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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Novice to expert teachers

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Hello everyone, My name is Marc and I am a second year Math teacher. I teach Math 8, Integrated Algebra, and Geometry. I want to be the best teacher possible for my students which is why I was wondering what some of you think about the skills and knowledge needed to become an expert teacher. I believe some of the skills needed for teachers to move from novice to expert are classroom routines, the ability to know their students, monitor their progress, understand how students learn, and effectively reflect on their own teaching.

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Jennifer Meeks's picture

I think a big difference between a novice teacher and an expert teacher is the ability to teach and engage ALL students. An expert teacher is someone who can not only teach to the average student but can implement intervention materials for low achievers and enrichment materials for the high achievers.

Michelle LaMassa's picture


I completely agree with your response. I believe that all teachers gain levels of competence, however, it's hard to label what an expert would be. There are many things that should be included when considering a teacher's status, but since we are always learning and since our students change constantly I believe that we, as educators, change with them. I have been teaching for about 15 years, and I would definitely not classify myself as an expert teacher. I feel that I have achieved a certain level of competence, but continue to strive for improving in any way I can. All the criteria mentioned in the previous posts are excellent and are all ways an educator strives for the goal of being an expert.

Felicia's picture

Dear Jayme,

I completely agree with you about "grade level planning time." There is always something that "has" to be done or discussed, that you never seem to get to the actual planning time. I find it so interesting that when teachers get together at regional inservices, the presenters are constantly trying to bring us back on topic because we can't stop talking. This is the only time we have to discuss our students and things that are happening. It is great to get that feedback that we never seem to have time for in our planning meetings.

Karen's picture

There are several skills that need to be developed as one moves along the novice-expert continuum. Robert Garmston (1998) in his article Becoming Expert Teachers cites six areas in which expert teachers need knowledge: content, pedagogy, students and how they learn, self-knowledge, cognitive processes of instruction and collegial interaction. There is always room for improvement - even for the so-called expert. Continuous self-improvement is always a good thing.

MattR's picture

This is my twelfth year of teaching, and while I have learned more than I ever imagined I would, I still feel like I have much to learn. Out of all the jobs I have had, this is the most difficult one to master. I think it is because even if you are an expert, there is always more to learn. I used to think that being an expert teacher had a lot to do with content, but now I think that content is actually the easiest part. I teach AP Literature at my school, and much of what I teach in terms of content I learned fifteen years ago in college. Becoming an expert teacher has a lot more to do with your understanding of yourself and how your strengths can be tools for educating students.

CindyF's picture

Hello all! I am currently not teaching, but in the process of returning to teaching. I have been out of the classroom for over 10 years, but I am now returning to what I have always wanted to do - teach math! After reading many of the posts, I am certainly placing myself in the novice category. However, I do believe that I am better prepared to teach than I was when I first graduated from college. I will not be the same teacher I was 10 years ago when I return, and for that I am thankful. I believe that my personal growth is a key factor in moving beyond the novice category, but the lack of experience in the classroom would keep me in that category.

Trish's picture

I agree with what many of you have said already . . . that one never really is an expert teacher. Teaching is a never ending learning experience. I do believe that experience has been my best teacher. But, I realize that I need to be a reflective teacher, as well, and make changes in my teaching as necessary. I also need to seek out new innovations in teaching and learning to guide me in doing what's best for students.

Jenel Laney's picture

I agree with you that no one is perfect but I also feel that experts aren't perfect either and that if one does become an expert, it doesn't mean they don't have any room for growth. My goal is not to be an expert teacher but to be as effective as I can be. I don't care about the label that I am given by others but I want to make a difference in the lives of my students. I have a lot of improvement to look forward to and reflecting to do so that I can become more effective.

Felicia H. Fox's picture
Felicia H. Fox
Secondary Family & Consumer Sciences Teacher from Richmond, Virginia

Jamie, I agree with your perspective concerning a teacher bringing passion to the classroom. If the teacher does not convey enthusiasm with their instructional techniques, they may simply become a talking head to their students. Some of that passion is expressed by demonstrating to the students how what you are teaching them is vital to your own life. They will definitely buy into what you are teaching if they have a vision for how it applies to real life.

Rosetta Pewitte's picture

Speaking of novice teachers, do you think a person teaching for one year in elementary and then becoming a director of the STAR center, and come back to teach two more years should have the opportunity to become a principal? Research I have read said that you need at least five to eight years of teaching experience to become an expert.

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