Studies in Learning, Evaluation, Innovation and Development > Vol. 7, No. 1 (2010)

Personality or Pedagogy: Which personal characteristics are important for ESL teachers to possess and what role do they play compared to formal pedagogical training in ESL according to experienced ESL teachers? (part 2)

Lois N Spitzer, The RIchard Stockton College of New Jersey


When asked to identify which characteristics are important for ESL teachers to possess, experienced ESL teachers may answer this question differently than untrained and/or inexperienced ESL teachers. Also, the opinions as to whether the possession of these personal characteristics are more important than formal pedagogical training differ between these two groups. When asked which personal qualities they relied on the most during their ESL teaching experience, untrained and/or inexperienced teachers cited the following personal qualities as the three most important to possess: patience, creativity, and flexibility in descending order. However, the experienced ESL teachers cited teaching ability, positive attitude and cultural understanding as the three most important personal characteristics to possess. When untrained and/or inexperienced ESL teachers were asked to rank four categories of knowledge in order of importance, they cited personal knowledge/characteristics as most important, followed by content knowledge, then cultural knowledge, and lastly, pedagogical knowledge. In contrast, experienced ESL teachers indicated just the opposite: pedagogical knowledge was cited as the most important category of knowledge, followed by content knowledge and cultural knowledge (same ranking) and lastly, personal knowledge. While the first part of this study concluded that teacher educators cannot ignore the perceptions of untrained and/or inexperienced ESL teachers and this needs to be addressed in teacher training, this second part of the study suggests that it may also be advisable to alert the untrained and/or inexperienced ESL teachers that these perceptions may change with experience.

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