Studies in Learning, Evaluation, Innovation and Development > Vol. 6, No. 3 (2009)

Personality or Pedagogy: Which personal characteristics are necessary for ESL teachers to possess and what role do they play compared to formal pedagogical training in ESL teaching?

Lois N Spitzer, The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey


Educators need to acknowledge that inexperienced ESL teachers may feel that the possession of certain personal characteristics is more important than pedagogical training. This study indicates the importance of providing opportunities for prospective teachers to foster certain personal characteristics in preparation of teaching, along with traditional pedagogical training. The participants in the study were asked what personal qualities they relied on the most during their ESL teaching experience. They cited the following personal qualities as the three most important to possess: patience, creativity, and flexibility. They were also asked to rank the following categories of knowledge in order of their importance: content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, personal knowledge/characteristics, and cultural knowledge. The volunteers ranked personal knowledge/characteristics as most important, followed by content knowledge, then cultural knowledge and ranked least important of the four categories was pedagogical knowledge. Teacher training programs can no longer ignore the perception of the role that personality traits play, and their importance compared to pedagogical training in the making of successful English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers.

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