What makes an effective teacher? UAE educators, parents, policymakers and learners have their say.

As the UAE implements a new teacher licencing system and new national teacher standards, it is timely to reflect on what it is that actually makes a teacher great, explains Sue Mainey, Pearson’s Middle East Director of Marketing.

When it comes to defining what makes a teacher great, who better to ask then teachers themselves? Along with teachers, Pearson has recently asked parents, policymakers, administrators, researchers, and of course, learners, what they believe makes a teacher most effective.  

This Global Survey of Educator Effectiveness questioned thousands of stakeholders from across the globe, asking participants to list, in their own words, between three and fifteen qualities that they felt were most important in making a teacher “effective”. Participants were asked to indicate what type of teacher they were thinking of in making this list, that is, what level of education the teacher taught at, and what subject the teacher taught. The survey did not define “effective” for participants, other than that it meant “good,” allowing respondents to define what an effective teacher meant for themselves. The majority of survey participants in the UAE came from Dubai (54%), followed by Abu Dhabi (39%), with the rest of the Emirates making up the remaining 7% of participants.

A coding system to categorise responses was developed, based on earlier research about competencies of effective teachers. This coding scheme was then reviewed by teachers, principals, education policymakers and researchers, and revised as additional responses were coded, resulting in a final list of 32 categories. These categories covered a range of areas, including professionalism, subject knowledge, teaching skills and pedagogy.

So what do you think respondents in the UAE listed as the most important quality for making a teacher effective? Well, the UAE was in line with all of the other 23 countries where the survey was conducted. There was general agreement in the UAE that effective teachers build trusting relationships, and are patient, caring and kind individuals. Respondents prized good teacher-student relationships, given the importance of such relationships to creating safe, positive and productive teaching and learning environments.

The top ten characteristics survey participants in the UAE believed make a teacher most effective were:

1. Ability to Develop Trusting, Productive Relationships
2. Subject Matter Knowledge
3. Patient, Caring, Kind Personality
4. Teaching Skills/Pedagogical Practices
5. Professionalism
6. Engaging Students in Learning
7. Ability to Make Ideas and Content Clear
8. Knowledge of Learners
9. Dedication to Teaching
10. Emphasis on Developing Students’ Non-Cognitive Skills

The results of the survey are timely for the UAE, as the Government takes steps to improve education outcomes by elevating the quality of teachers across the Emirates. While in no way do we suggest that the above list should be an exhaustive “checklist” of effective teaching, the results are nevertheless useful in how we should recruit and train teachers in the UAE. They are useful first and foremost because how can we possibly create effective teachers if we don’t even know what effective looks like? The survey results give us a good starting point for what we want to achieve by defining teacher effectiveness. By having a model to work towards we know what we want – and don’t want – in our teachers.

The results have implications for the type of people we need to be bringing into the profession in the UAE. The study could be useful for reducing the UAE’s teacher shortage, which is in part due to a difficulty attracting good teachers, and in part due to high turnover rates. If we focus more on hiring teachers in the UAE that have the character traits that allow them to build strong, positive relationships with students, then perhaps these people would be more likely to stay in the profession (and extract better outcomes from their learners in the process). The survey also suggests that we could be doing more to ensure teachers are receiving ongoing professional development that emphasises the importance of student-teacher relationship building, and that provides teachers with the skills they need to foster robust, relationships with those that they teach.

The results of the UAE Survey hold so much useful data for us as we look to improving learner outcomes through enhanced teacher effectiveness. To find out more about the results of the survey, in the UAE or the other countries surveyed, you can access the full reports by visiting: https://www.pearson.com/efficacy-and-research/schools-education-research/research-reports/global-survey-of-educator-effectiveness.html

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the policy or position of Pearson.