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10 characteristics of teachers who have impact on their students

Last updated on 2 December 2022
Every student has a teacher who they remember long after graduation. A teacher who inspired them, made them think, or who believed in their abilities. Do you also want to be the kind of teacher who leaves a positive, lasting impression on students? Then it’s useful to know what characteristics the best teachers possess. What do they do to make a lasting impact? In this first part we share five qualities. Which ones do you already possess? And which would you still like to work on?

What do those teachers do who are still remembered by their students years after graduating? Ken Bain, an award-winning teacher and author of the bestseller 'What do the best college teachers do', has done extensive research on this. According to him, it is not necessarily what these teachers do, but rather what they understand. Lesson plans and notes are less important than the way these teachers understand their subject and value human learning. They believe in two things: that teaching matters and that all students can learn. Ken Bain distinguishes ten characteristics of what the best academic teachers do. In this article we outline five of them in no particular order.

The second series of fijve tips can be found in didactical tip 30.

1 You know how to share your knowledge

Over the years, you have built up very complex knowledge about your subject, yet you never forget the student's context. For them, your subject may be completely new, or they may not yet have the same enthusiasm for it as you do. That is why you know how to translate your knowledge into understandable and clear lessons that are easy to follow and interesting for your students.

2 You prepare your lessons well

When preparing for your lessons, you think about the learning objectives and how students can achieve them. You approach this preparation as a serious academic process that you engage in together with your students. You ask yourself questions: what do I want my students to achieve after this lesson? How can I help them? How do I give them feedback?

3 You understand how students learn

You don’t have to know everything about how people learn best, but you know enough about it to activate your students. You apply techniques to capture their attention, activate prior knowledge, stimulate interaction, generate enthusiasm and let students apply the knowledge.

4 You give students ownership

You are aware that students need ownership and autonomy of their own learning process to learn as deeply as possible. This motivates them intrinsically to learn. Therefore, you largely abandon hierarchy within the relationship so that your students become independent and autonomous. You see it as your role to inspire and guide in this process.

5 You are a good communicator

Not only do you know how to convey the material, but you can also communicate well with the students on a meta-level. For example, you can address students' fears and concerns by communicating them in time. For example, take a look at the VU approach to the Mixed Classroom. In addition, communicating well also means that you are a sharp listener. You listen to your students and 'hear' things that are not said out loud. Listening well, enables you to tailor your lessons to your students better each time, and so your teaching keeps improving.