What Makes a Great Teacher? An Outstanding Researcher?

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What makes a great teacher? An outstanding researcher? It turns out many of the answers are pretty similar for both professions.

I both conduct and teach user research, so it recently occurred to me that a good researcher and a good teacher share many of the same characteristics. They both are or should be:

  • Passionate

  • Deeply invested

  • Able to think quickly

  • Agile

  • Collaborative

  • Conversant

  • Curious

  • Empathetic

  • Ethical

  • Friendly

  • Informative

  • Open-minded

  • Resilient

Each profession requires quite a bit of improvisation. Curveballs keep interactions interesting, dynamic, fun, and challenging. I learn just as much from my students as they learn from me. I love making my classes dynamic to mirror what happens in the field.

But the similarities go even deeper. Identifying research goals and good research questions (i.e. being a researcher) is very similar to identifying actionable and achievable learning outcomes (i.e. being a teacher).

In both professions, you start with a topic, narrow it down, explore related questions and eventually dive into a juicy, semi-structured mystery. It's the bomb.

Thank you to my teachers during this teacher appreciation week! You inspired me to practice what I preach. I'm off to class (seriously)!

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