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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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Maria Mena's picture

I do not think that teachers over time become "expert" teachers? We can be more experienced, but not experts. As teachers we are long-life time learners, and we learn throughout our profession. There are so much changes in education, that is see it impossible for someone to an expert. As teachers our goal is not to be looked up as "expert" and try to impress people. Our goal is to make an impact on the students, and make them also "long-life learners."

Kristina's picture

I agree with your comments, Lisa on the continnuum of expert teachers. There is almost always something new a teacher could be learning and/or doing before being considered an expert. Sometimes, in my position as Title I Math teacher, I get looked at as I have all the answers. How I wish! But, in reality, I am a regular education teacher who teaches Title I Math. I'm not an expert in any way, but open to new experiences and learning what works best to help the students.

Amy's picture
Amy
ESOL

This is my first real experience blogging, but I have to say that I have found the information to be very interesting. Everybody is talking about becoming an expert teacher, but there are many different ways to share your opinion. An expert teacher to me is able to use many different modalties, able to maintain classroom behavior and have knowledge about the subject they teach. I also feel that it is important to know the students in the classroom and their cultures. I teach English Speakers of Other Languages so knowing about the different cultures is helpful to me so I do not step on any toes while discussing certain lessons. An expert is able to adapt and be flexible when unusual situations come your way. Being an expert to me means effectiveness with your class.

Rosetta Pewitte's picture

So Amy, do you think a teacher should become a principal just after three years of teaching, one of them being a math lab teacher. I seem to have a problem with someone like that coming into my classroom and giving me an evaluation with nothing to base her information. Does she even know how much work is really involved in teaching students using the latest research? I have many concerns about this? It seems that our superintendant is hiring a lot of novice teachers to be principals.

Rosetta Pewitte's picture

I have been teaching for 15 years and received many awards and recognitions. However, just as you said, I am far from being an expert. I think that as each year comes with new students, we are about to start a differnt journey on a different road headed for the same destination.

philip palumbo's picture

Rosetta, I am new to blogging but your comments intregued me. I too am in a situation similar to yours. After teaching 8th grade science for 16 years my formal evaluation this year will be conducted by a temporary principle who has had no more than 4 years experience in the classroom. I had been in her classroom a number of times during her brief teaching career and I must say I am very uncomfortable with being evaluated by someone who I know to be less than an expert teacher. Even though additional schooling is necessary to obtain an administrative position such as this I do not think it can be substituted for years of experience. In my opinion I think there should be a minimum number of years teaching experience required to obtain such a high position in administration. Please let me know what you think.

Sci Guy Jon's picture
Sci Guy Jon
Boarding School R.A., Informal Science Educator & M. Ed. Student

After reading the majority of your posts, the only thing I can compare the concept of an expert teacher to is a mirage. It seems that an expert teacher is something we can easily identify when observing other educators. However, although we engage in experiences to follow in the footsteps of experts, we refrain from ever labeling ourselves as experts. We seem to avoid associating "expert" with ourselves since it implies an end to learning. Instead, we find comfort in saying that we are "experienced." We do not want to contradict that to be an effective teacher is to be a life-long learner. As Bean stated in a prior comment, "Once they stop trying to learn, they no longer stay on top of their game. The field of education is constantly changing, and if the teachers do not change, their students will be missing out on educational opportunities." With this said, I dare to argue that, similar to a mirage, an expert teacher does not truly exist.

It makes more sense to accept that there is no true "expert teacher" than to equate it with "experienced teacher." Honestly, would you rather have an "experienced" doctor performing a potentially fatal surgery on you or an "expert" doctor? The two concepts are clearly not synonymous. When looking for experts in other fields, I tend to review practicing professionals' accolades and the quality of their products. So why should teaching be any different? In addition to looking at the books, awards and research a teacher produces, I feel we should also review their most prized products, their students. I am more curious to hear what students would say rather than colleagues when deciding if a teacher is an expert. I anticipate that students would look at such an opportunity as if they were the judges of a reality TV competition where teachers are placed in several challenging learning environments. Nonetheless, the final assessment of an expert teacher seems impossible since as Chrity Barnhill mentions, "There is always room to learn something new or to become better at something." Also, as David Chiarella mentions, "Our job requires us to constantly change what we are doing on a day to day basis because every child is different." Therefore, one student's assessment from one particular learning environment would not warrant the status of expert teacher.

In the end, Joyce Dirig said it best with, "I think it is a combination of experience, re-evaluation of self, and life-long learning that make a person an expert." This description allows us to reframe the concept of expert so that it is applicable to professionals who are expected to not know it all, but instead expected to be continuously learning.

sherry m's picture

I also agree that the term expert should be experienced. During the trying times in education of today, I find it hard for someone to be an expert in an ever-changing educational environment. I have been teaching for 13 years and I see a difference in the tone educators as well as that of the students. I also think that novice should look for teachers who have experience in their situation, and not just someone who is an "expert".

sherry m's picture

I also think that teachers should be considered experienced instead of experts. During these trying times in education, it would be difficult to be an expert in an ever-changing educational environment. Novice teachers should look to teachers with experience in their situation, and not someone who is considered an expert. That expertise may not the experience that is needed.

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