ASCD's EDge blog reports on the work of Teach For America's chief knowledge officer Steven Farr, who has spent a decade studying data and conducting observations in an effort to determine what distinguishes great teachers from their less effective peers. What he's found is that, in contrast to the Hollywood portrayals of heroic teachers, exceptional instruction has considerably less to do with personal charisma or dramatic performance than it does with effective planning and self-awareness:
Pedigree teachers, Farr found, set and maintain high expectations for their students; they plan purposefully and tirelessly. But perhaps most importantly, they habitually reevaluate their approach, which means that their methodology is always fluctuating and in the process "of becoming." This is not to suggest that the teacher does not have a plan. To the contrary, highly-effective teachers rely on effective execution; they know, in Farr's words, how to "squeeze extra learning time" out of each day and maintain a "hypersensitivity to wasted learning time."
Farr also emphasizes, according to the ASCD post, that these star teachers tend to make ongoing formative assessment an integral part of their classrooms' culture.
So to a great extent, these are learned traits as opposed to inherent talents. The big question is, how do teachers acquire or develop them? Or, perhaps, why don't more teachers have them?