Teaching skills refer to the specific abilities educators need to effectively support learning.
These skills take time to learn – and, in reality, we never stop developing them. Expect your teaching skills to develop throughout your career.
Teachers require a broad spectrum of hard and soft skills to ensure their students’ academic success and personal growth. They loosely fit into three categories:
- Pedagogy: Being able to effectively convey, facilitate, and support subject-specific knowledge formation.
- Classroom management: Maintaining discipline and creating an environment conducive to learning.
- Assessment: Regular, effective, and reliable evaluation of students’ progression and understanding.
In the 21st Century, we’re increasingly understanding that teaching skills need to be culturally responsive, differentiated for students’ needs, and focused on facilitation over dictation.
Let’s explore some of these skills.
1. Subject Expertise
All teachers need to be knowledgeable about the subject being taught. This will ensure accuracy and clarity. Even elementary school teachers need excellent spelling, math, grammar, etc. Physics professors, on the other hand, would obviously need to be experts in high-level physics.
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2. Lesson Planning
This is a hard skill for teaching, and involves creating structured and effective plans for teaching that align with learning objectives and build upon content learned in prior lessons.
3. Classroom Management
Classroom management is an umbrella term which refers to the ability to establish and maintain order in the classroom. This is one of the most difficult of skills, especially for new teachers, who need to learn to control tone of voice, composure, and stature required to manage a class. Effective classroom management promotes an environment conducive to learning.
4. Explicit Instruction
This refers to conveying information clearly and understandably to ensure student comprehension. Even in inquiry lessons, explicit instruction is necessary toward the beginning of the lesson (especially when giving instructions on safety!)
5. Open-Ended Questioning Techniques
Open-ended questioning refers to asking questions that can’t be answered with a yes/no answer, which generally helps to stimulate thinking, gauge understanding, and promote discussion.
6. Active Listening
Active listening involves not just listening to someone, but being a participant in the conversation. This may include giving body-language feedback that shows you’re listening and asking prudent questions to elicit information.
Differentiation involves adjusting teaching methods, content, and assessment methods based on student needs and the dynamics of the classroom. For example, some students may find it easier to learn visually than verbally, so the teacher will need to differentiate content to help suit that student’s learning style preference. See my full guide on differentiation for more information on the four types of differentiation.
8. Constructive Feedback
Teachers need to be able to give feedback in ways that are encouraging and supportige, and that stimulate further learning. We call this ‘constructive feedback’, which goes beyond mere positive feedback or negative feedback.
Teachers need to be understanding and sensitive to students’ emotions, challenges, and diverse backgrounds, in order to understand how to best holistically support a student and create conditions for learning.
10. Assessment Design
Creating assessments is harder than it looks. You need to create fair and meaningful tests and quizzes that effectively gauge student understanding, don’t confuse students, and that encourage students to demonstrate their depth of knowledge on the topic.
11. Formative Assessment
Formative assessment refers to the practice of assessing students during the learning cycle (not just at the end – which would be summative assessment). When we engage in formative assessment, we can adjust and pivot mid-lesson (or mid-unit of work) in order to better support students’ learning and cover weaknesses or blindspots in students’ knowledge prior to the final assessment.
12. Media Literacy
Media literacy refers to the ability of a teacher to assess media (such as books and other teaching materials) to tell if it’s reliable, trustworthy, and suitable for students.
13. Digital Competency
In the 21st Century, we need to incorporate digital tools and platforms into our lessons to enhance teaching and learning experiences. For this, teachers need basic digital literacy skills.
14. Time Management
Teachers learn very quickly that they need to be very good at managing their time. On a day-to-day level, we need to be able to fit-in time for lesson planning, and always turn up to the classroom on time so students are always supervised. On a bigger picture level, we need to pace our instruction so we cover the ‘crowded curriculum’ by year’s end.
15. Relationship Building
The better your relationship with students, the more likely students will trust you, follow your instructions, and allow your help to support their academic and personal growth.
16. Peer Collaboration
Teaching is a collaborative profession. Working cooperatively with fellow teachers to share resources, ideas, and best practices is good for students, so it’s good for teachers, too!
17. Continuous Learning
As with many professions these days, teachers need to pursue professional development (aka lifelong learning) and stay updated with modern teaching techniques and subject knowledge.
18. Reflective Practice
This refers to regularly analyzing one’s teaching methods and making improvements based on these reflections. Models like Kolb’s reflective learning cycle are useful here. See my full reflective teaching guide.
19. Cultural Awareness
Teachers need to be able to recognize and respect the diverse cultures and backgrounds of students. Culturally sensitive teaching requires teachers to be inclusive of the cultures of their students and aware of the unique cultural needs of each individual student. See my guide on cultural competence.
20. Inclusive Teaching
Inclusive teaching refers to ensuring that all students, regardless of ability or background, have equal learning opportunities. This is particularly important for neurodivergent children, such as children with autism.
21. Conflict Resolution
Teachers need to surprisingly often address and resolve disagreements or issues in the classroom in order to create a productive learning environment.
Teachers need to be creative in how they teach, especially if their first attempt at teaching didn’t achieve the results they wanted! Creative teachers incorporate novel and imaginative teaching methods to engage and motivate their students.
23. Multimodal Teaching
Multimodality refers to the use of various modes of instruction, such as visual, auditory, and kinesthetic, to cater to diverse learners and varied learning preferences.
24. Literacy Skills
When I first started teaching, I was very conscious of the fact that I needed perfect literacy skills – especially when sending letters home to parents. Imagine writing a letter home about the literacy initiatives you have in the classroom … only to realize you made a spelling mistake on that letter!
25. Numeracy Skills
Similarly, teachers need fundamental literacy skills, not only for grading students’ exams, but also to help students to develop strong mathematical understanding and competence. This is, of course, of paramount importance to math and science teachers.
26. Group Facilitation
Teachers need to be able to manage and direct group activities and discussions effectively. Here, they need facilitation skills, which can include ensuring all students can have a say, all students are heard, and decorum is respects.
27. High Expectations
Setting high expectations is of paramount importance for teachers. I’ve found that students rise or fall to the expectations you set.
28. Leadership Skills
In the classroom, leadership extends beyond commanding authority. Teachers lead by serving as role models, guiding students through the learning process, and inspiring their self-confidence. Great teachers foster an environment of mutual respect and cultivate students’ own leadership skills.
Teaching isn’t a solitary endeavor. Whether collaborating with fellow teachers for curriculum planning, working with teaching assistants, or guiding students through group projects, strong teamwork skills promote effective communication, shared responsibility, and ultimately, better educational outcomes.
From delivering lessons to maintaining discipline, managing classroom equipment, and answering spontaneous queries, teaching involves handling numerous tasks simultaneously. Successful teachers are able to prioritize and balance these tasks efficiently while maintaining the flow of the lesson.
31. Goal Setting
Effective teaching requires setting clear, realistic, and measurable goals. This provides a roadmap for the education process and allows both the teacher and students to track progress. At its best, goal setting also encourages students to take ownership of their learning and strive for personal achievement.
32. Professionalism: Teachers are role models both inside and outside the classroom. Displaying professionalism involves adhering to ethical standards, respecting boundaries, maintaining confidentiality, and presenting oneself appropriately. It sets the standard for student behavior and establishes a respectful learning environment.
33. Change Management
In the dynamic environment of a classroom, change is inevitable. Whether it’s curriculum updates, new teaching methods, or adjusting lesson plans on the fly to meet unforeseen challenges, teachers need to manage change effectively and with minimal disruption to learning.
34. Quick Thinking
Teachers often find themselves in unpredictable situations requiring immediate problem-solving. From diffusing tense situations to improvising when a lesson doesn’t go as planned, quick thinking ensures that obstacles are swiftly navigated and learning continues unhindered.
35. Nonverbal Communication
Much of communication in a classroom happens without words. Eye contact, body language, gestures, and even silence can speak volumes. Skilled teachers use nonverbal cues to understand student needs, maintain discipline, and create an environment of mutual respect.
A compassionate teacher understands their students’ challenges and responds with empathy. They create a caring, inclusive environment that recognizes and respects each learner’s individual circumstances and fosters emotional health alongside academic achievement.
37. Real-world Application
Increasingly, educators have become aware of the importance of relating subject matter to real-world situations and examples. This can help engage students and show them why they should care about what they’re learning.
Another key soft skill, self-regulation refers to the practice of being able to manage your own behaviors and actions. In particular, teachers need to be able to self-regulate their moods (you need to be encouraging and supportive at all times!) and self-regulate their work time so they get the work done on time (i.e. avoid procrastinating).
39. Research and Evidence-Based Practice
Modern teaching requires the ability to research and apply evidence-based strategies in the classroom. It means not just relying on intuition or tradition, but grounding decisions in reputable studies and proven methodologies.
40. Communication Skills
It’s crucial for teachers to articulate ideas clearly, both orally and in writing. Whether it’s explaining complex topics, interacting with parents, or providing instructions, effective communication ensures understanding and minimizes misconceptions.
Every student learns at their own pace, and sometimes a topic needs revisiting multiple times. Patience is the key to providing a supportive and stress-free learning environment where students feel comfortable asking questions.
The best-laid plans can often go awry. Whether it’s a technological glitch, unexpected disruptions, or a teaching method that’s not working, teachers need the ability to adapt on the fly and steer the ship in the right direction.
43. Motivation Skills
Inspiring students to want to learn is as important as the curriculum itself. Teachers should be equipped with strategies to motivate even the most disinterested or struggling student. Ideally, they should promote a growth mindset in their students.
With the emotional and physical demands of the profession, teachers must recognize the importance of self-care to avoid burnout. This includes seeking support, setting boundaries, and ensuring personal well-being.
45. Feedback Reception
Just as they give feedback, teachers should be open to receiving feedback, whether from peers, superiors, or even students. Constructive criticism helps refine teaching methods and adapt to the ever-evolving classroom environment.
46. Counseling Skills
While not replacing professional counselors, teachers often act as first-line listeners for students dealing with personal challenges. Recognizing signs of distress and providing basic counseling or referrals is key.
47. Use of EdTech Tools
Beyond basic digital competency, there’s a need to understand and incorporate the latest educational technology tools that enhance learning experiences and make teaching more efficient.
48. Critical Thinking
Teachers should foster an environment where students analyze and challenge information rather than just accept it. By encouraging inquiry and exploration, they promote deeper understanding and independent thought.
49. Diversity and Equity Training
In modern classrooms, understanding and valuing diverse perspectives is essential. Continuous training ensures teachers’ practices are inclusive and respectful of all students’ backgrounds.
50. Emotional Intelligence
A teacher’s ability to recognize and respond to their own and students’ emotions greatly influences classroom dynamics. High emotional intelligence ensures conflicts are navigated effectively and students feel supported.
51. Community Involvement
Classrooms benefit from strong ties to the broader community, including parents and local organizations. Engaging with these groups enriches the learning experience and provides additional resources for students.
52. Professional Ethics
Teachers hold a position of trust and must act with integrity and fairness at all times. Upholding ethical standards ensures the well-being of students and maintains the profession’s reputation.
53. Collaborative Learning Techniques
Collaborative learning promotes peer interaction and diverse perspectives in problem-solving. Teachers must be adept at facilitating constructive and positive group dynamics and ensuring productive group work.
54. Attention to Detail
As a teacher, precision is vital. Even the smallest error in question framing or explanation can cause confusion for students. Therefore, teachers must be meticulous in their preparation, delivery, and assessment processes.
55. Delegation Skills
There are often tasks that can be assigned to students, which not only reduces the teacher’s load but also fosters responsibility among students. Proper delegation fosters a sense of ownership and develops leadership skills in students.
56. Sense of Humor
Though seriousness can often be paramount in education, a sense of humour can do wonders in creating a relaxed and enjoyable learning environment. It can help to diffuse tension, put students at ease, and make learning fun.
57. Organization Skills
Maintaining order in the chaos of a buzzing classroom requires exceptional organizational skills. This extends from physical materials to lesson structuring and time management. It ensures smooth transitions, minimizes wasted time, and intensifies the focus on learning.
58. Mentoring Abilities
Over and beyond teaching, educators often take on the role of mentors. They guide students in their academic and personal growth, provide counsel, inspire confidence, and help students make significant life decisions like career choices.
The teaching profession is filled with challenges and setbacks. Teachers often deal with adversities ranging from unruly students to changes in curriculum or school policy. Being resilient enables teachers to bounce back and persist in their mission of effective education delivery.
60. Embracing Change
Education is constantly evolving – a teacher is expected to stay in sync with these changes and adapt. This can include changes in curriculum, pedagogy, or technological advancements in education.
61. Interpersonal Skills
Building constructive relationships with students, parents, and colleagues requires strong interpersonal skills. Teachers need to be able to connect on a personal level while retaining their authority and respect.
62. Work-Life Balance
Teachers often take their work home – gradings, lesson planning, and more. They must strive for a good work-life balance to prevent burnout, maintaining efficiency at work while also fulfilling their personal life responsibilities.
A high level of self-motivation is essential in the teaching profession – teachers are expected to be continuous learners themselves. Upgrading skills, staying current with the latest in education, and being passionate about their profession are some areas where self-motivation plays a crucial role.
64. Growth Mindset
Teaching requires a flexible mindset – open to change, innovation, and continuous improvement. By consistently working on professional and personal growth, teachers serve as role models for their students, encouraging a love for learning.
65. Bias-Free Attitude
A teacher’s classroom should be a safe space for every student, irrespective of their race, gender, religious beliefs, or background. A bias-free attitude promotes equality, inclusivity, and respect amongst students.
66. Respect for Privacy
Teachers often become privy to sensitive information about students. Respecting and maintaining students’ privacy is essential in building trust and ensuring students feel secure.
67. Problem-solving Skills
Teachers routinely face challenges that require quick and effective problem-solving. Sometimes, it’s a behaviour issue; other times, it might be a teaching strategy that’s not working. Knowing how to tackle these challenges ensures the learning process isn’t disrupted.
The demands of teaching require a high level of physical and mental endurance. From managing classroom dynamics to marking assignments, teachers must maintain their endurance to keep delivering high-quality education.
69. Learner-Centered Approach
Teachers must always keep the focus on the learners and the learning process. This requires understanding what motivates each individual, what their prior knowledge is, and what their learning style is. The lesson content and delivery are then tailored to meet these specific learning needs.
70. Learning Environment Design
Crucial to facilitating effective learning is the creation of a conducive learning environment. Teachers should be skilled in arranging classrooms to stimulate optimum learning, considering factors such as seating arrangements, lighting, resources, and the use of technology.
71. Integrative Teaching
Teachers should aim to draw connections between different disciplines or subject areas. This skill allows learners to see how the breadth of their curriculum content is interconnected, promoting wider understanding and real-world application.
72. Active Learning Strategies
Encouraging students to participate actively in their learning is critical in creating engaging educational environments. Teachers skilled in facilitating student participation, discussion, and hands-on activities enable more meaningful and lasting learning.
73. Peer Assessment
Peer assessment is a useful tool in the learning process. Teachers need the skills to effectively organize and guide students in evaluating each others’ work. This approach enhances students’ critical thinking and provides different perspectives on one’s work.
Scaffolding refers to the instructional technique of providing successively changing supports to facilitate the learning process. Teachers move the learning forward incrementally, according to a student’s current level of understanding, ability, and their zones of proximal development – where the student needs a little support to excel.
75. Use of Authentic Materials
Authentic materials are items from the real world used in the classroom to teach specific aspects. Teachers need the skills to select, modify, and effectively use these materials to make learning more relevant.
76. Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK
This is a teacher’s application of their understanding of how learning processes affect the specific context of what they’re teaching. A teacher with robust PCK addresses students’ misconceptions, understands potential learning difficulties, and creates lesson plans accordingly.
Incorporating game elements into learning can boost student motivation and engagement. Teachers need to know how to introduce and handle these elements effectively, ensuring that they also contribute to the learning objectives.
78. Flipped Classroom Model
In this teaching model, the traditional classroom structure is flipped, meaning instructional content is accessed at home and classroom time is spent on interactive and higher-order thinking activities. Controlling the flipped classroom environment requires adept skills in planning, organization, and facilitation.
79. Understanding of Learning Theories
Knowledge of various cognitive and learning theories helps teachers appreciate differences in how students acquire knowledge. They need skills in applying these theories to guide their instructional strategies, ensuring all students’ learning methods are catered for.
80. Project-Based Learning
This pedagogical method engages students in learning by involving them in projects that require problem-solving, decision-making, investigative skills, and reflection. Teachers must understand how to implement this strategy to facilitate deeper understanding and real-world application of knowledge.
81. Concept Mapping
This teaching strategy involves creating visual representations of knowledge, like diagrams or mind maps, to help students understand and remember ideas. Teachers need to know how to develop and utilize these to facilitate complex learning.
82. Cooperative Learning
This involves organizing students into small groups, where they work together towards learning goals. Teachers need skills to manage these groups effectively, creating cooperative interdependence and promoting respectful dialogue.
83. Building Learning Communities
Working to create an environment where all students feel valued and connected aids in better learning. Skilled teachers will foster a sense of community within their classrooms, increasing students’ engagement and motivation.
Teachers should be proficient in illustrating processes or behaviors that students can emulate. This could range from a math problem-solving procedure to demonstrating active listening while interacting with students.
85. Cognitive Load Management
Teachers should design their lessons keeping in mind the cognitive load – the amount of mental effort required to process new information. It’s necessary to balance the challenge and complexity of learning tasks to avoid overwhelming students.
86. Backward Design
This approach starts planning with the end in mind – the learning objectives or desired outcomes. Skilled teachers know how to reverse-engineer their teaching strategies to successfully lead students towards these goals.
87. Checking for Understanding
It’s essential to consistently check for students’ understanding during teaching. Skilled teachers find ways to prompt responses that can indicate or provide insight into the depth of students’ comprehension.
88. Narrative Teaching
Engaging students through stories or narratives can make even complex or dry topics interesting. Teachers should know how to weave learning objectives into well-crafted narratives to engage and retain their students’ attention.
Teaching involves unexpected challenges and setbacks. A persevering teacher remains steadfast in their commitment to their students’ learning, trying new strategies when old ones fail, and relentlessly striving for every student’s success.
With the diverse behaviors and emotions a classroom can stir, a teacher must exemplify self-control. By remaining composed and patient even in high-tension situations, they maintain a calm, respectful, and stable learning environment.
A teacher’s initiative can lead to innovative teaching methods, proactive problem-solving, and continued professional growth. Whether in anticipating challenges or capitalizing on learning opportunities, initiative demonstrates a teacher’s commitment to delivering the best educational experience.
92. Stress Management
Teaching, with its multifaceted demands, can often be stressful. Skilled teachers employ effective stress management tactics, ensuring their own well-being and maintaining a positive, relaxed ambiance conducive to learning.
Teachers need to establish strong connections with parents, other teachers, and education professionals. Networking broadens their resource pool, provides valuable insights from peers, and opens up opportunities for collaborative projects enhancing the learning experience.
Whether it’s encouraging a hesitant student to participate or gaining parental support for a school event, a teacher often needs persuasive abilities. Persuasion in education is rooted in building trust, offering logical arguments, and understanding the other person’s perspective.
Teachers, as lifelong learners themselves, benefit from being receptive to mentorship and feedback. Their coachability drives constant improvement in their teaching techniques and adaptation to evolving pedagogical trends and needs.
In the diverse and inclusive classroom of today, teachers must show tolerance for individual differences. They accept and respect varied backgrounds, beliefs, and abilities, fostering a sense of belonging and mutual respect amongst students.
Diplomacy in a teaching context is the ability to handle situations with sensitivity and fairness. From mediating student disputes to liaising with parents, diplomatic navigation upholds feelings of respect and understanding.
Sincerity builds trust, a crucial element in the student-teacher relationship. A sincere teacher shows genuine interest in their students and their learning, instills persistence in their students, and cultivates an environment of honesty and integrity.
Manifesting in understanding, encouragement, and support, a caring teacher creates a safe, nurturing environment. This warmth and compassion can boost student self-esteem, engagement, and academic achievement.
While teaching is significantly grounded in theory and proven strategies, intuition plays a key role in making on-the-spot decisions that can benefit the learning process. A teacher’s intuition can guide in gauging a student’s understanding or predicting potential issues before they emerge.
The role of a teacher often extends beyond instruction to instances where they help their students without any expectation of return. This altruistic nature of teachers is what forms lasting impacts on students’ lives and fosters a caring community within the school.
Equipped with these teaching skills, educators can create a conducive, effective, and engaging learning environment for their students. Remember, each skill enhances a different facet of the educational experience.
And our skill development as teachers doesn’t ever stop – it’s a lifelong process. We need to constantly refine our teaching skills and teaching philosophy, be flexible to the evolving demands of the profession and the diverse needs of learners. The journey to becoming a better educator is an unending one – but undoubtedly, a fulfilling and impactful path in life.
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]