Top 5 ways to Convey Competence–according to students

In discussions with high school students, I was eager to find out what teachers do that conveys competence in their eyes. What are the behaviors that teachers demonstrate that allow the students to view them as possible Experts in their field? You are being watched. Evaluated.

Paranoia Self-destroya

These “Expert” teaching behaviors do not represent perceptions of all students. Some of these may resonate with you and your population while some may make no sense whatsoever. My challenge to you is that you consider the perception of your students in your classroom and consider whether incorporating these behaviors into your teaching scheme may improve their perception of your competence.

5. Controls class through teaching: We are talking about the whole deal here. I have told countless students the same story with the same scenario many times and it is true. As soon as the first student asks to go to the bathroom, you are done for. This is your sign from above: You have lost them. You do not have to believe me. But know that it is true. How, you may ask, do you control bladders? Plan. Maintain interest. Make the content relevant (I did not say teach relevant content–that is another discussion). Use teaching to control all aspects of the class. Know your students, their temperaments, and develop your methods for the content in ways that keep everything under ‘control.’ The opposite of this would be threats, begging, disciplinary action, and yelling.

4. Control the pace of learning: Sounds simple enough, right? There are many components to this item and that is (another) discussion for another day. Keep it as quick as you can without losing minds or interest. Keep it slow enough to stick. Cycle back to firm up details–not with the same notes, discussion points, and examples but with new approaches. Your students should not feel as if you simply repeat things to improve their memorization.

3.Explains their subject clearly and effectively: Repeated attempts to explain material tend to gum up the works. You have probably seen this scenario: the material is covered ‘according to plan.’ There are a few questions that get answered and then you begin to investigate the depth of understanding. Additional explanation creates more questions and dissolves prior understanding so that the information has lost consistency and dribbles to mush on the floor. You can almost touch it. Refine, refine, refine. And do not mistake student questions for a depth of understanding.

2.Has all information memorized: Yes. Sorry. You may not like that one. You can go one for a few days talking about how memorization is so basic and how it does not prove anything and how it is pointless and how you have open note tests and how you do not think that anyone anywhere should ever have to memorize anything ever because this is the information age and we are surrounded by information and haven’t you ever heard of Google or the internet or the kid who delivered a baby with a Bic Biro and YouTube?

1. Teachers are not reliant upon the textbook: Hate to break it to you, but your students do expect you to have all the answers. Before you run yourself through with a rusty steak knife let me remind you that this is likely limited to the information that was covered to-date. We would call it fluency with the material–it requires that you know the material you are teaching inside and out, that you are able to manipulate abstract ideas with the material, and that you have anticipated many of the questions that will arise. This is, after all, your content area. Is it not?

This is not a comprehensive list and it is definitely not a construct that boasts a one-size-fits-all approach. It is a springboard for renewal and experimentation. Reflection. Try a few of these on for size and see if it makes a difference. Perceptions of competence result in better outcomes for both the teacher and the student. Put plainly, if your students think you are competent they will change their level of effort to match that perception. Comments are welcome!

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