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What Makes An Effective Teacher

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This essay aims to outline and discuss aspects of teaching, such as subject and curriculum knowledge, fulfilment of professional conduct and managing behaviour effectively. This essay will further highlight how the characteristics can potentially support primary teachers in the delivery of effective educational teaching. There are multiple factors that create an effective teacher, one of the most important factors is having a good amount of subject and curriculum knowledge.

According to number 3 of the Teacher Standards, (department for education [DFE], 2011), teachers must “demonstrate a critical understanding of developments in subject and curriculum areas”. Following the launch of the national curriculum (1988), there was evidence in the ‘three wise men’ report by Alexander et al, (1992, cited by Pope, 2019) that suggested a lack of subject expertise among teachers could evidently hinder children’s learning. Since the evidence was released by Alexander in 1992, the national curriculum has further changed and subject and curriculum knowledge among teachers has developed, and since improved students learning. Coe (2014) further supports the importance of subject and curriculum knowledge by suggesting that the most effective teachers have deep knowledge of the subjects they teach and when teacher’s knowledge falls beyond a certain level it creates significant impediment on students’ learning. Therefore, having deep subject knowledge is extremely effective and the need for increased subject knowledge is very high amongst teachers today. Furthermore, subject and curriculum knowledge is not just important to teach the students but also, to get students to apply their knowledge to other subjects. In Glazzards (2016), Learning to be a primary teacher, he suggests that highly effective teachers should encourage students to make links between subjects by applying knowledge from one subject to another. Glazzard (2016) connotes that teachers should have a broad depth of all subjects which then can be applied to the student’s learning in classroom environment. Glazzard (2016) suggests “it is only after pupils develop subject specific knowledge and skills that they can then apply the learning from one subject to another”. (P.37). Being taught to transfer knowledge between subjects can further enable students to progress in their future learning.

As effective as subject and curriculum knowledge appears to be, there can be counter effects of having increased knowledge every year. DeBruyckere (2018) outlines a theory known as “the curse of knowledge”, year after year the curriculum changes and more subject knowledge is required and teacher’s expertise increases, however, pupils remain at the same level (they do not get smarter and smarter each year).” As a result of this, the gulf between the teacher’s knowledge and the children’s knowledge get wider and wider”. DeBruyckere (2018, p.38).

Another factor that makes for an effective teacher is their responsibility to “fulfil wider professional conduct”. (Teaching Standards [DFE], 2011). Having important relationships with Teaching assistants and parents/carers builds great rapport and can potentially have a positive effect on teaching and learning. As suggested by Hansen (2015) “teaching is not a solitary profession” (p.154) and communication between teachers and parents/carers is essential for learning, due to the fact that children learn both at school and at home. By communicating and fulfilling this responsibility, the student can have an enriched learning experience in both environments. As well as working with parents/carers, teachers should also communicate with colleagues. In Glazzards (2016) book, learning to be a primary teacher, he suggests that effective teachers will not know every single detail of the national curriculum but should not hesitate to seek support from other colleagues or teaching assistants. Thus, creating collaboration and teamwork and a positive working environment which can potentially have a supportive effect on student’s development and learning.

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Ewens (2014 cited by Hansen 2015), (p.138-142) further supports this pedagogy by suggesting that trainee teachers can often benefit from the expertise of curriculum specialists, and that they should not hesitate to ask for help. This suggestion highlights the importance of teacher- colleague communication as an effective factor of highly effective teaching. Although teacher collaboration seems to be effective there can also be recognized disadvantages of using collaboration and teamwork in the classroom. One disadvantage of having co teachers involves the lack of subject expertise offered by the exceptional educational teacher. One co- teacher is typically certified in core subjects and the other in exceptional education. In this type of teaching model, students may find it difficult to work with a teacher who is not a core subject expert. Although careful planning may be able to avoid this problem, time restraints may make it difficult for an exceptional teacher to consistently study new material ahead of the students. (Tucker,2019).

Another key aspect of effective teaching is managing behaviour and providing a safe learning environment. As suggested by the teaching standards [DFE], (2011) which outline that children cannot begin their learning until the classroom environment is safe and everyone is concentrating on the task at hand. Chaplain (2015) suggests that “when the behaviour policy is well thought out, understood and consistently applied by all teachers responsible for pupils, it can significantly reduce or eliminate many minor disreputable behaviours almost ‘automatically’.” (pg. 102). Chaplain highlights that managing behaviour effectively promotes effective teaching within the classroom. Supporting the theory of behaviour management is McKnight (2016) in Pearson (2016), what makes an effective teacher? who suggests that the category of behaviour management was “most frequently mentioned by principals (it ranked second in their Top 10)”. (P.25). Therefore, this evidence would suggest that head teachers and principals believe that behaviour management is a highly effective skill to have.

Although behaviour management can often be effective in the classroom, teachers can often find themselves spending too much of the classroom time on behaviour management which, consequently, hinders learning for those students who are on task. Stott (2010) suggests that there is a need for teachers to spend time on motivating and monitoring the behaviour of disruptive students. However, the on-task members of the class may even feel this is unfair. Stott (2010) implies that managing behaviour in a classroom can often have a negative impact on learning for some of the students in the class and perhaps behaviour management is not as effective as it seems.

In conclusion, a highly effective teacher is a complex hypothesis and is dependent on many variable factors. Due to the nature of effective teaching being flexible and a multi-faceted theory, the aforementioned characteristics are supportive of effective teaching, however further research may be of benefit to gain a more conclusive outcome.

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What Makes An Effective Teacher. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 29, 2023, from
“What Makes An Effective Teacher.” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022,
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