Magazine article The Learning Professional

With the Growth of Teacher Leadership, the Word 'Expert' Sheds Its Negative Image

Magazine article The Learning Professional

With the Growth of Teacher Leadership, the Word 'Expert' Sheds Its Negative Image

Article excerpt

I've noticed that the word "expert" has a bad connotation in our field sometimes. When we talk about professional learning, expert can imply someone from outside a school swooping in to offer, for a fee, his or her wisdom from on high. In the most exaggerated versions of this image, the expert doesn't adapt messages to fit particular contexts or consider other points of view. While this is certainly a caricature, there's a reason we often hear the word so-called in front of the word expert: "We had a socalled expert here last week telling us what we're doing wrong."

Fortunately, as we shift our understanding of what makes a real difference for schools, we can reclaim the word "expert" as a useful one. When we talk about the experts we know personally and professionally, we use the word with respect. When policy documents outline career continuums, expert (or master) teachers typically have demonstrated their knowledge and skills over the course of many years in leading successful classrooms and supporting colleagues.

The idea of tapping the expertise that resides in schools underlies so much of what Learning Forward knows about effective professional learning. The school-based cycle of continuous improvement, central to our definition of professional learning, relies not only on data about student and adult needs but also on a culture of shared expertise, where teams of teachers openly examine the practices that work to improve student learning. Expertise from within and beyond the school ensures that collaborative professional learning creates change and sustains growth over time. That so-called expert who flew in may indeed have a lot to offer the school - if the school knows how to ask for the right kind of help and follow up over time to integrate the new knowledge into practice.

The teachet leader is at the heart of bringing expertise to the classroom and the school. Teacher leaders, in the varied recognized and informal roles they play in schools and school systems, ensure that we tap the considerable expertise resident in buildings. …

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