Based on the idea that “the teacher has proven time and again to be the most influential school-related force in student achievement,” James Stronge’s second edition of Qualities of Effective Teachers uses a clear format to precisely identify what those qualities are and the research that supports them. Stronge begins each chapter with a short vignette and follows with a synthesis of the extant literature on teacher quality. At the end of chapters one through six, there are sections that address teachers of at-risk students and teachers of high-ability students. Finally, each chapter includes a table that lists key references relevant to the chapter’s topic, provides a concise, sensible collection of comprehensive research references, as well as checklists and bulleted lists of the qualities to look for in effective teachers.
Stronge refers to teachers as individuals, managers, planners, instructors, and monitors within the school context. He underscores the liabilities associated with lack of preparation, experience, and qualifications. In doing so, he is consistent and intentional in his focus on the teacher, nearly to the exclusion of other agents within education. Stronge articulates precisely who will benefit from the content of the book: teachers interested in self-improvement, teacher leaders, school administrators, department heads, staff development specialists, human resources specialists, teacher/administrator educators, and policymakers. The book provides content that would be useful for the purposes of training, professional development, and evaluation. Because of the book’s user-friendly format, it is easy to see how various individuals could use the information to improve teacher quality.
The book begins with a description of prerequisites that are essential for all teachers when they begin teaching, including solid verbal ability, educational coursework, certification, content knowledge, and classroom experience. These nonnegotiables are foundational. Stronge follows the first chapter with one on teacher responsiveness, in which he outlines personal attributes that teachers should have. He argues that they ought to care about their craft and connect with their students on a human level. The research he cites indicates that teachers who are fair, motivated, positive, and reflective yield better student outcomes. This is an area that is often overlooked in the formal training and evaluation of teachers.
Not surprisingly, Stronge includes a chapter on the importance of establishing clear classroom management routines and planning systems. Using bullets to highlight key research findings, Stronge notes that organizational abilities and the ability to respond to student behavior are of high importance. Building on this, his chapter on planning and organizing instruction encourages teachers to focus on instruction, be effective time managers, and to maintain high expectations of their students. Stronge follows with a chapter that includes suggestions on how to use strategies to differentiate methods. Finally, he discusses the importance of monitoring student progress, including the use of homework, meaningful feedback, and assessments. A summary chapter distills the information listed in the book and identifies four Cs that capture what all teachers should strive for, including teachers who care deeply, recognize complexity, communicate clearly, and serve conscientiously.
As schools continue to face the pressures of hiring and retaining highly qualified teachers under No Child Left Behind, clear road maps on what to look for and how to instill highly effective qualities will make these tasks more manageable. While this book may not be the authoritative book on teacher training, professional development, or evaluation when considering the qualities of effective teachers, it serves as a suitable primer for instructors of beginning teachers, evaluators of teaching practice, and teachers themselves as they strive toward their goals of improving student outcomes.