by Gina Merys, Associate Director, Reinert Center
The August/September 2017 issue of The Teaching Professor Newsletter reviewed two recent studies that looked at the most important teacher characteristics as identified by students. While the studies do not reveal solid evidence about any characteristic’s direct bearing on student learning, one of the studies (Gerhard, 2016) does open a window on the correlation between the characteristic of “sociability” (i.e. “talkative” and “interactive”) and student engagement. What the author of the study found was “perceived instructor sociability exerts influence beyond the culture it creates in the classroom: it also significantly impacts student behaviors necessary for both skill-building and performance” through the impact it has on “performance engagement” and “skill engagement” (Gerhardt, 2016). The article was quick to point out, however, that this is not a call to become the people students think they want us to be. Rather, it is to be more “responsive to their needs as learners. [… and] to explain how our choices relate to our teaching and their learning” (The Teaching Professor).
Studies like these are important work as we continue to think about the ways in which we measure teaching effectiveness. Given that students and instructors continue to have different views on how various teacher characteristics may or may not influence learning, as well as the gap between the perceived feeling of having learned and the actual evidence of knowledge or skills gained, continued research on multiple facets of teaching and learning are necessary components of building a comprehensive program of measuring teaching effectiveness.
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Instructors at Saint Louis University have access to the review article referenced here, “Reaffirming the Importance of Teacher Characteristics” as well as all issues of The Teaching Professor through our institutional subscription. If you would like to access it, please contact the Reinert Center (email@example.com) for login instructions.
Gerhard, M.W. “The Importance of Being …Social? Instructor Credibility and the Millennials.” Studies in Higher Education. 41 (9), 1533-1547.
“Reaffirming the Importance of Teacher Characteristics.” The Teaching Professor Newsletter. Magna Publications: August/September 2017.