Day 2

What are the characteristics
of great teachers?


Welcome to Day 2 of Those Who Can, Teach! Previously, we reflected on the reasons why we want to become teachers. Today, we will look at the characteristics of great teachers. To get us started, let’s listen to an amazing teacher. Through her TED Talks video, Rita Pierson, provides an emotional call to educators “to believe in their students and actually connect with them on a real, human, personal level.” As you watch the video below, be thinking about the qualities successful teachers must possess.

Today, we will:

  • Research the characteristics of effective teachers 
  • Develop questions for the Teacher of the Year interviews
  • Plan and practice for the Teacher of the Year interviews
  • Create an infographic to report on the characteristics of great teachers 

Icebreaker: Compass Points

During the course of this week, we will be working individually and in teams. During this activity, you will create your teams and learn more about how each of you works in a team to develop a project.  

Teamwork is rewarding because every team member contributes his or her talents and skills to produce a project that is better than what one person can do alone. However, people have different ways in which they approach working on a project and this can make working in a team challenging.

For this activity, we turn to our trusty compass for direction. Each point of the compass (North, South, East, and West), represents different ways that people approach completing a project. See which one describes you best.


Step 1: Identify your point on the compass

Think about your first reaction when a teacher assigns a project. 

You are a North, if you prefer to get started immediately and finish the project as soon as possible.

You are an East, if you prefer to review and understand all of the instructions very carefully and ask the teacher additional questions to get more details before you start

You are a West, if, like the Norths, you like to get started quickly, but then, invest your time perfecting the project up until the very last minute. 

You are a South, if you value fairness and want to make sure everyone’s contribution is taken into consideration.

Step 2: Form teams and come up with a team name, mascot, and motto

Now that you have identified the way in which you prefer to approach starting and completing a project, we will form our teams. Once your team is formed, come up with a team name, mascot, and motto for your team.

Team Anaconda designing their mascot.

Step 3: Showcase your team name, mascot, and motto

On your iPad, create one slide in Keynote with your team name, the names of each member, and your team symbol or mascot. Share your slide in the summer camp shared Photo album on your iPad.

Team Quincy M&Ms presenting their mascot to the class.

The Action Research Process

Today, we will focus on Step 1 of the action research process, identifying research questions. Sagor (2000) describes Step 1 as:

Step 1: Identifying Research Questions

Once a focus area has been selected and the researcher’s perspectives and beliefs about that focus have been clarified, the next step is to generate a set of personally meaningful research questions to guide the inquiry.

The figure below highlights Step 1 of the action research process.

Step 1 of the Action Research Process: Identifying the research questions.

Activity 1: Identifying Research Questions

In Day 1, we identified the focus of our action research project and identified the values and beliefs we hold about the teaching profession. The first phase of the Action Research Process involves identifying the research questions that will guide our action research projects.

The video below describes the process for identifying the research questions and offers multiple strategies for gathering data. As you watch the video, be thinking of some possible research questions to address in your action research project.

Activity 2: Researching the characteristics of great teachers

In this activity, you will work independently and in groups to conduct research on the characteristics and qualities that make great teachers great. Use Pages on your iPad to take notes and bookmark resources.

1. Watch the following video: Characteristics of an Effective Teacher:

2. Read the following article: The Most Essential Qualities of a Good Teacher

3. Use the UTRGV Library resources and the Internet to conduct research on the characteristics of great teachers.

4. Working in your teams, analyze your individual research findings. Then, design on paper an infographic that answers the question: What are the characteristics and qualities of great teachers? (n.d.) defines an infographic as:

…a representation of information in a graphic format designed to make the data easily understandable at a glance. People use infographics to quickly communicate a message, to simplify the presentation of large amounts of data, to see data patterns and relationships, and to monitor changes in variables over time.

5. Use the Canva iPad app to develop your team infographic.  

Screen Shot 2017-06-04 at 8.50.48 PM
Screenshot of the Canva App.

At the end of the day, each team’s infographic will be submitted to the camp facilitators, printed out, and posted on the walls of the classroom for everyone to see.

Activity 3: Developing the ‘Teacher of the Year’ interview questions

In this activity, you will work individually, in groups, and as a whole to develop 15 key questions you would like to ask exceptional teachers about their personal characteristics, beliefs, and teaching practices. An important outcome of this exercise can be learning that sometimes a bit of give and take is necessary in order to move forward with a solution.

The whole class selecting the Teacher of the Year Questions.

Tips for writing effective Interview questions. In an article for the New York Times, Nankani and Epstein-Ojalvo (2010), recommend the following tips for developing effective interview questions:

  • Research. Read and obtain background information about the subject, source or topic at hand before interviewing so that you can ask informed questions.
  • Ask simple questions. Keep your questions short, to the point and focused. Otherwise, you risk distracting or confusing your subject or allowing him or her to answer only part of a complex question. Break down complicated questions into shorter, simpler questions.
  • Limit closed-ended questions; use mostly open-ended questions. Closed-ended questions are yes-or-no questions or those that invite very basic one-word answers. Open-ended questions often begin with “Why?” and “How?” or phrases such as “Tell me about … ” or “How does that make you feel?” They invite longer, more insightful responses.
  • Ask follow-up questions. An inexperienced interviewer asks a question, notes the response then moves on to the next question. Don’t stick to the script — listen to the answers and probe further before moving on to your prepared questions. Often it is during a follow-up question that the right quote falls into your lap. “Following up” can also involve a non-question, like a sympathetic response or a gesture of surprise or admiration.
  • Take notes. While having an audio recorder is helpful, always keep a notebook handy and use it to jot down quotes, statistics or facts that strike you. You might also want to write down physical details about your environment and your subject’s appearance, facial expressions, and voice. But be sure to look up from your notebook and maintain eye contact.
  • Be conversational without having a conversation. Keep the interview informal and casual, not overly scripted, and go with the flow, allowing your subject to switch directions –- as long as you remain in control of the interview and are prepared to steer it back to your topic as needed.

Click here to read the complete article.

Developing effective interview questions. You are now ready to start writing the Teacher of the Year interview questions. This exercise is broken down into a 3-step process:

  1. Working individually, create a list of 5-8 questions you would like to ask a Teacher of the Year to glean some insight into how they were so successful in their teaching. You will have 10 minutes to develop your questions.
  2. Working in your groups, you will share your questions with the team. As a team, you will choose and rank the questions to identify the 10 most important questions. Discuss your rankings and come to a group consensus. You will have 30 minutes to identify your team’s 10 questions.
  3. Working as a class, each team will present its list of questions. The entire group will discuss all questions, then choose the top 15 questions. This final list of questions will be the ones you will ask our guest teachers in tomorrow’s Teacher of the Year interviews. You will have 30 minutes to come up with the final 15 questions.

Activity 4: Planning and practicing for the interview

Now that we have the Teacher of the Year interview questions, it’s time to plan and practice the interview.

Planning and rehearsing for the Teacher of the Year Interview.

Step 1: Plan the Interview. Remember, the interview will be approximately 45 minutes. 15 questions are too many for that time period. However, when conducting a live interview, it is important to have enough questions prepared if the interviewees do not elaborate on the questions. Conversely, you may not get to ask all of the questions prepared if the person you are interviewing expands on his or her responses.

Keeping this in mind, we will rank the questions to identify 5-8 of the questions that you, as a whole class, believe are the most important and relevant. 

Next, we will identify a moderator, who will lead the interview, as well as who will ask each question.

Rehearsing for the Teacher of the Year Interview.

Step 2: Learn how to Conduct a Journalistic Interview. Scholastic (n.d.) published an interesting article titled, How to Conduct a Journalistic Interview

The article presents 8 steps for conducting an interview. 

Since we have already completed Steps 1 – 3, as you read, focus on Steps 5-8. Take notes on each step using Pages on your iPad. Be prepared to share with the whole class the steps you think are the most important and specific ideas about how we can carry them out in the video interview with the Teachers of the Year.

Step 3: Practice the Interview. Next, we will do a mock Teacher of the Year interview. Since we will be conducting the interview tomorrow via web conferencing, several of the camp counselors will go into another room to join the video conference. Today, they will be our Teachers of the Year.

As you watch and participate in the interview, take notes of commendations (things that were done well) and recommendations (specific ideas for improvement). After the mock interview, we will share and discuss the commendations and recommendations to finalize our preparation for the interview tomorrow.

Wrapping Up & Next Steps

Today we formed our teams, identified the research questions for our action research project, researched the characteristics of effective teachers, developed questions, and planned and practiced for the Teacher of the Year interviews. We also created an infographic on the characteristics and qualities of great teachers. Tomorrow, we will examine what great teaching looks like by interviewing some truly exceptional teachers who were nominated by their school districts as the best of the best and recognized as their district’s 2017 Teachers of the Year


Latour, M. (2015). She travels the world to teach her students about climate changes. Murphy News Source. Photo retrieved from

Nankani, S., & Epstein-Ojalvo, H. (2010, September 20). Beyond question: Learning the art of the interview. Retrieved from

Sagor, R. (2000). Guiding school improvement with action research. ASCD. Retrieved from¢.aspx

Scholastic. (n.d.). How to conduct a journalistic interview. Retrieved from (n.d.). Infographics. Retrieved from