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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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Chelsea Vargo's picture

I agree that we do not feel comfortable to call ourselves experts. It takes plenty of experience and time to move ourselves along the continuum. Experts do go above most usual tasks and always mentor novice teachers. They are experienced with a great deal of knowledge. I hope one day I feel comfortable enough to call myself an expert.

Lori's picture

I don't know that I will ever reach the level of an expert teacher, because I think that even the most experienced teacher can always learn something about his or her teaching style, students, etc. I am in my second year of teaching, therefore I am still considered a novice teacher. I have improved during my second year, but I know that I still have lots to learn. I am always willing to hear of new ideas from others that may help me to adapt my ways in the classroom.

Suzana Basaric's picture

I don't think that years of experience make a teacher an expert. Expert teachers, in my opinion, are the teachers of the teachers, those who are able to connect the Professional Learning Communities with larger society, both theoretically and practically and who are able to recognize and fulfill the needs in today's education world. While it might be hard to define and even find such an expert teacher it is easier to recognize an effective teacher who may become an expert eventually

Carrie's picture
5th Grade Teacher

The word "expert" does seem to make people unsure when it comes to labeling themselves. In my opinion, expert teachers are the teachers who are confident, enthusiastic, and effective. They may not call themselves experts, but others would! The novice teacher is not only a beginning teacher, but the teacher who isn't effective. I have worked with teachers who have taught for years, but just haven't grasped how to create an environment that effectively allows for learning. Teaching isn't just about teaching after all, it involves all kinds of things like classroom management, appropriate social etiquette, setting good examples, sharing, caring, creativity, the ability to multitask, organizational skills......the list goes on! The expert teacher has learned how to balance all of these in a way that allows for learning in the most effective way!

Bill Powell's picture
Bill Powell
Retired Supt; 33 years in public ed; lives in Colorado mountains w/ family


It is wonderful for me to read your comments and to see that you are willing to read and to learn as a growing educator! It also shows that you are a 'reflective' teacher who wants to get better at your profession by getting ideas from others. My grandmother used to say, "It takes many eyes to be wise." I hope you get lots of good ideas from others. There is a growth model called the "Change Based Adoption Model" or CBAM model that you might want to look up on the Internet. It shows growth and development stages for people, regardless of their career. We all move (at different rates) from beginner to eventually seasoned leaders where we can leave a true legacy to those who follow us and to our profession. Good luck!

Marta Vazquez-Rivera's picture
Marta Vazquez-Rivera
High School Teacher at a rural school in Tennessee

I do agree with you that our years in the job gives us the knowledge to become experienced; therefore we should be experts in our fields. However, to accomplish this we need to continue our professional development. We need to share and exchange our knowledge with others to become better at what we do on a daily basis.

Freddys Hernandez's picture
Freddys Hernandez
Bilingual Math Teacher from Elizabeth, New Jersey.

I am teaching Mathematics in Elizabeth, New Jersey and I am taking some classes in Walden University in order to get my Master Degree.

I am learning from Dr. Weiner how to be an Expert Teacher. Patience and hard work are my keys to motivate my students to succeed in school. It's not always easy to keep my students motivated in the classroom because they are from different cultures, different countries, varied level of knowledge, and in many cases without basic skills in mathematics.

First, I determine why my students are not motivated. There are different reasons why students may lack motivation, such as having low self-esteem, problems at home, a learning disability, health issues or depression. After that, I take time to review my current teaching style and curriculum and decide if there are some things that I can do differently in order to better motivate my students. For example, maybe I can add more group activities to the class period, or perhaps I can use more visual aids, etc.

Finally, I try to show enthusiasm in the classroom. I try to give them challenging and achievable assignments to complete and provide them with the emotional support that they need to do well in classes, I encourage my students to participate in class. In addition, I reward students for doing a good job in class, by giving them gift certificates, books or exemptions from certain homework assignments.

Rebecca F's picture

I can not say that I am an expert teacher and don't intend reaching that stage. Andrea Kabwasa, a Special Education teacher said, "When you become an expert teacher, it's time to leave." On a scale of 1-10, I would consider myself a 4, being a teacher with only 6 years of experience in the field. This means, I have plenty of room to grow and develop. The only way to do this is to share ideas with other teachers, be reflective, creative, innovative, take risks, try new strategies, and stay abreast of what's new in your subject area, your field, your community. There is never an end to learning, much of it comes from experience. So as long as we are teachers, we have to continually seek knowledge and use it to help our students.

India Hester's picture
India Hester
India Hester is a dedicated 4th grade teacher from Selma, Alabama.

I agree with Anne and Joyce. Being a veteran teacher does not constitute being an expert in teaching. Unfortunately, I have experienced this, while in high school and while teaching. I think an expert teacher is one that teaches with ease, effortless, still effectively adhering to students needs. The expert teacher is confident in what he or she teaches, motivates students to students to want to learn, and has a strong knowledge base of materials. Childen are very intelligent and insightful on certain things. They quickly
recognize when a teacher does not have a clue. On the other hand, they can also recognize an expert teacher. To be an expert, one does not settle for nor limit themselves to limited education. They are constantly acquiring education.

carla's picture

I think the term expert does sound extreme when it comes to the teaching profession because, as teachers, we should never cease to learn and grow. The term expert is more like a "specialist" in the medical field. They know more about their field of expertise than just a regular doctor. That doesn't mean, however, that the specialist has learned it all and there is no more for him/her to learn. In the same way teachers should continuously strive to become a specialist, or an expert, by collaboration, research, and reflecting over the past. I agree that one will never actually be an expert because the education field is always changing, but one can have expert qualities by, as we say, knowing when you know and knowing when you don't know, and knowing what to do when you don't know.

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