Teaching Skills: Definition and Examples

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 29 November 2022

Published 25 June 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Teaching is a highly rewarding career that becomes a lifelong passion for many who enter the profession. Teachers play an essential role in the development of children and their influence on a person's future cannot be overstated. Even as an adult, you likely remember your favourite teachers from childhood. Embarking on a teaching career can leave a similarly positive impression on children. In this article, we explain some of the key skills that a trainee teacher needs to possess.

What are teaching skills?

Teaching skills describe the expertise and personal qualities that a teacher needs to possess to thrive while educating students. These skills are important for planning lessons, teaching students, completing administrative tasks and interacting with other teachers and parents.

The best teachers will be able to impart knowledge that will stay with children for the rest of their lives. Teaching children to count, read, express themselves and other skills will be some of the most formative experiences in the lives of those individuals. For those who teach older students in secondary school and beyond, teachers play a crucial role in determining which universities students can attend and thus their overall career path.

As with any career, there are two types of teaching skills: hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills refer to specific knowledge and expertise; for a science teacher, knowing how to cause a specific chemical reaction is a hard skill. Soft skills refer to personal qualities, such as communication and empathy, which will be essential for becoming an effective teacher. Hard skills can be intentionally developed through education, training and experience, whereas soft skills are more abstract and can be more difficult to teach. Teachers teach, but they also learn constantly, whether studying new course material or attending teacher training.

Examples of teaching skills

We have listed some of the most important skills, both hard and soft, for becoming a teacher.

Patience

Patience is one of the most important traits of an effective teacher. Every student is different, depending on their age, previous education, personal circumstances and individual needs. A teacher will need to meet certain deadlines, but they also cannot expect every student to progress at the same pace. They need to have the patience and understanding to speak with students, individually if necessary, and help them through any difficulties they might face during the course of their learning. If every student immediately understood what they were taught, teaching would be an easier job but far less rewarding.

Related: How to be more patient at work and why it’s important

Communication

Communication is an essential skill in the classroom. The ability to impart information to students and ensure they fully understand tasks is an important one, but it is not the extent of a teacher's communication ability. The best teachers don't simply speak to their students, they engage them and encourage them to participate in group learning. Knowing how to speak to students in an encouraging manner, rather than being patronising or dismissive, will help students develop confidence and make them more willing to join discussions in class.

Verbal communication is only a small part of how people interact and a teacher must understand the importance of nonverbal communication. This might be something as small as how a teacher enters a classroom to give a good first impression at the start of a lesson. They should also know how to interpret the body language of their students; somebody might be struggling with their work or a situation at home and be too embarrassed to ask a teacher for help. In these situations, a teacher might need to check on that student without being asked to.

Related: How to set communication goals for improved work efficiency

Organisation

A teacher's job would be impossible without organisational skills. Even when working with a rigid curriculum, a teacher needs to know how to make the most of their time and achieve their class objectives in the set time. This includes gathering the necessary resources in advance of the lesson, such as scientific equipment and textbooks, so no time is wasted.

This also includes any work that a teacher needs to complete outside of lessons. A teacher might need to mark a large amount of homework, coursework and tests away from the classroom, and they must complete this work promptly to avoid becoming overwhelmed.

Thankfully, this kind of organisational work is easier than ever before due to digital technology. Digital planners mean teachers can ensure they set aside the necessary time to complete their tasks and prepare lessons.

Related: What Are Organisational Skills? (Types and Examples)

Imagination

A teacher needs to encourage the imagination of their students, but they also need to use their own imagination to devise creative teaching methods. This could be something as simple as using different objects to explain the relative size of the planets in the solar system or something more advanced, such as creating a game as a fun way of learning. Imaginative teachers will constantly be looking for ways to make learning more fun, exciting and engaging for students, which will make those students likelier to retain their knowledge in the long term.

Related: Best Practices To Boost Your Creative Thinking Skills

Leadership

During lessons, a teacher needs to be the leader of their classroom. At the same time, they need to understand the appropriate times to encourage children to participate in discussions and offer their contributions. Understanding how to lead a class full of students is one of the most significant challenges that face teachers as they begin their careers but, with experience, they will realise the techniques that work for them and their students.

Related: Top 9 Leadership Skills to Develop

Digital skills

Computers are increasingly popular in schools, the workplace and at home. Students must be taught how to use computers, but teachers can also utilise technology in their teaching. Software such as Central Management Systems (CMS) and Learning Management Systems (LMS) can be extremely helpful for managing education courses. Other, cloud-based education platforms allow students to access online resources, submit work and seek assistance when they aren't in the classroom.

Problem-solving

Teaching is rarely simple. When teaching a class of students, each of whom will have their own educational needs, unpredictable situations will inevitably arise. It is the responsibility of a teacher to look for solutions to a problem or, in situations where that is impossible, to contact somebody who can help. Problem-solving skills might be needed, for example, when devising an alternative lesson plan if the school suffers a power cut. A teacher might also need to find other ways of explaining something to a student who is struggling to grasp a particular concept. Strong problem-solving skills will serve a teacher well throughout their career.

Related: Problem-Solving Skills: Definitions and Examples

Empathy

Empathy is important in the classroom for many of the same reasons as patience. Empathy runs deeper, however, and will be needed in situations that are not strictly related to the school curriculum. A teacher needs to be able to notice when a student is struggling and should be able to offer support to that student.

In situations where a student is suffering abuse from their classmates or at home, a teacher might be the only person in a position to intervene and prevent any further incidents. Schools have protocols in place for such situations and a teacher can initiate that process by recognising that something is wrong, speaking with the student and contacting the appropriate people within the school. A teacher's duty to their students extends beyond ensuring strong academic performance.

Related: Empathic skills: Definition, examples and how to improve

Improving teaching skills

Before deciding which skills you should dedicate time to, it's important to consider your skillset and which skills will be most important. Recognise which skills you consider to be your weakest and strongest and focus on developing your weaker skills.

Which skills you need will vary depending on the subject you teach. In primary school, for example, a teacher will be expected to teach their students different subjects. In secondary school, there will be more specialisation. An English teacher is unlikely to need to spend much time studying chemistry in preparation for their job. A PE teacher will have more emphasis on their soft skills than hard skills, as much of their work involves motivating and encouraging students.

You will need to take the time to study the curriculum and ensure you are familiar with any subjects that will be addressed in the course of your teaching. Teacher training is organised by schools and this will ensure you stay up to date on how to complete administrative tasks and are informed of specific school regulations and protocols.

Soft skills will develop naturally as you gain experience as a teacher, but they can also be refined through learning. This might be something as small as asking a more experienced teacher for advice on how to approach something that you are finding difficult. It's important to remember that you're still learning in addition to teaching and will continue to do so throughout your career.

Related:

  • 10 examples of online teaching software (with benefits)

  • How To Become a PE Teacher


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