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Though the duties of today’s college faculty are diverse and wide-ranging — including research and publishing, student advising, committee service and other activities — classroom instruction remains at the heart of the profession. In addition to performing their other duties well, successful professors are great teachers and invest time in their teaching skills and personal intellectual development.

“Four Ways to Spot a Great Teacher,” an essay recently published in The Wall Street Journal, outlined four characteristics of successful educators. The essay was written by Dana Goldstein, author of “The Teacher Wars” and a staff writer at The Marshall Project. Although Goldstein is targeting primary and secondary school teachers in this article, we believe that the principles highlighted are universal and have implications for faculty members in colleges and universities.

Goldstein cites a variety of research studies as the basis for the characteristics listed.  She asserts that evidence of a teacher’s prowess is visible both in their interactions with students and the kind of work they assign to students to do on their own.

The list begins with the assertion that great teachers actively engage in intellectual activities on a personal level.  “Economists have discovered that teachers with high SAT scores or perfect college GPAs are generally no better for their students than teachers with less impressive credentials,” Goldstein writes. “But teachers with large vocabularies are better at their jobs because this trait is associated with being intelligent, well-read and curious.”

Secondly, Goldstein says, great teachers believe that intelligence is attainable for all students, and push their pupils — including those struggling in certain areas — toward high academic achievement. She says that teachers with high expectations spend more time teaching new concepts than reviewing material that students have already learned.

Goldstein’s third point is that great teachers are data-driven, using quizzes at the beginning and end of academic units to measure how much students have learned. In doing so, she says, they are able to gauge the effectiveness of their teaching techniques.

Finally, she says, great teachers ask great questions that focus more on students’ understanding of larger themes and concepts and less on memorization of facts.
The full Wall Street Journal article is available here:

Content originally published on Learn more about Interfolio’s acquisition of Data180 here.