By Bob Gilmour - Programme Manager for In-Sessional English Language Programme, INTO Newcastle University, England
I read this, Teacher Most Likely To Succeed, with interest. Having not seen the New Yorker article before, it is interesting to see that they identified the same points as us.
Two years ago I took over the In-sessional English support classes here at Newcastle University (roughly about 70 weekly classes and 800 to 1400 class places in each Semester).
In the non-credit classes which are not part of students degree programmes, there has always been a problem of dropping attendance towards the ends of the Semesters. We started collecting online feedback from all students who had registered including those who stopped attending. We noted that there were particular teachers who commanded much higher attendances in their classes and analysed the feedback for those classes and talked to those teachers to see what made them different. We also compared that with feedback from other classes where attendance dropped.
What seemed to be the main issues? Engaging and challenging students; humour; taking the class seriously; passion; individual feedback. What was really interesting is that a less experienced, younger teacher is just as likely to be successful in terms of attendance and student feedback as the more experienced and higher qualified teachers. However, there are also limits and, in my experience, the limits seem to be that students expect to be taught by teachers with qualifications equivalent or higher to their own.
We then fed this back into teacher training and awareness raising sessions and attendance across the Semester improved significantly this year (although there's still some way to go!).
Bob Gilmour website