Does Personality Make You A Better Teacher?

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Does your personality make you are a more effective teacher?

Published in Educational Psychology Review, March 2019, the results showed that personality may be associated with teacher effectiveness and attrition.

84 million personalities!

According to the World Bank Group, 2017, there are 84.23 million teachers in the world. We know teachers make a difference, and our government needs to do more to retain them, however, three key questions lack sufficient evidence:

  1. What are the personal characteristics of effective teachers?
  2. What are the personal characteristics of teachers with low burnout tendencies?
  3. What are the relationships between teacher personality and the job-related outcomes of teacher effectiveness and burnout?

In a period of time where we seek evidence to improve classroom performance, a recent *meta-analysis to unpick whether personality, as in teacher personality characteristics, are associated with effective teaching is worth considering, but with caution.

Teacher effectiveness?

Classroom observations are one of the most labour-intensive measures of teacher effectiveness. It often requires training observers to code an individual’s effectiveness in the classroom over multiple lessons. We should also consider – with caution – our bias and prejudice too. Student evaluations also offer another way to capture students’ perception of the classroom and the teacher (Ferguson, 2010) including:

  • care (level of interpersonal relationship support),
  • confer (level of soliciting and inviting students’ perspectives), and
  • captivate (level of interest and relevancy of teaching).

In this study, ‘extraversion’ was found to have the largest effect size (+0.17), and ‘agreeableness’ the lowest (+0.03). Individuals with high levels of emotional stability are calm, secure, and tolerant of stress (John et al, 2008).

Note, ‘teacher personality’ is also included in John Hattie’s the list of factors (d = 0.24)

Visible Learning plus 250+ Influences on Student Achievement John Hattie

Source: Visible Learning

Avoiding burnout?

The key characteristics most associated with less teacher burnout included:

  • emotional stability (effect size = +0.21)
  • extraversion
  • conscientiousness
  • and ‘openness’ with a small effect size (+0.04).

If I think back to difficult periods in my life, or working with teachers having a hard time out of school, emotional stability was often lacking and therefore, reduced (temporary) effectiveness back in the classroom. It’s a no-brainer really … As with all research, take a closer look before making any final assumptions about your personality type.

*n.b. this research analyses 25 studies and their relationships between five personality types.


In 2010, Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit from a simple Twitter account in which he rapidly became the 'most followed teacher on social media in the UK'. In 2015, he was nominated for '500 Most Influential People in Britain' in The Sunday Times as one of the most influential in the field of education - he remains the only classroom teacher to feature to this day ... Sharing online as @TeacherToolkit, he rebuilt this website (c2008) into what you are now reading, as one of the 'most influential blogs on education in the UK', winning the number one spot at the UK Blog Awards (2018). Today, he is currently a PGCE tutor and is researching 'social media and its influence on education policy' for his EdD at Cambridge University. In 1993, he started teaching and is an experienced school leader working in some of the toughest schools in London. He is also a former Teaching Awards winner for 'Teacher of the Year in a Secondary School, London' (2004) and has written several books on teaching (2013-2018). Read more...

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