Sunday, May 29, 2011

What is a Good Classroom Teacher?

One way to develop a study of the characteristics of a classroom teacher is to ask the customers, the students what qualities do they use to judge a professor in class? So students were asked “what do you really want from a professor in a class? What criteria do you use to judge if he or she is a good or not so good teacher?” 

This is an approach that falls under the category of quality dimension development. That is, using the criteria supplied by customers about professors' behavior that would lead to grouping results into quality indicators that could be tested through a survey for example.  

For instance, in determining the quality indicators of a teacher, students supplied responses such as “starts class on time”, “returns tests the next class.” ‘knows her stuff” “cares about me learning and doing well”. These criteria were grouped to form larger categories that the individual criteria fell under,. For instance criteria such as “starts class on time”, “returns tests/papers by the next class”, “responds to student questions in class quickly” and similar responses led to a category of timeliness with clustered criteria as indicators on quality that could be tested.

Using a dimension quality development approach to analyze 6218 responses received to the question of what do you use to judge a teacher led to an original grouping of seven quality indicators for a teacher in a college classroom.  These are what students want in a classroom teacher. They are

Professionalism – knows his/her stuff; acts like a professional in the field taught, displays expertise in allied areas” “maintains decorum in class” “doesn’t just lecture from the book”…

Responsiveness – ‘is available in office hours” “answers students’ questions in class quickly” “sees if the class is understanding the points being made”

Timeliness “starts class on time” “ends class on time” “returns tests/papers by the next class”…

Empathy – “cares about me” “cares about my learning” “understands what it is like to be a student”…

Availability “Holds office hours” “is approachable for help” “waits in class to help students” “will meet with me for extra help”…

Completeness of instruction “explains topics or skills well” “makes sure students understand” “tells us all of the information; not just some of it”…

Pleasantness/Approachability – “Feel I can approach her for help”, “is available outside of class” “makes me feel comfortable in class” “is friendly” “teachings style shows openness to students”…

When looking again at the parameters of the dimensions it was noticed that there was some overlap if one judged the categories and their components by the following criteria/definitions.

Professionalism – the degree to which the professor knows the subject area and comports oneself expertly while maintaining classroom decorum

Responsiveness -  degree to which the professor responds to student learning needs in and out of class

Timeliness – degree to which the professor turns back paper and starts and stops class on time

Empathy – degree to which the professor reaches out to students and connect to them in a friendly manner

Availability – degree to which the professor makes him/herself available to students in and out of class

Completeness of instruction- degree to which the professor completes the teaching in class

Pleasantness/approachability – degree to which the professor is open and welcoming to students and their learning needs.

There are some obvious areas that beg to be combined because of overlap.  These were joined with the following resulting three dimensions of quality.

Professionalism (includes completeness) –the degree to which the professor shows expertise of knowledge and professional teaching ability/style
            “knows the material”
            “controls the classroom”
            ‘doesn’t just lecture from a book”
            “can answer student questions about the material”
            “show confidence in teaching”

Responsiveness (includes timeliness and availability) the degree to which the professor responds to student learning needs and their personal needs
            “responds to my learning needs and helps me understand material”
            “answers questions in class in less than a minute”
            “starts class on time”
“ends class when the bell rings”
“is available in office hours”
“waits for class to leave to make sure no one has questions”
“returns tests the next class”
“will meet outside of class for extra instruction”

Empathy (includes pleasantness/approachability) – the degree to which the professor connects with students and displays a friendliness toward students
            “cares about me”
“understands what it is like to be a student”…
            “Feel I can approach for help”,
“is available outside of class”
“makes me feel comfortable in class”
“is friendly”
“teaching style shows an openness to students”…

Though this exercise is not complete and could use more responses from students to increase its validity, it looks as if the qualities students really want in a classroom professor is that he or she be professional, being responsive to their needs and empathize with their situation. So it appears they want to learn in class, be sure they can get help and tests back quickly so they are aware of how they are doing and they want the teacher to be aware of them as individuals.  That is, they want academic customer service in the classroom.

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N.Raisman & Associates has been providing customer service, retention, enrollment and research training and solutions to colleges, universities and career colleges in the US, Canada, and Europe as well as to businesses that seek to work with them since 1999. Clients range from small rural schools to major urban universities and corporations. Its services range from campus customer service audits, workshops, training, presentations, institutional studies and surveys to research on customer service and retention. N.Raisman & Associates prides itself on its record of success for its clients and students who are aided through the firm’s services.

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