Does Personality Make You A Better Teacher?


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Teacher Personality

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In 2010, Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit from a simple Twitter account through which he rapidly became the 'most followed teacher on social media in the UK'. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday...
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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.


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