Is my teaching excellent? (part 2)
When I wrote part 1, I didn’t know there was going to be a part 2. However, here it is and it includes a subtle shift of emphasis. A shift from excellent or expert teachers, to excellent teaching. A shift towards adaptive and fluid experts. (Spoiler, there is also a part 3).
From Berliner’s introduction ‘Expert Teachers: Their Characteristics, Development and Accomplishments’ select which features you consider to be most influential for excellent teaching. Rather crudely, once selected, place each selection in order of influence, starting with the most influential. My response is outlined at the bottom of the post.
Among the propositions that have strong support are the following: expert teachers often develop automaticity and routinization for the repetitive operations that are needed to accomplish their goals; expert teachers are more sensitive to the task demands and social situation when solving pedagogical problems; expert teachers are more opportunistic and flexible in their teaching than are novices; expert teachers represent problems in qualitatively different ways than do novices; expert teachers have fast and accurate pattern recognition capabilities, while novices can not always make sense of what they experience; expert teachers perceive meaningful patterns in the domain in which they are experienced; and although expert teachers may begin to solve problems slower, they bring richer and more personal sources of information to bear on the problem they are trying to solve. Berliner (2004).
Expertise is specific to a domain, and to particular contexts in domains, and is developed over hundreds and thousands of hours.
- expertise is domain specific knowledge, subject and age (Sternberg and Horvath, 1995), acquired through lengthy contextualised experience
- generic teacher development is therefore unlikely to prove effective, needing to be age, subject or context relevant
- preactive and postactive: novice teachers will benefit from ‘working with’ fellow teachers in the preactive and postactive phase (cautionary note here: expert teachers may not be the best mentors)
- interactive: novice teachers would benefit from fewer, well rehearsed instructional routines, to enable them to focus on student-student interactions or student-teacher interactions
- interactive: novice teachers would equally benefit from ‘borrowing’ prefabbed, refined, explanations or activities from expert teachers, again to enable them to focus on student-student interactions or student-teacher interactions
- teachers must know the cognitive abilities of the students thus giving them insight for determining the level at which to teach
- preactive: access to students prior attainment and how to interpret and use that information is essential
- interactive: teachers will benefit from knowing their students personally,
- teaching is relational – promote continuity and avoid dissonance
- interactive: bureaucratic and formal mechanisms of behaviour control while teaching may initially support novice teachers, it may also impede learning (requires further investigation)
- experts benefit from foresight
- name of the board, three strikes, provide a frame for misbehaviour
- interactive: students taught by expert teachers, expect to be well taught and expect to be pushed to their intellectual limits (Berliner, Stein, Sabers, Clarridge, Cushing, and Pinnegar, 1988)
- interactive: some experts can use the same rich stores of domain specific knowledge as a basis for adaptive and fluid expertise.
To illustrate my point, as well as the two figures of 8 stamped on the corners of the play card, there’s a secret ‘8.’ If you knew what you were looking for, you will have found it already? If not, a simple signpost to look to the space between the eight diamond icons, will reveal the outline of a ‘hidden-in-plain-sight’ and third 8.
Here is where school culture, mentorship and coaching comes to the fore, supporting both focused, deliberate practice and coached performance. A move towards learning observations, instructional coaching and the use of technology to capture teaching practice. Excellent professional environments accelerate teacher development and student learning see (Kraft and Papay, 2015).
- automaticity and routinization for the repetitive operations
- more opportunistic and flexible
- fast and accurate pattern recognition capabilities
- represent problems in qualitatively different ways
- solve problems slower, [with] richer and more personal sources
- task demands and social situation when solving pedagogical problems