THE BLOG

What Makes a Great Teacher -- It's about the HOW

10/18/2010 01:09 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

"Student achievement flows from great teaching," states Vicki Phillips, Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

We believe great teachers know how to create meaningful, engaging learning environments that challenge students to do their best. Unfortunately, the majority of time that's spent on developing teachers is too focused on the "what" and the "why" but not the "how" of creating successful learning environments.

Teachers know what they want their classrooms to look like and how they want their students to be, yet often they don't know how to make it happen. Over our 20 years of experience working with schools on professional staff development, we've seen many good teachers become great -- once they learn how to change the dynamics of their classroom.

Specifically, great teachers know how to:

  • Connect with students
  • Make content meaningful and relevant
  • Orchestrate positive interactions
  • Build a classroom environment of respect and high expectations
  • Inspire students to do their best
  • Stimulate positive student behavior
  • Teach to all types of learners
  • Engage students in learning from bell to bell

Great teachers know how to create a community of learners who are engaged and excited to learn!

When teachers are empowered and know how to make this happen in the classroom -- when they have practical, transferable skills and techniques to create a learning environment that works -- the desired outcomes follow: improved behavior, attendance, grades, test scores and graduation rates.

Vicki Phillips continues to say, "Great teaching is advanced by great professional development." Effective teacher training takes time and commitment. Success in the classroom is not achieved with drive-by workshops that lecture teachers on the what without the how. Effective programs put the "how" first and ensure that teachers can successfully apply it in their classrooms.

When teachers acquire the necessary "how" skills and practice and personalize them in their classrooms, the result is a highly effective learning environment that produces positive outcomes for their students.