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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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Wendy Ferguson's picture

I like the way you reflected on your own experiences with teachers in college courses. It made me think of the differences in being an expert teacher versus an expert in a field of study. I too had professors who seemed to know so much content material but could not relate it to the students sitting in front of them. That is why I agree with what everyone is saying about "expert" teachers being great at content and finding strategies to teach that content.

David Chiarella's picture

Shanon, I too prefer to call teachers experienced instead of calling them experts. I feel that calling someone an expert can sometimes set the standard too high for any professional,especially teachers. Our job requires us to constantly change what we are doing on a day to day basis because every child is different. Like you said, experience is critical in a teachers journey to becoming an experienced teacher, and without it, it is tough to move out of the novice category.

amy v's picture
amy v
Elementary Teacher, 3rd Grade, Atlanta, GA

Expert is indeed a powerful word. It means to have a thorough knowledge of content. Some of the comments above indicate that others agree with me when I say that a teacher, unlike other professionals, can be an 'expert' in one area, or many more than one, but not all. It is the expert that stays abreast of what's new in the field. How could one person be able to do that for education? It is simply to broad of a concept. Perhaps 'specialist' would be better than 'expert'?

Melissa's picture

I agree that being an expert teacher is about keeping up with the latest curriculum and standards as education is always changing and so is society. One must know how to adapt to different situations each year and that in itself requires expertise.

Mike's picture

I believe that most teachers are not "expert teachers." It is a goal for every teacher to know their craft extrememly well. But i have found that even as a new teacher their is always learning new ideas and curriculum at any stage. I have worked with teachers who still implement strategies from 20 years ago. Just because they know the content material, and are efficient at teaching certain lessons. Their is always learning. An expert is a teacher who knows the content of their subject, but also goes to conferences implementing new ideas learned. As an expert you are constantly adapting to diff teaching methods. I think there is a difference from experience teacher and an expert teacher. I believe most of them are in the experience criteria.

Stacy Hetzel's picture

I would have to agree with you that experienced is a much better word than expert when referring to the teaching profession. I feel that as a teacher it is our job to grow professionally and I see that as something that needs to be worked on a daily basis. Do we really ever know enough? I think that those teachers who try to better themselves professionally by reading, researching, continuing their education-those are the teachers who will be having the most successes. I still don't think I would classify them as experts. I would like to meet the person that thinks they are an expert at teaching, because I know that even after teaching for 13 years, I have a long way to go and a lot to learn.

Charity Barnhill's picture

I totally agree with you about not using the word expert and using experienced instead. I don't feel that many people can be considered an expert at anything, not just teaching. There is always room to learn something new or to become better at something. I have found in my classroom that although I may feel that I know all there is to know about certain subject matter, I always learn something new when teaching it.

Elizabeth Tonhy's picture

It is so hard for me to go above and beyond the everyday tasks. I am sooooo tired at the end of a school day because my students demand so much of me. It is hard for me to do much else, but what is expected of me in my job description. I agree with Audra and others that expert teachers are few and far between. After all we are all human and even teachers with 20 or 30 years experience make mistakes.

I also read another post about a teacher feeling they are far from expert in Special Educatio because they are still honing in the curriculum of my students. It doesn't help me that my student demographic is constantly changing. I started the year out teaching third grade. Now I am teaching first and second. So right when I get a grasp on the grade's curriculum expectations, my students are moved around.

Hopefully, I will become more familiar with the curriculum in my 2nd year of teaching special education so I can begin to practice and improve in other areas of special education such a learning strategies, differentiated instruction, and creating engaging lessons that allow my students to succeed.

Jennifer Mendoz Ybanez's picture


I would have to agree with all of you I too do not like the word expert teacher. I would prefer experienced as well. I have always thought that as a teacher I have to be constantly keeping up with what is new in education. I feel as though we are in a field that is always changing. Every year we get new students in our class and we cannot always do the same things. I want my students to be life-long learners so, I myself have to become one. It is very hard to balance my personal life with my professional life.

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