What Do Expert Teachers Do?

It takes a bold teacher to say they are an ‘expert’ but they do exist and there are some cracking ones out there. Even if they won’t admit it, the expert teacher does certain things that make them stand out.

So what is it they do compared to the rest of us?

Professor John Hattie and his colleague Dick Jaeger (2003) studied the differences between experienced and expert teachers.  and found a range of key points.

They identified five major dimensions of excellent teachers. Expert teachers

  1. can identify essential representations of their subject
  2. can guide learning through classroom interactions
  3. can monitor learning and provide feedback
  4. can attend to affective attributes
  5. can influence student outcomes

Let’s take a closer look at these.

1. Expert teachers have deeper representations about teaching and learning.

Hattie and Jaeger say that experts and experienced teachers might share the same amount of knowledge about curriculum matters or knowledge about teaching strategies but experts differ in how they organise and use this content knowledge.

Experts possess knowledge that is more integrated, in that they combine new subject matter content knowledge with prior knowledge; can relate current lesson content to other subjects in the curriculum; and make lessons uniquely their own by changing, combining, and adding to them according to their students’ needs and their own goals.

Expert teachers adopt a problem-solving mindset and are more flexible and opportunistic. They look for further information and are guided on solving problems in relation to individual students’ performance in the class.

They take advantage of new information, quickly bringing new interpretations and representations of the problem to light (Shulman, 1987).

Expert teachers aren’t guided by bullet-points but improvise and adapt and spend more time trying to understand the problem to be solved rather than trying out different solutions. They are greater seekers and users of feedback information.

Expert teachers are better decision-makers and can identify what decisions are important and which are less important decisions. Commonly, if expert teachers don’t have a written lesson plan, they have a great mental lesson plan they can easily describe.

2. Guiding Learning through Classroom Interactions

Expert teachers are proficient at creating an optimal classroom climate for learning. They craft a truly ‘learning’ environment by allowing for, and tolerating, student errors. Mistakes are welcomed, student questioning is high, engagement is the norm, and their classrooms are the places where students can gain reputations as effective learners.

Expert teachers have a multi-dimensionally complex perception of classroom situations.

They are good at scanning classroom behaviour and make greater references to the language of instruction and learning of students.

Expert teachers are more context-dependent and have high situation cognition. They are more likely to ask questions and want to know about the ability, experience, and background of the students they are to teach. They also want to know about the facility in which they would be teaching.

3. Monitoring Learning and Provide Feedback

Expert teachers are more adept at monitoring student problems and assessing their level of understanding and progress, and they provide much more relevant, useful feedback.

They anticipate and prevent disturbances from occurring because they are more in tune and responsive to students. They can detect when students lose interest and are not understanding.

They provide better feedback because they are better able to filter relevant from irrelevant information, and are able to monitor, understand, and interpret events in more detail and with more insight than experienced teachers.

Expert teachers are more adept at developing and testing hypotheses about learning difficulties or instructional strategies.

They are also more ‘automatic’. They develop automaticity so as to free working memory to deal with other more complex characteristics of a situation.

4. Attending to Affective Attributes

Expert teachers have high respect for students as learners and people, and demonstrate care and commitment for them. Being in tune and enjoying good relationships with their students means they can more readily recognise barriers to learning and can seek ways to overcome these barriers.

Expert teachers are passionate about teaching and learning and they show more emotionality about successes and failures in their work.

5. Influencing Student Outcomes

Expert teachers engage students in learning and develop in their students self-regulation, involvement in mastery learning, enhanced self-efficacy, and self-esteem as learners.

They aim to motivate their students to master rather than perform, they enhance students’ self-concept and self-efficacy about learning, and they set appropriate challenging tasks, and they aim for both surface and deep outcomes.

Expert teachers provide appropriate challenging tasks and goals for students that are beyond the “do your best” goals. 80% of
most class time is spent with teachers talking and students listening.

Expert teachers have positive influences on students’ achievement. They enhance surface and deep learning.

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