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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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Felicia's picture


I completely agree when you say that those expert teachers don't see themselves as experts. That has been my experience as well. I agree with you and Anne, but I would hesitate to give these teachers the global title of "expert". I might be more inclined to say that they are experts in a certain area - special education in your example, Anne. I have a very close friend who is the Math leader for our board. I would not hesitate to say that she is an expert Math teacher, but when it comes to Literacy, she admits that she is much weaker. So, to give teachers a title of expert teacher is not something that I necessarily agree with. I believe that there are teachers who are experts in certain areas of education, but to find a teacher who is an expert in all areas would be difficult. Just my thoughts! :)

Anne Roche's picture

Felicia, I completely agree with you about being an expert in a certain area. My sister is an expert in British Literature but I am sure she knows very little about special education. I believe the title of expert teacher is reserved for teachers such as Dr. Nieto!

Joyce Dirig's picture

I like the idea of looking at people as an expert in a certain area. I had a chance at the conference to talk to Penny Kittle, an expert on writer's workshop. While she knows writing workshop, she admits she often ask for help from other content area teachers to cover a research topic, or authentic story idea. I know personally I often rely on my special ed co-teachers to help me through all of the special education criteria and guidelines.

Regina's picture

I agree with Felicia that giving someone the title of "expert teacher" may be a bit inaccurate. I also think finding someone who is an expert in his/her content area, who is an expert in classroom management, who does research and shares that research with colleagues, and who makes contributions to the community would be difficult to find. I know of no one who fits all of these criteria on our faculty. I believe many of my colleagues are experts in some of these areas, but not all. I've had teachers at the college level who were experts in their content area and were published scholars, but, despite that, I didn't feel they were expert teachers. The human dimension seemed to be absent. I also remember a guest lecturer who taught a classroom management class at the local university. After teaching over 30 years at the elementary school level and by the way she portrayed herself to her students, future teachers in her education class probably looked at her as an "expert" teacher. Little did the students in her class know, however, that her teaching methodology in her own third grade classroom was ineffective for today's students. (A colleague of mine taught on her team at her previous school.) I agree that the terms "expert" and "experienced" should not be used interchangeably. As Lisa mentioned, the best we can do is to strive to become better with each passing year. After 13 years of teaching, I do not consider myself an expert teacher. Experienced? Yes. An expert? I'm still learning every day right along with my students.

Colleen Meyer's picture

I love the term "Experienced" much better than "expert" as well. You do become more experienced as each year progresses. You also gain more experience in many different areas. There are so many fields and areas of teaching and just because you may be an expert in one area definitely doesn't mean you're an expert in all areas of education.

Audra Blazey's picture

I agree with a great deal of you, that expert teachers are those that go above and beyond the normal everyday tasks of teaching. Writing a book, for example, or researching new cutting edge strategies that help numerous people in the field are examples of ways I believe one can become an expert. Many experienced teachers are out there, but few in my opinion become experts. I believe there needs to be some risk involved. One needs to put their neck on the line for something the believe in and research it and truely influence education to be an expert. This on top of being experienced and knowing how to teach effectively is what I consider being an expert teacher. It is a balance between experience and effort above and beyond the call of duty.

Abigail's picture

I really like what a lot of you have said about research. I have never worked with a teacher in my field (elementary education) that was involved in his or her own research. 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?

Also, a note about experience. Garmsten emphasized in his article "Becoming Expert Teachers" that reflection upon experience is the only way to progress toward becoming an expert teacher. It is in reflection that we truly begin to understand our effectivness as educators.

Deborah Cheesman's picture

I agree with you that the term 'expert" would be better stated as experienced. I am uncomfortable with the term expert in that I know I have so much yet to learn, but I am not a novice either. In the spirit of my personal philosophy of being a life long learner, I wonder if one can ever consider ones self an expert?

Sally Towne's picture
Sally Towne
Second Grade Teacher

I like the term experienced as well. I feel if we are lifelong learners as most teacher are, we will never be experts. We continue to learn from peers, from research, etc.

Teresa Hwang's picture

It is interesting to see how people define "expert" teachers in different ways. I feel that the amount of time spent in the teaching field does not make you an "expert" teacher. I believe that "expert" teachers are teachers who are able to teach effectively and efficiently. They are teachers who are willing to challenge educational norms to better meet the needs of their students and teachers who continue to learn by keeping up with new methods of instruction and reading to keep themselves up to date about new information. I like how Felicia brings up a good point about being an expert in an area. I too know of some teachers who are "experts" in one area and weak in another. As considered a "new teacher" (since I am not considered a veteran) I feel that the sense of being an expert in an area gives me confidence as a "new" teacher. Though I may not be fully experienced in all subject matters, it empowers me as an educator to know that I have a great deal of knowledge in an area and that I may be able to share that knowledge with other teachers who may not have as much expertise as I do!

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