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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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Linda's picture

I agree with the posts that say a teacher can be an expert in their particular area of teaching. And, back to the original post, these expert teachers were created because of their experience in their particular area. Although I have taught in special education for 19 years I, in no way, feel that I am an expert teacher. I teach a small facet of special education (early intervention). I do fee that I am nearing expertise in that area as I have experienced continued success and assisted all students to progress to their ability at this age level. Take me out of my EI classroom and put me in a high school emotional support classroom and I would be back at the novice level. I do not necessarily agree with those that feel that expert teachers need to be actively involved in research to be categorized as expert teachers. Some people are not inclined to participate in research projects and devote themselves to their own classrooms instead. I still feel they are experts in their particular field.

Jennifer's picture

I also agree with most of the responses. Gaining experience and expertise in one's field comes from trial,error and a lot of reflection and self analysis. To answer the inital question, I think that teachers do not automatically become an expert teacher over time. There has to be a cognizant effort on their part to grow and develop professionally. Time on the job does not qualify one to be an expert. Basically for me it boils down to quality v. quanity.

Joyce Dirig's picture

{quote from Abigail} It seems to me that many teachers who decide to begin a research project and perhaps write a book, then decide to leave the classroom. I wonder why this is so. Does anyone have any experience with this?[quote]
Abigail - I have actually talked to a few teachers who have published books and run the lecture circut teaching what they are "experts" in. The few I have talked with are also STILL in the classroom. They consider that their full time job, and are thankful to have an understanding administration. I find their advice and guidance the most helpful, because they are still in the classroom actually using what they are sharing.

Linda's picture

Joyce - that's great to hear about researchers who lecture and still keep their foot in the door of their classrooms. How fortunate you are to work with them and be able to tap into their expertise for your own classroom!

Lindsey Frazier's picture

I agree with parts of what everyone is saying. I think we all begin as a novice teacher, but those of us that stick with teaching improve in some area. I don't know if I will ever reach the title of being an expert teacher, because I do not see how that goal can be obtained. I have only been teaching for fourteen months and no day has been like another. I don't know if I will ever know how to deal with each individual situation expertly. I do believe I can become an expert in my content, and if I continue to enroll in workshops and staff development opportunities, I will be an expert with my teaching strategies. If there is a such thing as an expert teacher, I hope to be one in the near future.

Bean's picture

I agree that as an educator gets older they get more experience, but saying they are an expert is not always the case. I think what makes a teacher become the best they can be is striving to become an expert. 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, thier students will be missing out on educational opportunities.

Jamie Sappenfield's picture
Jamie Sappenfield
Fourth grade math, science, and social studies teacher from Savannah, GA

Oh my goodness! Well, one thing I can say is that if there are true "expert" teachers out there, I would LOVE to shadow one or more of them any day!!! :)

I definitely can appreciate the term "experienced" teachers rather than "expert" teachers. The more "experienced" teachers that I work with like to be called "veteran" teachers. I think that is a cute, playful term. Shannon, you were completely right when you stated that we have to constantly re-evaluate or as I call it "re-vamp" our lessons and/or ideas. I mean, each year I get a new students that are completely different from the previous group I had. I can't use the same activities every year, hoping they will reach the students the same way they did 8 years ago! I like the quote, "The only constant is change" (author unknown.) Just the same, I learn so much from each group, that I have become a more experienced educator and know how to plan for and implement new ideas, lessons, activities, etc.

So, in summary, I don't know that there are really "expert" teachers, but if you know of any, please let me know! I am always looking to learn more! :)

Pam's picture

I agree that the term "expert" should be chanced to experienced. I have been teaching 3rd grade for 8 years now and feel I know my content well. However, I feel like I am still growing in my field. I have taught with a few teachers that I would consider to be experts. They were very creative and could always come up with new ways to teach a lesson so that all the students could understand. I feel like my greatest learning experience came when I taught the inclusion classroom and had the chance to work one on one with one of these expert teachers. She was extremely experienced in special ed. and the curriculum and could come up with many different ways to get our special ed. students to learn the difficult content. I learned a great deal by teaching with this teacher and have been able to work her methods into my classroom. Being more experienced in special ed. is a very helpful learning tool that can help guide one closer to becoming an expert teacher. BUt I still feel that I have a lot more to learn before I would consider myself and expert.

David Chiarella's picture

Shanon, I agree with you that "experienced" is a better word choice to describe someone who is an expert in the teaching profession. I have always liked setting high goals, but I have also always liked setting goals that are attainable. For me setting high, attainable goals has kept me engaged and I feel that teachers should try to do the same. I also agree that experienced teachers are always "re-creating and re-evaluating themselves" and those are qualities that most novice teachers have not yet explored.

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.

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