A teacher (also called a school teacher or, in some contexts, an educator) is a person who helps students to acquire knowledge, competence or virtue.
Duties and functions
A teacher’s role may vary among cultures.
Teachers may provide instruction in literacy and numeracy, craftsmanship or vocational training, the arts, religion, civics, community roles, or life skills.
Formal teaching tasks include preparing lessons according to agreed curricula, giving lessons, and assessing pupil progress.
A teacher’s professional duties may extend beyond formal teaching. Outside of the classroom teachers may accompany students on field trips, supervise study halls, help with the organization of school functions, and serve as supervisors for extracurricular activities. In some education systems, teachers may be responsible for student discipline.
Competences and qualities required by teachers
Teaching is a highly complex activity. This is partially because teaching is a social practice, that takes place in a specific context (time, place, culture, socio-political-economic situation etc.) and therefore is shaped by the values of that specific context. Factors that influence what is expected (or required) of teachers include history and tradition, social views about the purpose of education, accepted theories about learning, etc.
The competences required by a teacher are affected by the different ways in which the role is understood around the world. Broadly, there seem to be four models:
the teacher as manager of instruction;
the teacher as caring person;
the teacher as expert learner; and
the teacher as cultural and civic person.
A teacher interacts with older students at a school in New Zealand
It has been found that teachers who showed enthusiasm towards the course materials and students can create a positive learning experience. These teachers do not teach by rote but attempt to invigorate their teaching of the course materials everyday. Teachers who cover the same curriculum repeatedly may find it challenging to maintain their enthusiasm, lest their boredom with the content bore their students in turn. Enthusiastic teachers are rated higher by their students than teachers who didn’t show much enthusiasm for the course materials.
A primary school teacher on a picnic with her students, Colombia, 2014
Teachers that exhibit enthusiasm are more likely to have engaged, interested and energetic students who are curious about learning the subject matter. Recent research has found a correlation between teacher enthusiasm and students’ intrinsic motivation to learn and vitality in the classroom. Controlled, experimental studies exploring intrinsic motivation of college students has shown that nonverbal expressions of enthusiasm, such as demonstrative gesturing, dramatic movements which are varied, and emotional facial expressions, result in college students reporting higher levels of intrinsic motivation to learn. But even while a teacher’s enthusiasm has been shown to improve motivation and increase task engagement, it does not necessarily improve learning outcomes or memory for the material.
There are various mechanisms by which teacher enthusiasm may facilitate higher levels of intrinsic motivation. Teacher enthusiasm may contribute to a classroom atmosphere of energy and enthusiasm which feeds student interest and excitement in learning the subject matter. Enthusiastic teachers may also lead to students becoming more self-determined in their own learning process. The concept of mere exposure indicates that the teacher’s enthusiasm may contribute to the student’s expectations about intrinsic motivation in the context of learning. Also, enthusiasm may act as a “motivational embellishment”, increasing a student’s interest by the variety, novelty, and surprise of the enthusiastic teacher’s presentation of the material. Finally, the concept of emotional contagion may also apply: students may become more intrinsically motivated by catching onto the enthusiasm and energy of the teacher.
Interaction with learners
Research shows that student motivation and attitudes towards school are closely linked to student-teacher relationships. Enthusiastic teachers are particularly good at creating beneficial relations with their students. Their ability to create effective learning environments that foster student achievement depends on the kind of relationship they build with their students. Useful teacher-to-student interactions are crucial in linking academic success with personal achievement. Here, personal success is a student’s internal goal of improving themselves, whereas academic success includes the goals they receive from their superior. A teacher must guide their student in aligning their personal goals with their academic goals. Students who receive this positive influence show stronger self-confidence and greater personal and academic success than those without these teacher interactions.
Students are likely to build stronger relations with teachers who are friendly and supportive and will show more interest in courses taught by these teachers. Teachers that spend more time interacting and working directly with students are perceived as supportive and effective teachers. Effective teachers have been shown to invite student participation and decision making, allow humor into their classroom, and demonstrate a willingness to play.