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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Novice to Expert

Novice to Expert

Related Tags: Professional Development
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44 Replies 410 Views

Much has been said and written about teachers moving from being a novice teacher to an expert teacher. I understand the concept of "expert" teacher, but can one really ever be an expert in a field such as teaching. We may very well improve our effectiveness, but can we safely ever call ourselves an expert?

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Katherine's picture

I honestly do not feel that a teacher is ever able to be an expert in their profession because it is ever-changing. Whether it be the curriculum, pacing, state requirments, class roster, school goals, etc. it is always changing. When I think of the term "expert" I think of someone whose job/career is pretty much stagnant in relation to the day-to-day things that must be done. And all of us teachers know that there is nothing stagnant about teaching. I feel that the word "seasoned" would be a better word to describe an experienced teacher because a "seasoned" teacher prepares for the unexpected and sees results.

Chris F's picture

Although I feel it is very difficult, I believe teachers can become expert teachers in their content areas. Recently in a graduate class I am taking we read and watched DVD's centered on teachers becoming experts. I think so many different factors are involved that an expert teacher must master many different skills. In the article "Becoming Expert Teachers" by Robert Garmston he cited six knowledge areas that teachers must excel at to become experts. These areas include content, pedagogy, students and how they learn, self-knowledge, cognitive processes of instruction, and collegial interaction. Although he states expert teachers need knowledge in all of these areas what I found more interesting was Garmston stated, "Expert teachers know more than novices and organize the knowledge differently, retrieve it easily and apply it in novel and creative ways" (Garmston, 1998, p.1). Experience in the classroom is a key factor in becoming an expert. To excel in each of these knowledge areas teachers must apply them in the classroom and constantly be trying to make improvements. Even after reaching expert level teachers must constantly study and apply new techniques to maintain such a level. So although I believe this goal is attainable I also believe it takes an extreme amount of work, dedication, and skill to be at the expert level of the continuum.

Garmston, R. J. (1998).Becoming expert teachers (Part one).Journal of Staff Development, 19(1).

Amanda's picture

I'm of the opinion that considering oneself an "expert" leaves no more room for growth. I feel that expert should be the level we all are reaching to attain, but it is always just out of grasp. Each year presents different challenges, and teachers need to continually grow in order to meet the challenges that arise.

Cat's picture

Thank you Rob, I agree with your response. Webster's dictionary defines expert as: experienced; having, involving or displaying special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience.
Saying a teacher is an expert isn't saying they know everything. I don't think you can get to be an expert if you had that mentality. Haven't you had an expert teacher in your grade school or undergraduate career? Haven't you taken a graduate class from an expert teacher, who is now teaching teachers? It sounds sad to think that working teachers don't feel as though they can reach the expert level. I encourage my students to strive to be the best they can be and I would hope teachers feel the same way. We should feel that there are challenging, rewarding goals that we may achieve. I have faith that we may become experts if we work hard like one and have a positive attitude like one.

Dana's picture

I remember my first day of school walking into my classroom as the "teacher" of the classroom. I felt definitely like a novice in a new world. Our profession today is an ever evolving and changing everday. Strategies we use today are not ones in which I started out using my first year nor had I even heard about them. I agree that teachers become heavily experienced in their own content areas but to say we are experts is not the right word. We are hard workers who work daily to strive toward our main goal in teaching the students that sit before us. I feel like an expert in my classroom when I see that the lightbulbs in their tiny little brains are going off when I teach a concept. I believe that working hard can get us toward our goals of becoming experts in our ever changing profession. I feel it is important to keep up with new strategies and new teaching advice. I believe that blogging can be beneficial to all teachers in that it can help you find great advice from soneone who does your job each and everyday.

Luis Rivera's picture

I thought I would be edgy with my first blog. I agree with the people who said that teachers cannot be experts. While I agree that this stinks, we just can't be. Education changes too much, children change too much, and standards change too much. I agree with Merideth when she says that any teacher who believes they are an expert should probably not be teaching anymore. I disagree with the notion that experience makes you an expert. I know many experienced teachers with 10, 15, even 20+ years, and they are clueless. Admittedly clueless. They are knowledgeable about some things, but definitely not all. There is a big difference between being a seasoned veteran, with experience, and an expert. If there was an expert, wouldnt we all know about it. When you think of the worlds top leading expert in brain cancer, you can look him up. But with so many different strategies, and ideas, how can one person be an expert on classroom management, or differentiated instruction, small groups, or any of the other million things or topics in education?

Ashley's picture
Ashley
Elementary Reading Teacher

As many others have said, I believe the term "expert" is up for interpretation; depending on the way in which you view that term it can be true or false. My inital response to our prior knowledge discussion was that an expert is someone who has experience and a lot of knowledge but who continues to learn. Later, I agreed with Casie and said that I don't believe in the teaching profession there is such a thing as an "expert" because to me this term gives the connotation that it is a person who is done learning. After hemming and hawing I have decided that I prefer the term "effective" teacher; however this disrupts our continuum from novice to "expert". I believe that a teacher can be effective very early on in his/her career, possibly even during the novice stages. Being effective is not just about knowing the content, but it is the way in which a person presents it to students, and the relationships one has with their class. Some attributes held by an effective teacher don't come with an education, you either have them or you don't. So though I am more confused about the idea of an expert teacher, I guess I am more convinced that I want to be described as an effective teacher.

Danny's picture

I am, as some in the field of education would describe me as, a "newby". A new teacher, fresh out of college, just getting my feet wet. Although college taught me a lot, I know now that the majority of what I will learn throughout my career in education will come from first hand experience and collaboration with colleagues. I understand that I am a novice teacher, this is not hard to understand. However, I don't feel as though any educator can truly call him or herself an expert teacher. So many aspects of the classroom are always changing, as well as that of Technology. We, as teachers, should always be learning and growing in order to be at the "top of our game". But to truly be an expert to me, means that we stop learning and stop growing.

Emily Million's picture

I agree with the theory that we may never be experts at anything. We are always learning new techniques and strategies on how to better reach our students. If one would call themselves an expert, then it is almost as if they had given up after hitting the finish line. Teaching is more like a marathon that ends at retirement if at all. If I fell into that trap of thinking that I was an expert at some point in my career, I think I would become lazy in teaching. I believe that most teachers have the intrinsic motivation needed to strive for expertise.

Bethany's picture

I am unsure of whether or not one can ever become and expert in the field of teaching. Just when you feel you have mastered something it changes. With education in a constant cycle of change, a teacher can be their own personal great, but I am not sure that you could ever be an expert. I look at being and expert as someone who has mastered all there is to know in their profession. This is a task that even the most dedicated teacher could never do.

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