means, they have to be flexible, at least at times.
Qualities that help create a welcoming culture of respect within the classroom.
- Respectful – If you want students to be respectful, you need to model it yourself.
- Cares for Students – Dr. Jyh-Hann Chang conducts research on compassion and defines compassion as having two components: empathy and action to alleviate their suffering. It’s not just enough to say you care about students, you have to have empathy for them, particularly when something is out of their control like the death of a loved one. With this, however, I also believe, based on the work of Chang, that Master teachers actively try to keep students from suffering.
- Personable – Who would you rather learn from, a grumpy person or a pleasant person? Most students would select the pleasant student.
What’s great about Stowell and Landrum’s article from STP’s OTRP is it includes links of professors demonstrating these very traits listed above. If you are wondering if you are meeting the standard of being a master teacher I encourage you to watch the video clips.
Until the next time, happy teaching!