Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Becoming a Great Teacher: Introduction

Becoming a great teacher is no simple task, and requires multiple accomplishments. Great teachers find a way to make students learn. Great teachers inspire their students. Great teachers understand their material. Great teachers are admired by both students and other teachers.

We all know the attributes we believe to constitute a great teacher, but to my knowledge we have never asked students what they believe. Their opinion is obviously valuable.

To answer this question, I recruited a talented undergraduate named Carol Cook to interview agricultural economics students. In interviews with over 45 students, Carol asked the students to think of the best and worst teachers they have taken at Oklahoma State University, and to describe the attributes that make the best teachers better than the worst. Not only did she elicit the attributes that define a great teacher, but she asked the students why those attributes are important to them. Towards the end of the interview, she even determined the personal values the students hold that make those attributes important.

In the marketing literature, this type of interview is referred to as means-end-chain analysis or laddering.

These interviews are enlightening. They tell us what attributes define a great teacher in students' eyes, why those attributes are important to them, and their personal values driving the students' appraisal of the teacher.

In a series of blog entries, which will appear intermittently in this blog, Carol and I will describe the results of these interviews. So stay tuned, and please provide us feedback on your thoughts. If your goal is to be a great teacher in students' eyes, these blog entries will tell you how!