What makes an expert teacher? | Richard Wells | 7 Min Read

August 19, 2022

“You’re just a glorified babysitter” a (non-teaching) husband ‘joked’ to his (teacher) wife.
“… I went to school, I know what teachers do and I can see what you do at home in the evenings. As long as you have something to occupy the kids with tomorrow, you’re all good.”

Are teachers trained to be experts?

After teaching grades 6 to 12 for 20 years in the UK and New Zealand and working with many educators in the U.S. and Australia, plus seeing much of the #EdChat online, I would have to partly agree with this husband. However, we the teachers are not to blame. This post is about the absence of structured, national professional development initiatives. An absence that leads to a lack of expertise, ad hoc decisions, and attempts to enhance the way that teachers occupy the time of students.  

Training for survival

Most teacher training around the world consists of a year, normally post-degree, where you are essentially trained to survive your first year in teaching. This limited time frame leads to a narrow focus on organization, resources for curriculum, and classroom management. Once this training is over, you start your career in survival mode with a heavy focus on classroom management. In very few countries are you then, for example, placed on a fully-funded five-year professional development program to complement and develop your teaching; a program based on best practice research to specifically target the enhancement of understanding and learning in your classroom. Most teachers are expected to just develop the “art of teaching” over the next few years. 

Are you an expert teacher?

If you are reading this I am guessing you are likely to be or have been a teacher. My experience says that teachers are comfortable once they can manage a class and then understand their job is to primarily:

  1. Know which topic you’re going to show to the kids tomorrow
  2. Have a task ready that looks at that topic pitched for that age group
  3. Have some idea about how you will assess the work

[Please comment if you think this is not the majority of teachers’ planning/workload]

As it’s the case that I have seen both first-year teachers and experienced teachers master the three points above, it leaves me thinking …

What does an ‘expert’ teacher look like?

Consider the last lesson…

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Richard Wells

Richard Wells is a world-recognized educator, author and blogger on future education trends. He has presented around the world and has been rated in the top 50 world influencers for educational technology use. He currently works in school leadership and is passionate about moving schools forward to better represent the needs of the 21st century. Richard is an EdTech influencer who founded EduWells, a top 10 education blog. He is the author of A Learner's Paradise, a book in which he explains how education can operate without classrooms, lessons, subjects, and tests. Richard proudly started his career with a degree in Fine Art from Manchester in England. He worked in IT before contracting to work in schools, digitalizing their workflows in the late 1990s. He became an educator in 2003.