What Matters Most to Students

After observing teaching and learning for more than 20 years I have come to the realization that there are three things that matter most to students:

  1. Rapport
  2. Evaluation of student performance
  3. Organization

Rapport is by far the most important factor. It encapsulates the emotional climate of the classroom or learning context. You know you’re teaching well when students want to come to class.

Highly effective teachers are mindful that rapport is something you must work at. Being a nice guy or gal is not enough. You see, the classroom climate is strongly influenced by the other students as well, which means that any teacher worth their salt works hard to build trust, respect and goodwill amongst students.

Evaluation is the second most important factor for students. It’s complex and very tricky because grading student work can be politically charged. Overall, students have the right for authentic evaluation of their knowledge and effort.

Teachers who pride themselves on never giving students an “A” should think again because your assignments and tests represent a lesson in futility. (Try as you may, you will not succeed here – ha-ha!).  What is the motivation for discouraging students? It certainly doesn’t build self-esteem, promote self-efficacy or enhance student motivation. If you want to prove you’re superior, go trip a toddler.

Conversely, giving grades where student failure is deserved is equally pointless. Just play cards with someone (of any age) and let them consistently win. They will soon become bored and unmotivated. So much for building self-esteem.

Top teachers do challenge their students; they set high standards and they encourage students to do good work. They also help students to succeed in a variety of ways, which will be discussed in other articles. One thing is clear, however, teachers need to work as hard as their students, because this is how to gain respect and establish good rapport.

Organization is the least important aspect, but it is still important to student learning. It encompasses using class time efficiently, providing a clear overview of the day’s lesson, giving appropriate examples, supplying useful handouts, having a logical sequence for information and instructions, and distinguishing between major and minor points. Bear in mind that learning is difficult and frustrating. Good organization helps to reduce frustration.

Many skills are associated with these three building blocks of teaching effectiveness but by incorporating each component into your lesson plans you can become and remain a highly effective teacher.


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