George Lucas Educational Foundation

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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Joseph Brewer's picture

I agree with most, but in my eyes its hard to become an expert. If you can even at all. You can be extremely experienced in a subject matter, but things are changing daily. New ideas, new discoveries. To become an expert, you would need to be on the team of people who make those new discoveries, or find out these new ideas first. There are just too many variables that can influence new things. Going above and beyond everything dealing with teaching is extremely hard, but I guess being labeled a "expert" you would have to do this all the time.

Erin Polson's picture

My opinion of an expert teacher is someone with confidence, passion, experience, and talent. I agree that not all experienced teachers are experts. I know many teachers that are experienced but are lacking passion and commitment. An expert teacher strives for the success of his/her students and will stop at nothing to make sure their students progress. As far as classroom management, they always have control and are able to resolve conflicts before they may happen. Experts are not perfect but they continue to learn and make necessary modifications.

David Roepcke's picture

Some of this depends on how we each perceive the term "expert teacher"? Is there an absolute level that can be reached or is it just something we strive for like a runner always going for a faster time.

In the article, Becoming Expert Teachers (Part One) by Garmston (1998), there are are six areas of expertise that in essence encompass every aspect of teaching. As mentioned by Shannon and suggested by Garmston (1998), only when experience has been properly reflected and evaluated can it contribute to becoming and expert teacher. Garmston (1998) states that "expert teachers know more than novices and organize that knowledge differently, retrieve it easily, and apply it in novel and creative ways" (p. 1). In my opinion this suggests that there are "expert" teachers, but it takes constant reflection of how to improve as the curriculum, students, job market and new ideas must always be considered. So it is not like winning an award and always being able to claim it. "Expert" teachers are always being proactive and preparing for what lies ahead while correcting any mistakes made in the past.

Nieto (Laureate Education, Inc., 2007) suggests that being an "expert" teacher is not attainable for the very reason that there is always something more to be discovered. Nieto (Laureate Education, Inc., 2007) seems to highlight the importance of striving towards expertise as an attitude that is either seeking it or going against it.

Morgan's picture

As a fourth year kindergarten teacher, I have the privilege of working with an expert teacher. This teacher does not write articles or books but has mastered her craft so well that it makes me so special to be able to work with her on a daily basis. In my opinion what makes her an expert is that she is well-versed in the curriculum, has a wonderful repertoire with parents and colleagues, and genuinely loves what she does on a daily basis. She is constantly striving to become the best teacher that she can be, and does so with minimal complaints, although she has been doing this for many years.

Debbie Anderson's picture

The National Board process of becoming an Accomplished Teacher sets a high bar for our profession, with 5 Core Propositions that every teacher should know and be able to do. More than 80,000 teachers have accomplished certification, and about 200 studies have validated their increased effectiveness. Documented Accomplishment of Student Learning requires application outside of face-to-face student time, to parents, communities, and beyond... A primary expectation is reflective practice, understanding that we are always developing. After 3 years of licensed teaching, we would invite any teacher to take up this challenge. Performance assessment reaching toward national standards assists in personal growth beyond any test or coursework.

Hudson Don's picture
Hudson Don
Prematurely retired high school English teacher because of blindness (legal

Did this discussion end in Feb. of this year?
Expert, Experienced, Novice, why are we looking for the definition or model for these? Where ever we set the bar for highest effectiveness of a teacher, that mark changes instantly for a variety of reasons. I agree we have some concepts and expectations for teachers. But the direction of our and the world's cultures is changing those concepts and expectations.
Mankind always had teachers. And to a large degree teachers are at odds with their society. That's because the process of real teaching is about real learning and real learning must probe, must ask questions, must experiment, must challenge the status quo. Historically, that's never been a comfortable process.
The more primitive the culture the closer learning is to survival. The primitive child must know how to use fire to survive. What must the modern child know to survive? Who will show the child the way? Is survival in the modern world the same thing as being acceptable to the modern world?
The topic of content appears in several responses in this discussion.
What is content? Several academic and industrial think-tanks observing the growing volume of information put forth versions of this theory-The total of information in the world doubled from the time of Christ to the American Civil War. Then doubled again at the turn of the century. Twenty nine years later at the time of the big stock market crash it doubled again. And again in 1950. By now, today, the amount of information that exists is doubling at a rate of less than once a year. Is it possible to teach solely to content and that therefore defines the teacher (standardized test scores defining a teacher)?
I raised this question to a friend who teachers history and geography. I made the mistake of saying teaching to content is not important anymore. For example the world map has changed more in the last two decades than it has in the last 10,000 years. It's nearly impossible to find an accurate world globe.
Should we be teaching geography?
Yes! But it cannot be done the way it has always been done.To learn geography anymore our kids need to be geographers.
She responded adamantly, "I think its important. The content of history is constant."
"No its not!" I exclaimed. "The history of slavery in America has been written for teaching purposes primarily by old, white, men. Only in the last few decades has the history of American slavery been allowed the voice of black people and women. How about this? A fifth grader and I could get the same long addition math problem and get the same answer. But looking at my work and the fifth grader's work would be like looking a two different languages and my work would have no meaning to the fifth grader as his would have none to me."
She smiled, didn't agree, but left a little wobbly because her foundation had been rocked. Because content cannot be the goal, the standard of teaching any more - doesn't that change the concept of teacher? Isn't it more important than ever that education be about learning and teachers become the facilitators of each individual's learning process?
So what should happen?
To learn science our children have to be scientists, to learn to write our children need to be writers, to learn music our children need to be musicians and default, so must our teachers.

Debbie Anderson's picture

The National Board process for becoming certified as an Accomplished Teacher is excellent professional development. Based on the 5 Core Propositions of Accomplished Teaching, each certificate area is based on National Standards. Performance-based assessment portfolios also require demonstration of documented accomplishment of student learning outside of the classroom. Self-analysis and ongoing reflection are critical pieces of this change process. After 3 years of licensed teaching, any teacher is eligible. Join 80,000 of your peers; visit for more information. About 200 research studies have proven the increased effectiveness of Accomplished Teachers. To continue cohesive schoolwide improvement, the next certificate areas to be offered will be Accomplished Administrators and Teacher Leaders.

Johanna Riddle's picture

I absolutely agree that many teachers become experts in their particular areas of specialty--through a combination of time, continued education, dialogue with other teachers, a passion for their work, the ability to learn from their mistakes as well as their successes, and the willingness to share what they know with their colleagues. I believe that there are some "expert teachers" out there--though they are rare. A few years in a classroom far, far away and a spot on the conference circuit do not an expert make. Real experts are the educators who have experienced and contributed to many facets of education over a long period of time, who have been committed to continual growth and learning, and who balance real time in real classrooms with real students with professional development and sharing what they know through publications, public speaking, and mentoring. They have a dimensional perspective that weaves all of the pieces and parts of the educational process together.

Megan's picture

I also agree that it is not mere experience that creates an expert teacher. I think to be an expert you need to devote yourself to be a lifelong learner. The education field is ever changing and in order to stay up to date with all these changes you, the teacher, must engage in professional development. Expert teachers are those who are committed to learning and who go above and beyond the curriculum.

Megan's picture

I to agree with what Lindsey is stating. I do not see how anyone can become an expert in every aspect of education. There are amazing educators out in the teaching field, but none of them are "experts" in all the different educational aspects. I think you can become an expert in your content area, an expert with teaching strategies, and expert in methodology.

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