You are on page 1of 19

A Guide to

Better Teaching
A Guide to

Better Teaching
Skills, Advice, and

Evaluation for College and

University Professors
Leila Jahangiri and Tom Mucciolo
ROWMAN & LITTLEFIELD PUBLISHERS, INC.

Lanham • Boulder • New York • Toronto • Plymouth, UK

Published by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.


A wholly owned subsidiary of The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing
Group, Inc.
4501 Forbes Boulevard, Suite 200, Lanham, Maryland 20706
http://www.rowmanlittlefield.com
Estover Road, Plymouth PL6 7PY, United Kingdom
Copyright © 2012 by Leila Jahangiri and Tom Mucciolo
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any
form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information
storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the
publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote passages in a review.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Information Available
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Jahangiri, Leila.
A guide to better teaching : skills, advice, and evaluation for college
and university professors / Leila Jahangiri and Tom Mucciolo.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-1-4422-0892-6 (cloth : alk. paper)
ISBN 978-1-4422-0894-0 (electronic : alk. paper)
1. College teaching—United States. 2. College teachers—United
States.
I. Mucciolo, Tom. II. Title.
LB2331.J34 2011
378.1'250973—
dc23 2011026506
The paper used in this publication meets the minimum
requirements of American National Standard for Information
Sciences—Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials,
ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992.
Printed in the United States of America
To our families who encourage us

our colleagues who challenge us

and our teachers who inspire us …

List of Figures and Tables


Chapter 2
Table 2.1
The twenty-one skills grouped according to the three “core”
categories
Figure 2.1:
Learner preferences of students and professionals, based on “core
category” skills.
Table 2.2
The top five characteristics (skills) preferred by student and
professional learners
Chapter 3
Table 3.1
Feedback on personality skills from both student and professional
learners
Figure 3.1
Relative significance expressed by student learners for each of the
Personality skills.
Table 3.2
Strategies and tactics for including positive reinforcement in
teaching
Table 3.3

A collection of offensive comments made by various university


instructors as reported by students
Table 3.4
Alternative approaches to fault-finding statements
Table 3.5
Examples of teacher comments containing empathetic words
Table 3.6
List of some strategies to enhance empathy in a teaching
environment
Table 3.7
Selected methods for increasing an instructor’s energy level and the
associated skill area
Table 3.8
Different ways to increase credibility with learners
Table 3.9
Centered learning from different perspectives, focusing on related
processes
Table 3.10
Typical learner comments about boredom and methods for
addressing the problem
Table 3.11
Suggested techniques for stimulating learner motivation
Table 3.12
Characteristics of experts according to core elements of expertise
Table 3.13
Strategies for becoming a better mentor
Figure 3.2
Bar-on Model of Emotional Quotient (EQ) domains and sub-skills
Table 3.14
Causes of nervousness as described by interviewed teachers
Table 3.15
Suggested actions to overcome particular fears or worries when
speaking
Table 3.16

Communication activities that promote self-confidence, linked to


related skills
Table 3.17
Highlights of the personality skills
Chapter 4
Table 4.1
Feedback on process skills from both student and professional
learners
Figure 4.1
Relative significance expressed by student learners for each of the
Process skills
Table 4.2
Comparing the difference between abstract references and more
concrete links to content
Table 4.3
Comparing the benefits and limitations associated with commonly
used presentation support formats
Table 4.4
Emotional effects of selected background colors
Table 4.5
Commonly used geometric shapes and suggested uses
Figure 4.2
Sample (inactive) QR code used in print media to link to rich media
content on a Web site.
Table 4.6
Highlights of the process skills
Chapter 5
Table 5.1
Feedback on performance skills from both student and professional
learners
Figure 5.1
Relative significance expressed by student learners for each of the
Performance skills
Figure 5.2

A top-down view of the Presenter’s Triangle depicting the angled


wall that creates a boundary in order to maintain a visible line of sight
to the content
Table 5.2
Body language distractions, causes, and suggestions for improvement
Table 5.3
Lead-in phrases that help listeners receive and manage spoken
content
Table 5.4
Self-help for people with geographical accents
Table 5.5
Small-group facilitation strategies and tactics
Table 5.6
Lead-in responses affecting interactive discussion
Table 5.7
Highlights of the performance skills
Chapter 6
Table 6.1
Assessment form choices based on the learning conditions
Figure 6.1a
Page 1 of the print version of Standard Evaluation, covering the
Personality skills
Figure 6.1b
Page 2 of the print version of Standard Evaluation, covering the
Process skills
Figure 6.1c
Page 3 of the print version of Standard Evaluation, covering the
Performance skills
Figure 6.2
Simple steps for converting a printed assessment to the electronic
format for analysis
Figure 6.3
Sample electronic skills assessment analysis results page with skill
grid and calculations
Table 6.2
Terminology used on the results page of the electronic skills
assessment
Figure 6.4
The SPICE ModelTM, showing the grouped skill categories and
relative rating scale.
Table 6.3
SPICE ModelTM general groupings derived from individual skill
categories
Figure 6.5
Sample of the SPICE Model CollectorTM showing the analysis of
multiple evaluations
Table 6.4
Progress chart for tracking assessment results

Introduction
You must learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t possibly live
long enough to make them all yourself.
—Sam Levenson
A university professor is sitting at his desk, staring at a brief e-mail
message from the department chair: “Bill, your assessments came in
and I noticed you averaged 7.4 out of 10 in student evaluation. I think
you are doing well, but I would love to see you be an 8 or higher for
next semester. I am confident that this will not be a problem for you.”
Although Bill does have a measurement of his effectiveness,
unfortunately, he has no idea what must be done to improve that level,
other than try to just “be an 8.” But if he knew which specific skills to
target, he would be able to better plan a self-improvement path. A
Guide to Better Teaching is about describing effective teaching,
determining which skills to target in order to be more effective, and
measuring your effectiveness.
For many years, we have been observing the presentation and
teaching skills of a number of different groups of people from a variety
of fields and disciplines. Tom has the advantage of more than twenty-
five years of interacting with industry leaders, corporate executives,
and government clients. Leila has nearly twenty years in academia,
with a focus on education and faculty development, as well as being an
experienced clinician in the health care profession. From a chance
meeting, we discovered that although we operated in seemingly diverse
environments, we shared a common interest in effective presentations
and effective teaching. As a department chair at New York University
(NYU), Leila was hiring numerous full-time faculty members and
developing a large department. Her goal was to see growth and
enhancement of the teaching in a systematic manner. Having observed
Tom training major industry leaders in corporate environments, Leila
asked “Why can’t faculty go through the same rigor as industry
leaders?” After a lengthy discussion, we noted that teaching, leadership
training, and public speaking are not dissimilar and that there are
many overlapping skills. We realized that an opportunity existed to
merge our experiences for creating a unique faculty development
program. Later that year, Tom joined NYU as an adjunct faculty. What
makes this collaboration effective is that although our individual
experiences are widely different, we share a common goal of finding
ways to help teachers teach better and leaders lead better, and in the
process, allow teachers to become leaders.
It was in the early fall of 2005 when we first collaborated to observe
select groups of instructors at New York University. The whole idea
behind the faculty development effort was to collectively evaluate the
effectiveness of each faculty member in the pilot group, in order to
improve the overall quality of teaching, and then discuss our
observations. We each had a unique viewpoint on how to develop the
skills in a person so that he or she could be a more effective
communicator. We agreed that through observation and feedback, one
could continually improve. However, we realized that this time- and
resource-intensive observation process may not be practical and not a
model that could be easily duplicated in other institutions or
departments. It was clear that not every teacher had access to an expert
or peer observer. Even if that were possible, not every instructor was
comfortable being evaluated by another person on a continual basis.
But beyond having a “subjective evaluator,” many instructors wanted
clarity on the evaluation criteria itself. The question became “What am
I being judged on, exactly?”
The challenge for us was in finding an “agreed-upon” set of criteria
that could be used to judge or evaluate a faculty. We believed that
reaching such a consensus would require a student or learner’s
perspective based on preferences. In other words, we wanted to know
what learners most desired from teachers. This was the start of our
series of studies, interviews and analyses. Later, we examined and
confirmed these learner preferences with those of experts and peers.
The research to uncover learner preferences is described in detail in
this book, but to sum it up, a two-question, open-ended survey, asking
what qualities students liked most and least in a teacher/presenter, was
given to learners. Responses were coded and grouped according to
similar relationships, resulting in the emergence of twenty-one skills or
“preferred characteristics,” which later led to developing a form of
assessment or measurement.
The chapters and sections in this book provide a comprehensive
explanation of what makes a teacher effective. However, constructing
exams and evaluating students are also key components of an effective
teacher. It is not within the scope of this book to provide an
explanation of techniques, strategies, or procedures in the design of
exams or methods for continual assessment of students. You will find
that the educational literature is rich with textbooks on principles and
fundamentals of student assessments.

On the other hand, our students evaluate us too! There are a number
of instruments available for students to evaluate teachers, and this
book identifies the most preferred characteristics of effective
instructors. You can be a much better teacher when you understand the
most important needs of your learners and know what elements of your
skill you should improve. For the new teacher, the numerous
challenges and opportunities discussed in this book offer insight into
understanding how you can meet the expectations of those you teach.
For the adjunct faculty, the supporting research allows you to target the
specific needs of your learners while bringing your real-world
experiences into your academic approach to teaching. For the seasoned
professor who may have an additional mentoring role, the offered
suggestions and the skills assessment tools can be used to improve the
efforts of peers or junior faculty as you bring them up to the same level
of effectiveness that you may expect from yourself. For those who have
switched careers and entered a new world of academics, there is much
to learn and this book shows you how to use your past experience to
offer different perspectives that energize the group, helping learners
make human connections between theory and real-world practice.
What is described here is based on our findings and further
substantiated by a thorough review of the educational literature in each
of the skill categories. Ultimately, it is our goal to provide you with
critical perspectives, suggestions, and techniques for improvement.
A Guide to Better Teaching is arranged into three sections:
Perspectives, Skills, and Assessments. The Perspectives section
discusses overall and generalized concepts from a learner’s perspective
along with our findings. The Skills section focuses on three core
areas: personality, process, and performance. The personality skills
help to create logical and emotional impressions, while the process and
performance skills are expressions of organization and delivery. Your
ability to weave these impressions and expressions into a seamlessly
cohesive set of skills will enhance your overall effectiveness. As you
examine each of the skills in these sections you will also notice a
number of references that provide a more in-depth understanding. In
addition, there are numerous tables that summarize, as well as visually
oriented short stories that clarify concepts and outline ideas to help
you become a more effective teacher. To recap the highlights of each of
the three chapters in the Skills section, a summary and strategy
table is provided. The Assessments section helps you determine your
baseline and a means to identify and measure your specific strengths
and weaknesses. For your convenience, our assessment tools are
accessible online (for a free download,
visit: www.rowmanlittlefield.com/isbn/1442208929). A Guide to
Better Teaching, along with the assessment tools, aims to improve your
deficient areas. Therefore, from here on, we refrain from using the
word “weaknesses” and instead use “challenges” implying that you will
overcome these. Eliminating challenges and further leveraging your
strengths, which we call “opportunities,” will ultimately lead to greater
effectiveness.
SUGGESTED METHOD OF READING THIS BOOK
As you navigate through the book, you will note that the skills are
discussed individually, but grouped according to functional areas.
There are several cross-references, although the majority of the writing
focuses on one particular skill at a time. The advantage to this format is
that you can actually skip around as you read and still get the essence
of every skill. This flexible arrangement of the content allows you to use
this book as a reference tool, where you can randomly review a
particular skill multiple times in order to develop proficiency in a
desired area.
As you use this book along with the assessment tools to continually
self-improve, you will enhance your abilities. You will not only be able
to measure your level of effectiveness, or measure the effectiveness of
others, you will understand what it takes to be an effective teacher.

PERSPECTIVES
Experience is not what happens to a man. It is what a man does with

what happens to him.


—Aldous Huxley

1
From a Learner’s Perspective
Retire into yourself as much as possible.

Associate with people who are likely to improve you.

Welcome those whom you are capable of improving.

The process is a mutual one.

People learn as they teach.


—Seneca
The great philosophers Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle were more than
thinkers, more than teachers, they were learners. Their collective sage
wisdom has shaped many of our current educational precepts and
principles. They offered profound insights into self-knowledge and
critical thinking, emphasizing that knowledge serves a practical, moral,
and ethical purpose in society. What made these men such great
philosophers is that they viewed the world from a learner’s perspective,
that is, they learned from observing life, and taught from a totality of
experiences. They promoted the notion of a man as a “whole being,”
the sum of those parts that are moral, ethical, scholarly, and practiced.
Their collective philosophy was revived into the reflection of the
“Renaissance Man,” someone who was more complete by excelling in a
wide variety of subjects or skills such as the arts, sciences, and religion.
In other words, the essence of a “complete person” was not defined by a
single talent or skill, but by a total picture of a personal expression of
life that had a profound impact on society.
Effective teachers often embrace the notion of the “complete person”
by going beyond teaching so that learners are inspired. While the
vision of having such a profound impact on a society of learners is
desirable, you may be wondering how you can accomplish this. If you
observe teaching from a learner’s perspective, you can begin to create
the complete picture of your teaching effectiveness.
The Effective Teacher
There are numerous books, articles, papers, and reports that attempt
to define the essence of teaching effectiveness. The subjective nature of
the term effectiveness opens the door to debate as to which definition
is thedefinition to use. Of course, there is no single choice. In light of
the myriad explanations, we believe that effectiveness can be described
as the extent to which teaching advances learning, that is, the level at
which the expertise contributes to the attainment of knowledge or skill.
It may be said that from a learner’s perspective, a teacher’s
effectiveness stems from the ability to be useful, helpful, and valuable
in facilitating learning.1 Thus, while the act of teaching involves skills,
unless the teaching activity is tied to a learning outcome, it is not
considered effective from a learner’s perspective. After all, a person can
teach efficiently by managing the environment, organizing lessons, and
covering the curriculum. But if learning objectives are not met, the
person is not teaching effectively. This distinguishes “good” teaching
from “successful” teaching. It appears that good teaching is judged by
standards of practice, measured against institutional norms, and
focused on the task of teaching whereas successful teaching is about
the longer-term achievement of learning outcomes.2
If good teaching is a process of communication, then successful
teaching is a measurement of that process in terms of learning.
However, to become a successful teacher, one must first be good
enough to be effective. This clearly suggests that skills or abilities can
be developed or enhanced to the point where a teacher can be
successful in advancing learning toward established outcomes,
thereby creating a complete picture of teaching effectiveness.
Who Should Assess?
In any educational setting the evaluation of teaching is required in
order to continually improve the learning process. In fact, when
dealing with a review process it is best if observations are made from
different perspectives. The good news is that when a teacher is being
reviewed, those observing are learners in some capacity, whether
evaluating content, performance, or effectiveness. Thus, the evaluation
of a teacher is done from a learner’s perspective. There are many
evaluative formats used to assess the level of effectiveness of
instructors.3 These mechanisms can be categorized into three major
types of observations including student ratings, peer reviews, and self-
evaluations.4
Student Evaluations
The most common format for measuring teaching effectiveness has
been from a traditional learner’s perspective in the form of a student
evaluation, although such rating of instruction has been debated in the
educational literature.5–23 However, it is generally believed that student
evaluations are reliable and therefore they are considered an effective
method for measuring teaching quality.24 In most cases, students
evaluate instructors across a variety of predefined skill areas and the
quantifiable ratings are generally meant to help improve teaching,
although the feedback is also used as part of the criteria for promotion.
At times, instructors may “teach to the form” by making sure
evaluation criteria are met, and this may hinder the expanded
development of teaching expertise. To mitigate that challenge, another
form of evaluation offers a different learner’s perspective—that of
another instructor.
Peer Reviews
Reviews by colleagues are considered to be another valuable method
of evaluation and feedback.25–30 The purpose of the peer review process
is to assist in the development of effective teaching skills based on
constructive comments from other teachers. If you are a novice
instructor, or even a parttime teacher becoming familiar with the
academic environment, it can be helpful to have a more seasoned
faculty member observe you in front of students and later discuss with
you opportunities for improvement. Peer review can become a
mentoring process that allows others in your situation to share a “best
practices” perspective for improving your teaching activity. Because of
scheduling issues and time restraints, there may be very few
opportunities to have one or more of your fellow instructors watch you.
However, videos of your “teaching in action” can be recorded and
reviewed at a more convenient time to allow multiple peers to observe
your archived work.31, 32 In the absence of peer review opportunities,
there is yet another method of evaluation, where the learner’s
perspective is yours.
Self-Evaluations
In addition to student assessments and peer reviews, a more private
method of evaluation, done through self-reflection, is a self-
assessment. You see through your own eyes before you see through the
eyes of others. It is from your personal perspective that you gain a
highly realistic interpretation. Experience is your “teacher” and, like a
“student,” you can evaluate your own learning. But, can a person truly
self-assess? There are potential biases in such a scenario. Some might
argue that when the judge is the self, there is a tendency to be lenient.
Others argue that the self is the most critical judge of all. “I’m my own
worst critic,” is spoken by many who judge themselves more harshly
than others might judge them. A number of studies support the value
of self-evaluation as a method of measuring teaching effectiveness in
academic settings.3, 31, 33–36 Those who self-assess gain awareness of
different teaching styles through personal observation
(a reflective approach) for self-development.33, 37, 38 The evaluation of
oneself leads to an understanding of personal style, which can be
compared or contrasted to other styles.
Self-assessment is more accurate when the personal review is
measured against an accepted standard. How can we arrive at such an
agreement? Given the diversity of learners, there surely cannot be one,
single, agreed-upon standard student evaluation. When it comes to
other teachers, there is not a universally accepted instrument for peer
review. Yet, when we describe effectiveness as “the extent to which
teaching advances learning”the implication is that there is a
standard from which to measure the level of effectiveness. Yes, there
actually is a standard—it’s you! You are the benchmark from which
your efficiency can be measured. You are the point of reference for how
your skills can be developed. You are the starting point for
assessing your level of effectiveness, because from a learner’s
perspective, in this case, the learner is you.
Learner Preferences
This all sounds great, but exactly what is it that you are evaluating in
yourself? A self-assessment has little value if there are no checkpoints,
no guideposts, or no quantifiable metrics against which self-learning
can be measured. It would be helpful to know what is expected of you,
so that you can have a target or goal to meet such expectations. When
you were a college student, you knew the checkpoints (assignments),
guideposts (course outlines), and quantifiable metrics (exams) for you
to monitor your progress. As a result, you understood which areas
needed more work so that you could make adjustments and continually
self-improve toward meeting the defined expectations or learning
outcomes. Yet, as a teacher, it may appear that there is no established
set of guidelines or clearly defined “effectiveness” curriculum for you to
follow other than your continual on-the-job experience. So how can
you self-improve with few defined parameters and vague expectations
of just being “better” at teaching?
Fortunately, there is a set of guidelines, which we call learner
preferences. These are the skills that learners prefer and expect to
experience from effective teachers. In other studies where learner
needs were met, students performed better in achieving learning
outcomes.8, 39–45
Understanding learner preferences helps you to identify those areas
that need to be developed in order to maximize your effectiveness, as
judged from a learner’s perspective. This is the basis of the assessment
tools in this book. A Guide to Better Teaching is designed to help you
evaluate your own level of effectiveness so that you can meet the needs
and expectations of your learners.
Effective Teachers and the Learning Process
The outcome of teaching is where the students learn the taught
material. An effective teacher, by definition, puts the focus on learning.
Assessment of the learning process, regarding what is actually
absorbed, is far more complicated, and there is an abundance of
literature on this topic. In general, a direct correlation between
teaching effectiveness and student outcomes is difficult to prove. While
our goal in this book is to focus on ways to help instructors be more
effective, we cannot claim that a higher or greater learning process has
occurred just because the teachers are teaching better. Nonetheless, we
can agree that a more effective teacher invariably creates a better
environment for the learning process to flourish.
Getting to Know You
Whether you are a new teacher, an adjunct faculty, or a seasoned
professor, your objective is to use this comprehensive information to
analyze your own effectiveness or the effectiveness of others around
you. While the book itself serves as a continual reference for
understanding effective teaching and skill development, the
assessment tools in this book will help you identify your challenges and
track your improvement. Additionally, as an instructor, you could
perform a series of self-assessments, then check your self-evaluations
against a peer’s assessment (from a recent observation) to see if there
is any correlation.
Before you read the rest of this book, we suggest you jump to chapter
6 (“Assess Yourself,” page 263), and complete your own self-evaluation
using the assessment form and reflecting back on your most recent
teaching experience. (The self-evaluation assessment form is also
available as a free download
at www.rowmanlittlefield.com/isbn/1442208929.) This will give you
an initial perspective of your skills prior to reading anything in this
book that may alter your impressions. After you read the book, we
encourage you to go back and re-evaluate to compare with your
original observations. It is possible that after reading our discussions of
the skill categories you may judge yourself differently with respect to
certain areas, or you may validate existing abilities, or discover
characteristics about yourself that you had not considered. Your self-
assessment is the process of self-reflection toward self-improvement.
What are you waiting for? Assess yourself!

2
The Science Behind the Scenes
About the time we think we can make ends meet, somebody moves
the ends.
—Herbert Hoover
In the fall of 2005 we embarked on a journey toward evaluating the
performance of academicians from the perspective of learners. Our
goal was to identify the factors that individuals believe contribute
toward a better understanding of the information being
communicated. To unearth these issues we decided to conduct a study.
Although our initial focus was on academicians and students, we
expanded the study to include those in the public domain who
communicate content in a variety of learning settings such as
continuing education, training, seminars, conferences, as well as
distance learning and online webcasts. The purpose of our study was to
identify learner preferences of effective classroom teachers or
presenters.
While the concept of classroom teaching effectiveness semantically
suggests an academic setting, the “classroom” can be any group setting,
and the word teaching can apply to any communication of information
intended for the benefit of a listener. Thus, by identifying criteria for
teacher quality preferences as perceived by current and past students,
the findings also apply to any communication activity involving a
speaker (presenter) and one or more listeners (audience). For this
reason, the role of teacher and presenter are interchangeable when it
comes to communicating content to a group. Moreover, in the
academic setting, the
terms teacher, professor, instructor, lecturer, faculty,
and educator are more common; whereas, in the public arena, the
words presenter, speaker, narrator, trainer, and facilitator are most
often used. In all cases, the standard view or model of communication
is the same: the dynamic interpersonal interaction between a sender
and a receiver of information.1
Preferences of Different Learners
To design our qualitative study, rather than creating a list of traits or
characteristics from which a respondent might choose, we elected to
ask open-ended questions so that participants could offer unrestricted
comments. A twoquestion survey, asking what qualities learners liked
most and least in a teacher/presenter, was given to two
groups: students and professionals. A student learner is defined as one
who is required to participate in a course. A professional learner is one
who elects to enhance their existing knowledge by participating in a
learning activity. The type of learner can be the same person. For
example, an individual may be required to take a course on Microsoft’s
Excel spreadsheet program. This individual will listen as a student
learner. The same individual, at a later date, decides to expand his
knowledge base and elects to take an advanced Excel course. He will
now listen as a professional learner. In each case, the overall
preferences for effective teaching are found to be the same; but the
emphasis on the desired characteristics of the teacher, on these
separate occasions, is different.
In our initial published study, a total of 300 subjects provided 2,300
written responses to the two-question survey.2 The original study was
limited to the health care profession, using the most readily accessible
groups of students, faculty, and health care professionals from the
medical and dental communities. However, using indicators from the
initial data in the study, we expanded the reach by conducting similar
methodology, using the same two-question survey, with a vast number
of diverse groups encompassing students and professionals. By
expanding the research we gathered data from over 1,800 individuals,
who provided more than 15,000 responses. In analyzing the responses
from all of these other groups, the results were highly consistent with
the published research findings, thereby increasing the confidence that
this research has universal applications beyond the original subjects
studied. Irrespective of the subject matter, learners are found to have
common preferences for effective teachers.
Categorizing Preferences
From the collected data in the study, descriptive words within the
responses were coded and grouped according to similar relationships,
resulting in the emergence of twenty-one skills (characteristics),
grouped into three core categories or major areas
of personality, process, and performance, and outlined in Table 2.1.
The core categories and related skills are covered in more detail in
chapters 3, 4, and 5.
The “personality” traits include eleven skills related to
individual behavior irrespective of course content or delivery of that
content. The “process” category includes five skills dealing with the
organization and design of the content that is used for instructional
purposes. The “performance” area covers five skills inherent in the
delivery of the content. Figure 2.1 illustrates the how learner
preferences of students and professionals differ in the core categories.
There is considerable discussion in the literature of each of these
characteristics as contributing to or influencing teaching effectiveness
based on personal traits, instructional content and the manner in
which the information is conveyed.3–11 While the terms used to describe
specific attributes varies across different studies, the general reference
to particular skills is similar. For example, both faculty and student
perceptions of effectiveness included traits such as: encouraging,
approachable, respectful, knowledgeable, passionate, enthusiastic,
caring, as well as showing a sense of humor.5, 8, 12 Teachers who develop
a concise, organized, easy-to-follow topic are considered helpful to
learners and enhance the learning experience.7, 13–17 An instructor who
is able to make difficult or challenging topics easily understandable
while managing the classroom climate is considered more effective
than those teachers who have no control of the group or cannot
simplify the materials.7, 14, 15, 18–22 An educator who speaks clearly, does
not drift from the topic, and openly interacts with students establishes
a better learning environment.7, 13, 14, 22–24

These references clearly indicate that learners can recognize the


quality of the teaching in terms of observable characteristics, or when
expected attributes are missing. For instance, an instructor’s lack
of respect for a student’s opinion, or a teacher’s noncaring attitude
negatively affects teaching effectiveness because these learner
preferences are not met.
While the presence or absence of preferred teacher qualities is
significant, a closer look at the results of our research study shows that
the two groups of learners, students and professionals, appear to
have different preferences in teacher/presenter characteristics. For
student learners, the skills related to content design, content
organization, and content development were at the forefront of their
preferences. Professional learners favored elements of speaker self-
confidence, body language style, and energy. Both groups highly
valued expertise and speaking style. These findings reveal that the
same presentation (in both content and delivery) given to different
groups of learners will yield different outcomes, based on audience
preferences. Table 2.2 compares the top five (of twenty-one) preferred
characteristics of teachers from the perspective of student learners and
professional learners.
This research offers an opportunity to classify teachers according to
the skills that appeal to particular groups for specific purposes. For
example, a teacher whose skills are better suited to student learners
may not necessarily be as effective delivering similar content to a group
of professional learners, who would judge the presentation according
to a different set of preferred characteristics.
A Self-Assessment Method
To bring the research to life, we designed an instrument to measure
the effectiveness of a teacher.25 The assessment, which you were
encouraged to take earlier, can be used for both self-reflection or peer
observation, evaluating up to eighty independent skills in a presenter
to arrive at a measurement of a speaker’s effectiveness in relation to
different audience types or learners (students, professionals and a mix
of both). This assessment tool and its derivatives are discussed in
greater detail in chapter 6.
To further test the validity of this assessment tool, a sample of 125
volunteers were selected and subjected to our assessment and to that of
an existing evaluation tool within their institution. The volunteers were
from different countries. This was done intentionally in order to test
the assessment tool in a variety of cultures and learning environments.
Where these teachers/ presenters were speaking at corporate events or
meetings, the comparative evaluation criteria was provided by the
conference management as the routine method of assessment. These
comparative evaluation criteria/forms were diverse and did not follow
a standard format. However, when findings were generalized and
compared, the correlation was very strong between our assessment and
the comparison. The direct analysis of this data proved to be difficult,
but the participants provided valuable feedback and reported our
instrument as critical in identifying areas for improvement. Our
findings together with this sample analysis led directly to our formal
design of the evaluation forms offered in this book.

In summary, the effective teacher is one who contributes to a


student’s acquisition of knowledge by optimizing learner preferred
characteristics. The remainder of this book focuses on the details
related to each of the core categories
of personality, process, and performance and the skills within each
area, offering you advice on how to develop each skill in order to
become a more effective teacher. The last chapter, “Skills Assessment
Tools,” provides directions to access the electronic versions of the
evaluation forms so that you can measure the level of your effectiveness
and receive an automatically calculated index.
*