There is no question that teachers play a critical role in the learning and achievement of students. Research has revealed evidence that an effective teacher is a cornerstone of an effective school. An effective teacher needs skills and knowledge (competencies) to succeed in facilitating knowledge while maximizing student learning. An integral part of an effective teacher’s overall competency is her set of soft skills that come into play while she imparts relevant knowledge to her students. What soft skills are needed for a successful teaching career and how do you develop these?
What are Teacher Competencies?
Teacher competencies are the skills and knowledge believed to enable teachers to succeed in the profession. The goal is to maximize student learning. To achieve this, teachers need expertise in required competencies in the learning environment where critical decisions need to be made every day.
Many of us have had the opportunity to experience the transformational power of an effective teacher. There is evidence that teaching and student achievement are linked. Research confirms that among all the factors that are under the school’s control, it’s their teachers that have the greatest influence on student achievement.
Based on years of research on educational practices that impact student learning, there are 4 competency categories that yield significant positive results in student learning:
- Instructional delivery
- Classroom management
- Formative assessment
- Personal competencies (soft skills)
These four competency categories have become the basis for decision-makers in teacher hiring, training, development, and evaluations.
Soft Skills a Teacher Needs to Be Effective
Soft skills are those that enable individuals to “fit in” at the workplace. These skills are differentiated from hard skills in that the latter is more technical and quantifiable while soft skills are more of qualities of character. Successful teachers have certain soft skills in common. These make up the set of soft skills included in the Personal Competency category. Soft skills indispensable among teachers include:
Setting high but achievable goals for students. A common standard for goal-setting is known as SMART (attributed to “Management by Objectives” by Peter Drucker). To ensure that the goals or expectations you set for your students are clear and attainable, each goal should be:
Fostering a love for learning among students. A teacher can encourage passion for learning among students by:
- helping students discover their respective interests and passions
- providing hands-on learning experiences
- making learning interesting and enjoyable
- demonstrating or sharing your own passions
- determining your students’ unique learning styles
- having discussions instead of lectures
- providing support and encouragement
Listening to others. An effective teacher employs active listening in all her interactions with students. Active listening requires conscious effort to hear beyond the words that the person is saying and actually “hearing” the language that’s being communicated. An active listener is able to respond with appropriate acknowledgment, whether verbal or non-verbal language is being communicated. An effective teacher, likewise, is receptive to her peers’ or superiors’ feedback.
Adaptability to novel situations. An effective, highly adaptable teacher is able to learn from others so as to better navigate change. An adaptable teacher is:
- able to see the positive in every situation
- not afraid to make mistakes
- comfortable asking questions
Empathy. The way to continuously develop empathy for others is to: challenge yourself. Constantly seek experiences that will compel you to leave your comfort zones. Do this by:
- getting out of your typical environment periodically
- asking for feedback
- imagining yourself walking in others’ shoes
- cultivating your curiosity
- asking meaningful questions
Closely examining your biases is the most critical. As a teaching professional, this awareness of your personal biases will help you separate them from the delivery of information. This is especially necessary in teaching theology, social sciences, or catholic social doctrine which is neither liberal nor conservative, as per the core principle of CAPP-USA.
Cultural sensitivity. A culturally sensitive teaching professional is able to think beyond race and ethnicity. Hone this critical sensitivity by:
- learning through asking
- establishing connections within your community
- paying close attention to different individuals’ non-verbal behaviors
- actively exchanging stories
Various research has proven how teachers are indispensable to the learning process. They are catalysts to students’ achievement and motivation. Teacher competencies have been the fruit of years of research and observation on what factors bear the most significant impact on student learning. If you are serious about a career in education, it is your duty to develop in yourself these competency categories. Doing so ensures your success as an educator — as well as the success of your students.