The most inspirational teachers are those who take risks, offer encouragement and share their passions, research at the University of Sunderland has revealed.
Students who took part in the research said the teachers who made the biggest impression on them were those who were “encouraging”, “risk-taking” and “shared their wider passion about the world”.
Teachers with these characteristics were “remembered for the kinds of people they were more than the subject knowledge that they taught them”, according to the research authors Kate Duffy, Senior Lecturer in Education Studies and Dionne Ross, a Senior Lecturer and Programme Leader for PGCE Education.
These qualities were repeatedly mentioned when 53 Educational Studies undergraduates at Sunderland were interviewed as part of their First Year assessment learning journey – This is the Kind of Teacher I Want To Be – in order to capture significant events that influenced their experience and aspiration to become an educator themselves.
The research findings were recently presented as a paper at the British Educational Research Association annual conference in Newcastle, and have been unveiled as we celebrate World Teachers’ Day today (October 5) which honours teachers and recognises their contributions to education and development.
Kate said: “Risk-taking in a teacher might come when they see that a class does not get a particular subject, and the teacher changes or adapts the lesson plan to make things clearer.”
She added: “Students said they could tell when something said in class changed the direction of a lesson and that was exciting. However, in the current climate of educational targets and time pressure, it is hard for teachers to go off the curriculum, but it is important that teachers bear this in mind.”
They also said that another quality great teachers reportedly had was the ability to show how their subject related to the wider world, which helped to build strong relationships with the teacher as an intellectual friend.
One student said of her teacher “…she shared with me her favourite quote from Martin Luther King and that inspired me to want to teach English just like her.”
Students also admired a teacher who would take them through a particular problem that they did not understand at the end of a class.
Another student in the report said: “The teacher who I felt was most inspirational to me was my English teacher. She helped and supported me when I was struggling with my GCSEs. She was fun and outgoing and passionate about her subject. The teacher I found the least inspirational was my form tutor. He basically told me that I would fail my exams and fail in life and never get a job and live on benefits. This pushed me more to prove him wrong. And here I am at University…”
Being involved with the arts and extra-curricular activity was highlighted in the research as most significant towards developing character, confidence and belief in themselves during their education.
As a result of the research, the academics suggest teachers should be encouraged to: read more widely and present their subjects in the broadest of humanity; have confidence to apply the arts and extra curricula activity to more traditional subjects; help teachers to see their qualities of character as professional expertise.
The researchers hope to use their assessment to further explore the context, culture and political influences on education and teachers.