Characteristics of effective teachers

Teacher with 2 young students

One of Fanshawe’s approaches to teaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students is to be warm but demanding.

John Fanshawe is a proponent of Ryans (1960) and Kleinfeld (1972) and as early as 1976 argued that the personal characteristics of effective teachers of Aboriginal adolescents are likely to include:

  • being warm and supportive
  • making realistic demands of students (high expectations)
  • acting in a responsible, businesslike and systematic manner
  • being stimulating, imaginative and original

Fanshawe’s research focussed on the warmth and demandingness dimensions and is based on Kleinfeld’s (1972) Alaskan findings that effective teachers of Canadian Aboriginal students are characterised by personal warmth and active ‘demandingness’.

By remaining an individual, with all an individual’s inherent traits, even if a particular lesson hasn’t gone that well, the teacher doesn’t project disappointment onto the students. Students need to see the teacher as an individual: someone who is grumpy sometimes, who can be strict, but also can be happy.

Students demand a relationship. They don’t want a teacher to be a “buddy”, but someone who is warm and sharing of themselves. While teachers of today may have been used to teachers in a particular role, rather than a human being, it is more important to develop a relationship that engenders respect, remembering that as soon as you meet someone you have started a relationship.

Successful educational outcomes for Indigenous students

Flow diagram of elements influencing positive self image for Aboriginal children/young adults

Achieving successful educational outcomes for Indigenous students. Adapted from Fanshawe 1999.


Fanshawe, J 1989, ‘Personal characteristics of effective teachers of adolescent Aborigines’, The Aboriginal Child at School, vol. 17, no. 4, pp. 35–48.

Purdie, N, Tripcony, P,  Boulton-Lewis, G,  Fanshawe, J &  Gunstone, A 2000, Positive Self–Identity for Indigenous Students and its Relationship to School Outcomes, Queensland University of Technology, viewed 29 August 2016,  <>.

Kleinfeld, J 1972,  Effective Teachers of Indian and Eskimo High School Students, Institute of Social, Economic, and Government Research, Alaska University, Fairbanks.

Ryans, D 1960, Characteristics of Teachers, American Council on Education,Washington, pp. 416.