Troubled teens have told researchers what they think makes a good teacher. 

New research that asked high school students with learning and behavioural difficulties what makes an excellent teacher revealed they value instruction over a bubbly or fun disposition.

The study involved in-depth interviews of 50 students from Grades 7-10 from three secondary schools in disadvantaged Australian communities.

Lead researcher Professor Linda Graham, from QUT’s Centre of Inclusive Education, said few studies had analysed the perspective of students who had a history of disruptive and disengaged behaviour.

She says there is a gap between instructional support in everyday classrooms and promoting practices to serve students with disabilities and disruptive behaviour.

“These children are telling us they don’t want to be let off the hook but rather want to become better learners,” Dr Graham said. 

“They want simple instructions, not simplistic teaching.”

Students’ responses to the question “what makes an excellent teacher” were coded into four categories.

“It is commonly believed teachers’ temperament and personality is what students care most about,” Dr Graham said. 

“This research provides clarity that the quality of instructional support is vital.

“Another common perception is these kids are disruptive because they don’t want to learn, but there is no evidence to support this based on their responses.

“The majority of responses were about practices that help students in their learning and more importantly what they said corresponds with research from the cognitive and communication sciences.

Professor Graham said researchers developed a preliminary visual support for teachers based on core themes from the study that included:-

  • Teachers talking slower

  • Teachers explaining things more clearly

  • Teachers checking in with students more often

  • Having a buddy who can help explain

  • Teachers writing instructions on the board

  • Teachers giving regular reminders of what students are meant to be doing.

The full study is accessible here.