Characteristics of Highly Effective Teachers of English

What are the characteristics of a successful teacher of English?

Recently I was invited to give a guest lecture on the topic “Characteristics of highly effective teachers of English’.To prepare myself for the lecture I asked my students and fellow teachers to list the qualities of a good teacher of English.Those who were involved in the informal brainstorming sessions had listed a number of characteristics an English language teacher should have.My experience as an English language teacher and teacher trainer also helps me define an effective teacher of English as someone who possesses 5 I’s:<

  1. Imagination
  2. Innovativeness
  3. Interaction
  4. Independent thinking
  5. Interdependence 
1. Imagination

A teacher who is imaginative can do wonders in the English class. Their new ideas break monontony and make students take lively participation in the class. Albert Einstein says thatt imagination is more important than knowledge.

“Human progress is possible only through education. Without imagination, education becomes a kind of intellectual recycling of the same knowledge passed from teacher to student and back to teacher on the test. Education should do more than simply transmit information; it should develop skills such as imagination that evolve our knowledge and move us forward as a species.”

Teachers who are imaginative can teach any language skill interestingly and effectively. They can develop students' creative self-expression. Teachers who are imaginative explore and create new things.

Students enjoy being guided by imaginative teachers.

2. Innovativeness

An innovative teacher dares to go off the track in order to be on the track. Students like teacher who are innovative. Innovativeness means

  • Introducing changes and new ideas
  • Daring to be different and being unique
  • Going off the track in order to be on the track
  • Experimenting new things
  • Being fresh always
3. Interaction

A teacher who promotes interaction in the English class does justice to their profession by empowering learners and helping them develop their communication skills. They motivate their students, create opportunities for them to interact with one another through commutainment (communication through entertainment) activities such as roleplays, groups discussions, mock interviews, etc.

4. Independent thinking

Independent thinking is the process of being able to think on your own, without someone else guiding you. "In a world where knowledge is doubling every few years and what once was a fact can become out of date so quickly equipping young people with the mental tools to succeed in such a world is vital." Teachers can help their students develop their independent thinking only if they are independent. Independent thinking implies:

  • Thinking on your own
  • Being critical of what you see and hear
  • Questioning information and irrational assumptions

An independent thinker helps students develop the desire and ability to think on their own. An independent thinker contributes a lot to the team. Language learning tasks should aim at developing students’ thinking skills.

5. Interdependence

Interdependence is essential for a successful person. Taking students from dependent stage to independent stage and then to interdependent stage is very important. Man is a social animal and interpersonal relationship is the key to success in today's competitive world. The one who knows how to relate with others can climb up the ladder of success. Those who are interdependent use positive language and win people. They are polite, pleasant, practical, persuasive and powerful.

A teacher of English who is imaginative, innovative, interactive, independent and interdependent can be successful in the field and can lead the students from dependent stage to independent stage and then to interdependent stage.

Albert P'Rayan

Average: 5 (2 votes)

Submitted by cherrymp on Sun, 05/22/2011 - 06:22


Dear Dr Rayan

The five "Is" you've listed are very interesting and quite relevant to the teaching profession. Language classrooms cannot be like content ones and should reflect the life that is there in language through what transpires within the walls and a teacher with all these five "Is" would definitely make a step in that direction. Many teachers seldom dare to be different and go with the crowd thereby killing the spirit in them, in the learners and even in the language they teach and lose all the passion to teach in no time. I hope your thoughts inspire teachers to pause, reflect, and adapt their current practices. All the best.


NB: Guess the posting format needs to be redone since the first subtitle "Imagination" got attached to the previous list.

Submitted by maria spyrou on Sun, 05/22/2011 - 07:45



I’ve been teaching English for almost 20 yrs now and I have taught all levels, all ages and even multicultural classes I have decided that the most important value one must have as a teacher is 'passion' and love for the people you teach esp children and your profession -which also means dedication; long hours, studying, paying for further development-and this happens because teaching is not only a job for a living it is also living for the job

Hello, Maria. I am agree with you. You are right. I have already declared my opinions about this theme. And didn't want to repeat anymore.

Glad to know your opinion about a teacher. I have always high respect towards teachers. I want to make a career in teaching 'Teaching English to foreign students. Will you help me to fulfill my dream. from which institute should I pursue an online certificate course in teaching English?

Submitted by Oksana_1987 on Fri, 05/29/2015 - 23:33


teaching is not only a job for a living it is also living for the job-that's the best characteristic of teaching I've ever heard. God bless your heart, Maria. Thank you. And to Hagigat.."I am agree". AM? R u sure, dear? =)))

Submitted by B Shukla on Tue, 05/03/2016 - 05:38


Very well written. Really, a very useful for aspirant and for all those, who wants to make teaching as a career. It displays all dimension of teaching.

Submitted by Askarova on Fri, 05/18/2018 - 18:13


Hello Rayan. You gave very useful hints for teachers because every teacher wants to be good and successful. Therefore, teacher should be creative and she/ he should take attention of students during the lesson. As future teacher I will use your suggestions. I want to add one more thing. Teacher should be friendly, with students because some students have always thoughts of their teachers as their enemies. They should be warm with each other, in this case their communication will be good and lessons will be interesting. Using these techniques will help teacher to overcome problems connected with his/her lessons.Anyway thank you for your opinions. In my opinion the good teacher or teacher who wants to be succesfull make lessons with these techniques interesting and lively.

Submitted by Stellaknella on Wed, 09/26/2018 - 13:09


A well written article, and I agree wholeheartedly. Also, the statement that as long you are imaginative, any teacher can teach any language skill effectively, is absolutely correct. I am getting sick and tired of hearing certain Non Native English teachers whining on about the fact that they do not get as much work as Native teachers, and that just because thay ARE Native does not mean they can teach better. There are many, many Non Natives who are qualified to teach, but are the most monotonously dull individuals you could ever meet., and who do nothing to motivate or bring enjoyment and confidence into the lessons for their students whom they are there to teach. Interaction, humour and imagination (as the article mentions), are the key attributes when teaching a second language. This cannot be learned from countless hours studying for a degree. The primary characteristic is the personality of any teacher themselves, Native, or not.

Research and insight

We have hundreds of case studies, research papers, publications and resource books written by researchers and experts in ELT from around the world. 

See our publications, research and insight

Sign up to our newsletters for teachers and teacher educators

We will process your data to send you our newsletter and updates based on your consent. You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the "unsubscribe" link at the bottom of every email. Read our privacy policy for more information.