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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Becoming an Expert Teacher

Becoming an Expert Teacher

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Do teachers over time become 'expert' teachers? According to Garmston's article, "Becoming Expert Teachers", there is a process in professional development as educators. He notes that a school's support can be implemented. "The question is how can schools best support and accelerate this journey for more teachers", (Journal of Staff Development, 1998, p 1). I believe that after 6 years of teaching, I have moved from novice to progressive when it comes to my knowledge in the content of the grade I teach. I have become more confident in the level of expertise in some areas, but by no means will I say that someday as I reflect on my contributions to society, that I was an expert in the field of education. It is a work in progress. I do agree that experienced teachers know more than novices, but I am using the term experienced not 'expert'. As noted in the article, "expert teachers know more than novices." (p 1). I think the term expert should be translated to experienced. It is through experience that we move from novice in any field to knowledge and understanding, and thus applying that in the classroom after many hours of organizing and changing the way we teach more effectively. Teachers have to learn to re-create, re-evaluate themselves, and this is a daily perseverance. Any thoughts?

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Karen's picture

torder to become a principal. 3 years of teaching is not enough time. He/she hasn't experienced enough of the teaching process much less as learned about the bureaucracy of administration. Most larger districts allow to take jobs such as coordinator, department head or assistant principal. Those positions can provide some of the adminstrative training and experience that is necessary.

Teri Weidlein's picture

I don't think I will ever get to the point that I could call myself an expert. I think this because education is constantly changing. If I can always keep up with the changes and master them, then maybe I could come close to calling myself an expert. I think that there is always room for improvement when it comes to myself as a teacher. Maybe someday someone might consider me to be an expert, but I won't ever be able to refer to myself as one. There are no set guidelines in order to be considered an expert, so how can I or anyone be judged as such?

Kathy Shelburne's picture


I agree with your perception of the novice teacher. I had not considered the idea that a novice teacher could have been in a classroom for several years. I would have to say that I have met that novice teacher. They are not effective in the classroom, are often disorganized and they are frustrated. Students seems to sense their ineffectiveness and take advantage of the situation. I, too, do not feel I will ever be an expert teacher. The moment we stop growing and learning is the moment we become ineffective. We become stagnant. Perhaps that is why school corporations around the country are focusing more and more on professional development and growth plans and encouraging teachers to continue challenging themselves by reading, conferences and taking more college courses. Your posting has given me some things to think about. Thank you for sharing.

Kathy Shelburne's picture


I would agree with your perception of the novice teacher as someone who is new to the profession but could also be someone who is ineffective although they may have been in the classroom for many years. I had not given that consideration before but I have certainly met some tenured, novice teachers. Their effectiveness in the classroom is weak at best. The students can usually sense the shortcomings and take every opportunity to use that situation to their advantage.

I think the expert teacher has yet to be seen. We can never stop striving to learn, become more effective and creative, and to stay on top of the growing amount of knowledge in our content areas. It is important that we have an open mind and willingness to learn more than we already know. I had a discouraging conversation with a 19 year old last weekend. He did not have enough credits to graduate from high school because of an injury that kept him out of school for a semester. He "finished" with his class with the intent to take advantage of a program that would allow him to still receive his diploma. He missed that window of opportunity so he had to go into a GED program. It has been nearly 2 years and he still has not completed the program. His comment to me was "I have been on my own since I was 16 and I have done just fine. I know everything I need to know. I even know stuff about other people that they don't know about themselves." It is sad that this teenager feels he knows everything he needs to know at 19. Being a lifelong learner for educators is not an option in my opinion. However, I would like to be more effective in encouraging students to strive for excellence in whatever they pursue.

Reflecting on the idea of novice and expert teachers has helped me to see areas where I need to strive for excellence and to feel good about areas where I have made significant progress.

Lena Brewster's picture

What exactly is an expert teacher or how is an expert defined? Garmston states in his article that expert teachers need knowledge in the areas of content, pedagogy, students and how they learn, self-knowledge, cognitive process of instruction, and collegial interaction (Gramston, 1998). Would a teacher not be considered and expert if he or she only met four of the six criteria mentioned? I agree with many of you that the term "expert" is daunting. I think that over time teacher will become more efficient, but not necessarily an expert in the field of education. The teachers that are constantly learning and putting new ideas into practice are closer to the expert level than others. A better term for us to use would be experienced. Although there are many experienced teachers lack zeal, patience, and understanding in this filed. As a result, I would not consider these teachers experts. If I had to define the term expert teacher I would say that he or she is a teacher that is constantly seeking professional development, researching and implementing new ideas, and sharing their knowledge with others. Of course, this doesn't it many wonderful teachers that are out there. Unless we know the expectations do truly we truly know what an expert teacher looks like? I am not sure. If there are expectations please share because I am not aware of them.

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

Kerry Milligan's picture

I do agree that I cannot identify what constitutes an expert teacher. I believe there are many opinions out there about what is a teacher's main purpose, that is when we can decide who is expert and who is not. If a teacher's job is to teach standards based curriculum, the learning is measured by assessment and if students do well, I would consider this teacher an expert. However, our jobs are so much more than that. Can you be an expert at something that is not measurable? For example whether or not we have opened up a studnet's mind, or if we have trained a student to seek out knowledge independently? We have so many facets to our profession. I'm not sure expert is the word either, I agree that experienced is the better word.

Marci Broam's picture

Although I agree that teaching is a multifaceted profession, I see being an expert teacher as a goal, something I am always moving toward, but will never achieve. Experience is a part of the journey towards expertise, but reflection on the experience is also necessary.

Jennifer Brayard's picture
Jennifer Brayard
4th grade teacher from Riverside, CA

Yes, we do become experienced. I am not sure if we are ever experts. Through my discussion board activities that I have done through Walden I have changed my view of an expert teacher. With so many changes in education, I am not sure if we are ever experts. We become experienced and fine tune what we do in the classroom, but I am not sure we ever become an "expert." We are constantly reflecting on our practices and what we do in the classroom. This constant reflection and growth makes us more effective in the classroom and at our school.

Kimberly's picture

Successful teachers progress from novice to experts when they are able to deal with several aspects of classroom life and to attend to the intellectual work of the students. The more expert teacher will be able to deal with many complex situations and gather their resources together in order to make a knowledgeable decision and to respond to the situation. These teachers have the ability and knowledge of other teaching strategies and can be very useful in moving a beginning teacher more quickly towards an expert teacher.

Thirdly, teachers also develop dispositions about what it means to be a teacher. Among these dispositions is the challenge to find strategies in order to meet the students who are less successful. These experts are professionals not only by knowledge but are able to put it into practice. They are able to assess their environment and put other teaching strategies into practice in order to gain optimal learning for all students in their classroom.
The misconceptions about teaching consist of past knowledge that new teachers have learned in their schooling and past experiences prior to teaching. They focus more on their personalities and less on the subject matter. They leave out key components like the importance of family and home when developing their learning curriculum.

Programs that successfully change beginning teachers understanding about teaching and learning, use their students' initial beliefs as a springboard for surfacing and confronting misconceptions. Using structured discussions and guided observations, candidates can share their initial views about teaching and any misconceptions can be immediately addressed. It appears to me that these misconceptions must be addressed immediately with the new teacher in order for them not to cling to ineffective teaching strategies and practices.

With the complexity of classroom's teachers having to be able to know what behaviors to look for, know how to collect information accurately, and having a conceptual framework to use in analyzing their observations. If we are to grow as professional, we have to overcome these problems by learning to monitor our teaching as it occurs, to reflect on it afterward, and to engage in professional development activities with other colleagues. We will increase our awareness of behaviors through classroom observations. One reason teachers are unaware of their behavior is that it actually happens to quickly. Second are that many education programs have lacked in preparing and equipping teachers with specifics techniques or skills in order to identify and/or label behavior.

I feel that, as an educator, that my expectations of students are important and they do have the ability to change a student's perception, behavior, and learning. Last module just emphasized and enhanced my knowledge that I already had. It did remind me to be ever so careful of my expectations and the things that I say. It encouraged me not to give up on students that were failing but to strive for them to achieve all they could possibly be. My attitude will make the difference in me and everyone that I come in contact with including, students, parents, and other colleagues.

As a director, mentor and teacher we the second Tuesday of every month, 1 hour after work...full staff. I will meet individually with teams as needed. I have an open door policy and any time someone has a concern, comments, and problem we meet. I have a team of two other management and we try to meet at least one time a week in order to know where we all are going each week and what we want to achieve (i.e assessments, curriculum, new teacher training, room arrangement, playground safety, classroom management, NAEYC Accred., etc.).

Jamie Kessen's picture
Jamie Kessen
3-5 Grade Special Education Teacher from Indiana

I agree that experienced is a much better term than expert. Experience builds confidence in many areas of our teaching. I do not believe that "expert" is something that I want to achieve. If I achieve this so called "expert" level, am I saying to myself that I have nothing left to learn? Everything we hear about teaching is that we have to be life-long learners. Too much changes from day to day, let alone think about the changes that occur each year within the education system and technology. I agree with the DVD "Teacher Expertise and Development" led by Sonia Nieto. It was discussed that we are "preparing students for jobs that do not yet exist" (Laureate Education, Inc., 2007). It was also stated by a teacher on the video that if she ever reached the "expert" stage then it was time for her to "get out" (Laureate Education, Inc., 2007) These statements are so true and prove that we have to continue growing and learning as a teacher. We must continue to use our "experience" to become more effective teachers.

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