SLA research can throw very little light on good teaching – it’s not in its domain. Whatever we know about the SLA process, and in particular, what we know about SLA in classroom or teacher-led scenarios, what we don’t know is the effect of “good” and “bad” teachers, and we don’t have any well-tested criteria for evaluating one from the other. Just think about the number of variables at play, and you’ll understand why.
We know quite a lot about what students think makes a “good” or “bad” teacher in general educational terms, and we have lots of data on what students think about their EFL / ESL teachers. We also have lots of data on what teacher trainers, DOSs, and peers think about teachers in both the general education domain and in the specific ELT domain.
First, the general picture. Most educators (a terrible term, sorry) say that good teachers have four essential qualities:
• Subject knowledge,
• Communication skills
• Enthusiasm or Interest, and
• Respect for students.
In the http://englishwithgalih.blogspot.com.es/2013/04/what-are-criteria-of-good-teaching.html blog, it says that “Other major qualities that a good teacher must have are resilience, excellence, determination, conviction, and resolve”. Very bland stuff, right?
In a more considered (award-winning!) text, Leblanc (Leblanc, R. (1998) The top ten requirements for good teaching. The Teaching Professor, Vol. 12, # 6.) gave his top ten requirements for good teaching. To summarise, good teaching is about:
1 A passion for teaching.
2. Keeping on top of your field.
3. Responding to individual student’s needs, respecting others, and being professional at all times.
4. Being flexible, fluid, experimenting, and having the confidence to react and adjust to changing circumstances.
5. Style. Good teachers work the room and every student in it. They realize that they are conductors and the class is their orchestra.
6. Humor. Good teachers are self-deprecating and don’t take themselves too seriously.
7. Caring, nurturing, and developing minds and talents.
8. Having support from strong and visionary leadership, and very tangible instructional support resources, personnel, and funds.
9. Teamwork, and being recognized and promoted by one’s peers. Effective teaching should also be rewarded, and poor teaching needs to be remediated through training and development programs.
10. Having fun, experiencing pleasure and intrinsic rewards. Good teachers practice their craft not for the money or because they have to, but because they truly enjoy it and because they want to.
One more list, this time by Alex here: http://www.alexlandis.com/2008/08/12/qualities-of-a-good-teacher/
Alex says that good teachers love what they do; are good communicators; are admired; use positive reinforcement; are fair and just; are leaders; are committed; are understanding, compassionate and caring; and are confident, prepared and professional.
What strikes me about all this is that it’s rather obvious and of little practical use. Of course, by summarising the views above so quickly, I’ve left out some good discussion of what makes a good communicator, how best to lead, etc., and also stripped the texts of some of their illocutionary force. Even so, the three sources I’ve cited strike me as consisting mostly of motherhood statements: who would disagree with any of this advice? Does it help very much to inform good teaching practice?
There’s no doubt whatsoever that a good teacher is trusted by her students and gives them the feeling that they’re in safe hands; that seems to me to be the crux of the matter. But how is this achieved? Below is my own, quick attempt to list some practical elements which might help. Assuming we’re talking about a general English course, a good EFL teacher
• does a needs analysis at the start of the course and adjusts syllabus content accordingly.
• concentrates on developing general communicative competence. This entails, as Scott Thornbury put it so well, giving students the chance “to undergo repeated cycles of retrieval, production and creativity (aka practice, and, principally, practice in conditions that approximate real language use)”.
• is sensitive to cultural issues and the local context of her teaching.
• plans every lesson and ignores the plan when she thinks she should.
• sets appropriate, specific and challenging goals for every lesson.
• bases her lessons on tasks.
• gives her students a reading list and says that she expects everybody to read at least 3 books on the list.
• treats her students with respect and NEVER makes jokes at their expense.
• explains what’s going to happen at the start of each lesson.
• gives clear instructions for each task and asks somebody to give a counseling response to check.
• gives lots of feedback – negative feedback thru recasts, positive, encouraging, clearly targeted feedback on all contributions.
• makes sure that nobody feels left out.
• answers students’ questions about the language with authority and never bullshits. If she doesn’t have a clear answer she says “I’ll look that up and tell you in the next class”.
• doesn’t stay behind her desk. She moves around and never stands over people.
• elicits what’s happened in the lesson before it finishes, using the whiteboard to get the main points.
• asks for feedback
• sets homework –ALWAYS! And spend time in class discussing it.
• includes at least 2 process writing projects into the course.
• checks how the reading is going and makes room during the course for sessions where the reading is discussed.
• does a formal feedback session at least 4 times during a 100 hour course. The feedback session should be seen as an important part of the course, should use a feedback template which the students fill in individually, then discuss in groups and then report to the teacher. The teacher should take careful note of everything said and not attempt any defense of criticism. The teacher should adjust her plan for the next part of the course, and tell students how she’s going to change, or not change, things at the next class.
• does a proficiency test half way thru the course and another at the end. She tells students when this will happen, but does no preparation class.
• does individual counseling sessions with students at the end of the course.
During the course, the teacher must show that she’s in charge, that she knows what she’s doing, and that she cares about results.
Well, that’s off the top of my head, late at night. Over to you. But please don’t tell me that asking students to read extensively and engage in 2 process writing projects is “unrealistic”: if you believe in their worth, neither of them is.