, Volume 49, Issue 3, pp 461–473 | Cite as

Good teaching feels good—but what is “good teaching”? Exploring teachers’ definitions of teaching success in mathematics

  • Barbara JacobEmail author
  • Anne C. Frenzel
  • Elizabeth J. Stephens
Original Article


Teacher emotions are of growing interest in educational research, but empirical findings are still scarce. In their recent model illustrating the possible causes and effects of teacher emotions, Frenzel and colleagues argue that emotions are driven by subjective appraisals of success and failure. Specifically, these authors propose that teachers judge their teaching success based on specific dimensions of student behaviors (output orientation). Moreover, there are multiple models on instructional quality detailing which teacher behaviors characterize successful teaching (input orientation). To date, however, it is unknown how and when teachers themselves appraise their teaching as successful. To gain insight into teachers’ appraisals of success, 307 mathematics teachers responded to an open-ended question about their criteria for math teaching success. Results showed that teachers’ responses could be organized into six categories that mapped partly onto Frenzel’s output-oriented model and partly onto the input-oriented instructional quality literature: (1) students’ mathematical skills, (2) students’ engagement, (3) students’ social skills, (4) cognitive activation and structured presentation of the learning content, (5) structured organization of the learning environment and (6) feedback. These findings highlight student behavior, teacher behavior and feedback as key sources for mathematics teachers’ subjective definitions of successful teaching and ultimately their emotional lives in the mathematics classroom.


Teachers’ success criteria Reciprocal model Appraisals Teacher emotions Instructional quality 


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Copyright information

© FIZ Karlsruhe 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Educational ScienceFriedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-NurembergNurembergGermany
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyLudwig-Maximilians-University MunichMunichGermany

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