Characteristics of Effective English Teachers Perceived by High
School Teachers and Students in Korea
Gi-Pyo PARK (Soonchunhyang University)
Hyo-Woong LEE (Korea Maritime University)
Abstract: This study investigated the characteristics of effective English teachers
perceived by 169 teachers and 339 students in high school in Korea, with a self-
report questionnaire consisting of three categories: English proficiency,
pedagogical knowledge, and socio-affective skills. Overall, the teachers
perceived significantly different characteristics from the students in all the three
categories with the teachers' high ranking to English proficiency and the
students' high ranking to pedagogical knowledge. The student subgroups also
held different perceptions to effective teaching. The high achievement students
reported different characteristics from the low achievement students in
pedagogical knowledge and socio-affective skills, whereas the male students
demonstrated different characteristics from the female students in socio-
affective skills. The findings provide implications to knowledge-based teacher
education for current and prospective English teachers.
A number of researchers have identified the characteristics of effective teachers both inside (Bernhardt
& Hammadou, 1987; Lafayette, 1993; Mollica & Nuessel, 1996; Freeman & Johnson, 1998; Schulz,
2000; Vélez-Rendón, 2002) and outside (Demmon-Berger, 1986; Lowman, 1996; Witcher et al., 2001;
Koutsoulis, 2003) the domain of foreign language education. These characteristics consist of several
underlying constructs including subject matter knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and socio/affective
Some characteristics of effective teachers are universal, but others are domain-specific. Different
groups such as teachers and students (Brosh, 1996; Lang et al., 1993), males and females (Witcher et al.,
2001; Minor et al., 2002), good students and less-good students (Koutsoulis, 2003), and students with
different majors (Check, 1986) held different views on effective teachers. These studies except Brosh’s
were conducted outside the domain of foreign language education. Considering the uniqueness of
foreign language education in terms of subject matter knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and
socio/affective skills, the characteristics of effective foreign language teachers (EFLT) need to be
investigated in-depth rather than merely applying what was found in general education to foreign
Investigating the characteristics of EFLT perceived by teachers and students is beneficial to teachers
and students as well as researchers. On the part of teachers, they can check the appropriateness of their
beliefs about foreign language teaching and learning based on current research and their colleagues’
beliefs. In addition, teachers can understand what their students expect from them and develop their
pedagogical techniques through reflection on teaching, which will in turn enhance the complex process
of teaching and learning. For students, they can understand their teachers’ beliefs and change their
erroneous beliefs about foreign language teaching and learning. This study as a trailblazer of the
research on effective teacher characteristics in Korea will sensitize to researchers to undertake new
The purposes of this study were to delineate the characteristics of effective English teachers (EET) in
terms of subject matter knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and socio/affective skills, to compare the
characteristics of EET perceived by different parties of teachers and students, and to stimulate further
discussion of the topic both in and outside of Korea. For these purposes, the following four research
questions were addressed to guide this study:
1. What are the characteristics of EET perceived by the English teachers and students in Korea?
2. Are the characteristics of EET perceived by the English teachers different from those perceived by
3. Are the characteristics of EET perceived by the high achievement students different from those
perceived by the low achievement students?
4. Are the characteristics of EET perceived by the male students different from those perceived by the
Characteristics of Effective Teachers
Many studies have investigated the characteristics of effective teachers which influence students'
learning and achievement (Demmon-Berger, 1986; Koutsoulis, 2003; Lang et al., 1993; Lowman,
1995; Witcher et al., 2001). These studies asked students to identify effective teacher characteristics by
means of self-report questionnaires or interviews.
Lang et al. (1993) developed a list of 32 characteristics of effective teachers through interviews with
college teachers, and asked 167 participants (administrators, chairpersons, college teachers, and
students) to identify and rank three characteristics considered important to teaching. They found that
the teachers rated 16 characteristics significantly different from the students and that the overall
difference was significant. The mean ratings for three characteristics including knowledgeable of world
events and knowing students and teaching them in ways which they learn best were higher for student
respondents, whereas the remaining 13 characteristics including knowing the subject well and
encouraging students to learn independently received higher mean ratings from teacher respondents.
The American Association of School Administrators (AASA) reported 15 characteristics of effective
teachers in two categories: management and instructional techniques and personal characteristics
(Demmon-Berger, 1986). These characteristics were found among the teachers who tended to be good
managers, use systematic instruction techniques, have high expectations of students and themselves,
believe in their own efficacy, vary teaching strategies, handle discipline through prevention, are caring,
are demographic in their approach, are task oriented, are concerned with perceptual meanings rather
than with facts and events, are comfortable interacting with others, have a strong grasp of subject
matter, are accessible to students outside of class, tailor teaching to student needs, are flexible and
In a similar vein, Lowman (1995) found that exemplary teachers excelled in one of the two dimensions:
the ability to generate intellectual excitement and interpersonal rapport in students. To confirm this
study, Lowman (1996) further investigated 500 teaching awards nomination letters from the students at
the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and found 39 descriptors of effective teacher
characteristics. Even though all but six of the 39 descriptors fit into the two dimensional model of
effective teachers, Lowman argued that the data better fit when two more dimensions of motivation and
clearly defined professional consensus about this level, with an argument that it should be the advanced
level by the ACTFL proficiency guideline (Lafayette, 1993). This argument leads to another important
question: Can prospective teachers reach this level with the limited class hours in school? Our answer
is skeptical. However, we suggest that language courses including four skills be introduced throughout
the curriculum, without confining these courses to lower-division courses and that other content
courses be taught in English as the vehicle of instruction.
Second, the students' higher endorsement to pedagogical knowledge than English proficiency and
socio-affective skills imply that teachers should be conversant with L2 acquisition theories, teaching
methods, and testing in order to help their students learn English effectively. For this, college courses
for prospective teachers should be oriented toward more L2 acquisition theories, teaching methods, and
testing than those in linguistics and English literature. Because the goal of the courses for prospective
teachers is not to clone experts in theoretical linguistics and literary criticism, but to create experts in
teaching English as a foreign language. Unfortunately, the reverse is true in many universities in Korea
with more courses to take in linguistics and in English literature than in English education. It is
important to note that the scope of pedagogical knowledge in terms of learning theories, teaching
methods, and testing is critical to define what the domain of L2 acquisition is and what the department
of English education pursues. For in-service teachers, they should keep up with current pedagogical
knowledge by taking short-term training courses, participating in conferences and seminars, and by
pursuing higher degrees in English education. This knowledge-based approach to teaching will
contribute to student learning as well as to the advancement of the domain.
Third, as was discussed so far, the teachers' perceptions about effective English teachers were
significantly different from those held by the students. The discrepancy of the perceptions held by the
two parties can cause the students to resist the teaching methods and approaches used by their teachers
and, in turn, can lead to ineffectiveness in their learning. For instance, the teachers who consider
grammatical proficiency less important and focus on more fluency than accuracy in class can be
rejected by the students who believe in the grammatical proficiency and want their errors to be
corrected. Thus, the students' ill-founded perceptions or beliefs about effective English teachers should
be changed through the discussions of current L2 acquisition theories and teaching methods.
This study is by no means comprehensive and has limitations in two points. First, since the data were
collected and analyzed quantitatively, the conclusions made above are speculative. Second, this study
produced rich data about effective teaching, fearing some data were neglected. These limitations lead to
the following areas to be explored in the future research: First, the quantitative findings of this study
should be replicated by other participants across academic levels and investigated further through in-
depth qualitative analysis. Second, the underlying reasons for different perceptions about effective
English teachers held by different groups should be investigated. Third, the relationship between
students’ perceptions about effective English teachers and their achievement need to be explored. The
findings of this and future studies will contribute to more complete knowledge-based teacher education
for English teachers in Korea.
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