Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Keeping an Eye on Learning: Differences between Expert and Novice Teachers' Representations of Classroom Management Events

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Keeping an Eye on Learning: Differences between Expert and Novice Teachers' Representations of Classroom Management Events

Article excerpt

Although it may seem natural to assume that every teacher places learning at the center of their practice, such an assumption could be sounder in theory than it is in practice. Shared characteristics of expert teachers, including their awareness of and impact on student learning, are well known (Berliner, 2001; Hattie, 2003). Although these characteristics are useful as points of comparison between expert teachers and those still actively developing their teaching skills, they do not provide a clear picture of what teachers' development looks like along the long road leading to expertise. We are left to wonder: How do teachers acquire their expertise, and what are the differences between experienced and inexperienced teachers?

Berliner (2001) has explained that

   Learning to teach is not simply learning how to survive the first
   week of school. It is primarily about learning to codify
   knowledge in order to draw on it again. And it is probably about
   complexifying and not simplifying the world. (p. 477)

Identifying how teachers at different stages of development think, how they perform while teaching, how they represent their teaching knowledge, and how they acquire the qualities, skills, and knowledge necessary for expertise are all ways in which we can further research on teacher expertise (Hogan, Rabinowitz, & Craven, 2003; Palmer, Stough, Burdenski, & Gonzales, 2005; Schempp, Tan, Manross, & Fincher, 1998). Although research published during the 1980s and 1990s has built a solid theoretical foundation concerning teacher expertise and its development, there is a lack of concrete, practical understanding of how teachers differ as they develop and gain expertise. Such an undertaking should be centered around teachers and what they do in practice, rather than theories about what teachers do (Verloop, van Driel, & Meijer, 2001). These older theories also run the risk of being out of touch with the reality of 21st-century classrooms. With this renewing, teacher-centered approach in mind, this study aims to update and enhance our understanding of the complexity of teaching and, in turn, the complexity of expertise differences in teaching.

Applying a cognitive perspective to teachers expertise can enhance insights into knowledge of and for teaching (Fenstermacher, 1994; Livingston & Borko, 1989). It also highlights the contribution that experience has on the expertise development process and the knowledge integration that takes place over the long term (Copeland, Birmingham, DeMeulle, D'Emidio-Caston, & Natal, 1994; Sabers, Cushing, & Berliner, 1991). Rather than broadly tackling the research gap in terms of relative differences between expert and novice teachers, we have confined our study to the indispensable skill of classroom management. As a complex skill that novice teachers consistently struggle to refine (van Tartwijk, Veldman, & Verloop, 2011), we take the view that classroom management must be performed effectively before deliberate attention can be given to skills in other areas of teaching (Berliner, 1988). Enriching our understanding of differences between experienced and inexperienced teachers' skills and performances--particularly how their sense-making of classroom events differs--helps clarify transformations in understanding that evolve as teachers acquire expertise (Copeland et al., 1994). Insight into teacher expertise differences helps illuminate how and where and in which ways novices diverge from experts. This research into skill and knowledge differences can be incorporated into teacher training programs so that teachers in the early stages of their career can establish realistic professional development goals based on the skills, strategies, and knowledge of experienced teachers.

Teacher Expertise and Expert-Novice Differences

Complexity of Teacher Expertise

In spite of inconsistencies associated with defining teacher expertise, researchers have produced a diverse collection of studies outlining differences between experienced, expert teachers and their less proficient counterparts. …

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