Morse cites passion, planning as key characteristics for effective teaching

Linda Morse, professor and educational research program director for Mississippi State University’s National Strategic Planning and Analysis Research Center, delivered the 2017 Rabideau Lecture for Teaching Excellence April 20 at Mitchell Memorial Library. Morse is Director Emerita of the Center for Teaching and Learning. Also a Grisham Master Teacher and Professor Emerita of Educational Psychology, Morse explained that passion is among characteristics essential for effective teaching. PHOTO: James Carskadon | Public Affairs

“Master Teachers don’t leave it to chance; the classroom is not a lottery to them,” Linda Morse said during the 2017 Rabideau Lecture on Teaching Excellence at Mississippi State.

During her April 20 presentation “Mountain Climbing: Passion and Pursuit of Effective Teaching,” the professor and educational research program director for MSU's National Strategic Planning and Analysis Research Center discussed characteristics that effective teachers, in particular Grisham Master Teachers at MSU, employ to provide a productive learning experience for their students.

“The value of planning -- that’s really what instruction is all about. We can all learn to be better teachers, and we can do that by examining research on effective teaching and even watching our colleagues teach,” Morse told fellow educators gathered in Mitchell Memorial Library’s John Grisham Room.

Morse is director emerita of MSU’s Center for Teaching and Learning. She also is a Grisham Master Teacher and professor emerita of educational psychology.

When sharing various characteristics of effective college instructors, Morse said enthusiasm and passion are at the top of the list.

“As a group, master teachers are very enthusiastic about teaching. They know their subject very well, and when they integrate it into the classroom, they make the subject meaningful and real,” she said.

With passion and knowledge comes hard work and an attitude of continual improvement, Morse said.

“Master Teachers always try to be better at what they’re doing. They’re the first ones to try new things. They’re strategic planners and risk takers. They’re willing to try things out and when they fail, they learn, modify and get right back in there,” Morse said.

According to Morse, students place great value on their instructor’s positive personal characteristics. These include communication rapport, approachability, encouragement, how expectations are set out, and the atmosphere created in the classroom where they come to learn.

Morse said effective teachers also place strong emphasis on well-designed, systematic instruction. They determine ahead of time what they want students to know and do, and how they will use aspects of the classroom experience to achieve that desired outcome.

“Structure always outperforms no structure. The idea of structure is that everything is linked and thought out from the beginning,” she said. “It’s not content that’s important; it should be skill. Informational content is just little building blocks. Without skill, there would be no problem solving or critical thinking.”

Conveying learning objectives and providing sufficient feedback also are critical, Morse explained.

“Without sensory input and attention, nothing happens. We need to gain attention for our learners and explain how information relates to other material and can be applied to problem solving,” she said.

Morse continued, “As teachers, we change lives and make learning happen, and we’re creating the next generation of problem solvers, entrepreneurs, inventors, leaders, thinkers, artists and architects. Effective teaching is where the real magic happens.”

The Rabideau Lecture on Teaching Excellence annually honors Peter Rabideau, former MSU provost and founder of the Center for Teaching and Learning. For more on the Center for Teaching and Learning, visit

For more on MSU’s Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Foundations, visit

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at

Sasha Steinberg | Public Affairs

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