Understanding and developing outstanding practice as a primary
Understanding and developing outstanding practice as a primary classteacher: lessons from the literature on teacher expertise Dr Tony Eaude Department of Education University of Oxford [email protected] www.edperspectives.org.uk 'The regular classroom teacher is confronted, not with a single patient, but with a classroom filled with 25 to 35 youngsters. The teacher's goals are multiple Even in the ubiquitous primary reading group, the teacher must simultaneously be concerned with the learning of decoding skills as well as comprehension, with motivation and love of reading as well as word-attack, and must monitor the performance of the six to eight students in front of her while not losing touch with the other two dozen in the room The only time a physician could possibly encounter a situation of comparable complexity would be in the emergency room of a hospital during or after a natural disaster.' (Shulman, 2004, p 504) Overview This session is based on my theoretical work published in Eaude (2012, 2013) on the expertise of the primary classteacher, building on research, mostly from the US, summarised in Chapter 21 of the Cambridge Primary Review (Alexander, 2010). This draws on research on: expertise, in whatever field;
teacher expertise, in whatever subject or phase; the expertise of the primary classteacher, taking account of the types of knowledge needed, the nature of the role and the constraints, both external and internal. You may not like the term expertise, perhaps because it seems too exclusive or arrogant. But if we are to understand the complexity of the task in a more profound way than Ofsteds view of outstanding based on observing individuals lessons, and to avoid teaching being seen as little more than applied common sense, we need to try and articulate what makes teaching a class of young children so challenging- even if it looks easy when done well. Expertise in general Three important lessons about expertise are that it is prototypical, that is within broad, fluid boundaries to take account of individual difference;
situated, that is specific to the learning needs of a particular age-group or context; and mostly tacit and so hard for either the teacher or an observer to describe, however easily recognised. And one about expertise in different contexts: in static situations, like a chess match or designing a building, one can reflect for a long time; in more fluid, changing situations, like playing rugby or teaching, one has to act much more intuitively, based far more on intuition, reflection-in-action and case knowledge. Any one person will have different levels will have levels of expertise for different aspects of the task (for instance can a professional pianist play all composers with the same level of skill? Or a chef prepare starters to the same level as desserts?) Expertise is learned and has constantly to be worked at, if one is to maintain the same level of performance. Expertise is built up over time, not just doing more of the same but working in subtly different ways. How do experts (in any field) act and think?
Drawing on Glaser's work, the following propositions can be made about how experts act and think: expertise is specific to a domain, developed over hundreds and thousands of hours, and continues to develop; development of expertise is not linear, with plateaus occurring, indicating shifts of understanding; expert knowledge is structured better for use in performance; experts represent problems in qualitatively different - deeper and richer - ways; experts recognise meaningful patterns more quickly; experts are more flexible and more opportunistic planners;
experts impose meaning on, and are less easily misled by, ambiguous stimuli; experts may start to solve a problem more slowly but overall they are faster problem solvers; experts are usually more constrained by task requirements and the social constraints of the situation [though I suggest that experts recognise rather than are constrained by these]; experts develop automaticity to allow conscious processing of more complex information; experts have well-developed self-regulatory processes as they engage in their activities. (Eaude, 2012, pp 8/9) Teacher expertise 1 Alexander (2010, pp 417-8) draws on the work of Bond et al. to identify thirteen areas within which teacher expertise can
be categorised, here summarised under five headings: Teacher knowledge better use of knowledge; extensive pedagogical content knowledge, including deep representations of subject matter; Setting objectives and providing feedback more challenging objectives; better monitoring of learning and providing feedback to students; better adaptation and modifications of goals for diverse learners including better skills for improvisation; Understanding and responding to events better perception of classroom events including a better ability to read cues from students; better problem-solving strategies; more frequent testing of hypotheses; better decision-making; Climate and context better classroom climate; greater sensitivity to context; Attitude and beliefs greater respect for students; display of more passion for teaching. Teacher expertise 2 Alexander (2010, p 418) cites research which states that the features on the previous page were 'correlated with measures such as students' higher levels of achievement, deep rather than surface understanding of subject matter, higher motivation to learn and feelings of self-efficacy', especially with younger and low-income pupils. Most of the embarrassments of pedagogy that I encounter are not the inability of
teachers to teach well, for an hour or even a day. Rather they flow from an inability to sustain episodes of teaching and learning over time that unfold, accumulate, into meaningful understanding in students. (Shulman, 2004, p 396) Cooper and McIntyre (1996, pp. 78 -82) highlight that the skilled teachers whom they studied balanced long-term aims, over an extended time scale, with short-term objectives. I suggest that the primary classteacher has multiple (and often conflicting) aims over time, not just related to one subject and measurable outcomes. Teacher knowledge Teaching is mainly a practical activity, which depends on how it is done. So, much teacher knowledge is procedural and largely tacit, often described as craft knowledge. Grimmett and Mackinnon (1992, p 437) argue that 'craft knowledge is vastly different from the packaged and glossy maxims that govern the science of education Craft knowledge has a different sort of rigour, one that places more confidence in the judgement of teachers, their feel for the work, their love for students and learning. We shall come back to the features of primary classteachers craft knowledge. Domain knowledge is often confused with subject knowledge. Expertise in teaching as in other fields depends on how knowledge is structured and used. So, rather than subject knowledge as such, teachers should focus more on pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) which Shulman (2004, p 203) defines as: a particular form of content knowledge that embodies the aspect of content most germane to its teachability the most useful forms of representation the most powerful analogies, illustrations, examples, explanations and demonstrations the ways of formulating the subject that make it comprehensible to others. I argue that personal/interpersonal knowledge knowledge of self and others and how these affect each other is a central and often overlooked aspect and is especially important with young children, for reasons to be explored. One other sort of teacher knowledge is case knowledge, what Herb Simon called old friends, the sense that I have been here (or somewhere very like it) before and so can draw on that to know what to do, or to
avoid. This is gathered largely through experience. Five key elements of craft knowledge John (2000, pp. 98- 101) identifies five important aspects of how student teachers demonstrate their level of expertise: problem avoidance; interpretation of pupil cues; opportunity creation; improvisation; and mood assessment (and the ability to change the mood). The first depends on attunement both to the class and particular individuals.
The next three emphasise that teaching young children especially is a reciprocal process which requires disciplined improvisation rather than scripted instruction (Sawyer, 2004). Assessment of mood is often overlooked but vital to avoid losing the class which can happen very quickly with young children. Five more key elements of craft knowledge Elliott et al. (2011, p 99) suggest as elements of expertise skills such as; withitness (being aware of events taking place); the capacity to manage multiple events concurrently; the skilful use and regulation of voice; the subtle deployment of non-verbal behaviour; and sensitivity in the control of spoken communication patterns.
The first two are related to the complexity of the classroom and may tend to encourage less expert teachers especially to oversimplify and overcontrol. The last three are much more to do with verbal and body language and how these are used. Key aspects of what is distinctive about primary classteachers expertise Primary classrooms are unpredictable and so at times messy. Making teaching too tidy and planned in advance loses much of the spontaneity and reciprocity necessary for young childrens learning. Primary classteachers' expertise involves aspects such as meeting multiple, often conflicting, aims, over time adopting a wide repertoire of pedagogies and pedagogical content knowledge across a range of subjects making links across subjects and helping children to do so having broad as well as high expectations
being attuned to take as well as to give feedback improvising in response to unexpected events modelling appropriate types of response Twelve propositions about classteachers with a high level of expertise with young children are more concerned with a broad range of pedagogical content knowledge and ways of working and thinking within disciplines than just with subject knowledge; seek to match activities and experiences to children's current level of understanding, but allow scope for individuals and groups to adapt these; regard assessment, especially in-the-moment, and disciplined improvisation, rather than planning with predetermined outcomes, as integral to teaching; adopt a range of pedagogies, depending on what is to be learned, but with a strong element of apprenticeship, enabling children to be active and take increasing control of their learning; are attuned to the emotional and cognitive needs, both of individuals and of the whole class, to inform both planning and methods of feedback;
create and sustain, over time, an inclusive learning environment sensitive to, and respectful of, children's culture and background, but helping to expand their cultural horizons; provide a broad and challenging range of activities, experiences and opportunities to sustain children's interest and to broaden, strengthen and deepen, the skills, attributes and dispositions associated with lifelong learning; encourage risk-taking and creativity, both independently and in groups, but protect children, especially the least resilient, from the emotional cost of failure; seek to understand and influence, rather than control, children's behaviour, recognising the many factors which affect this and the importance of caring relationships; recognise that education involves multiple, and often conflicting, aims and maintain an emphasis on children's long-term needs, helping to encourage intrinsic motivation; believe that every child can achieve more than s/he thinks that they can, and encourage and support them in having and meeting broad as well as high aspirations; have the confidence to make their own professional, and informed, judgements, both long-term and in-the-moment, in response to the group's needs, rather than simply to comply. Inherent constraints on manifesting expertise Given the importance of confidence and feeling at-ease, we need as teachers to recognise for ourselves constraints which can undermine this. Some are inherent in teaching a class of young children: the sheer busyness of the task the emotional aspect which can often bring out our own vulnerabilities
the close link for many primary teachers between personal and professional identity the power that teachers exert over young children, so that the teacher should not be too certain, if she is to avoid inhibiting creativity External constraints on expertise There are also external constraints such as being: watched and judged by others, inspectors, heads, tutors and mentors (however unthreatening you try to be) expected to conform to the requirements of headteachers and inspectors and teach according to a one-size fits-all model asked to cover a great deal of material at considerable pace. Combined, these can often lead us and especially those who are new to
the role- to overcontrol, talk too much, rely too much on instruction and underestimate what children can do. As a result, we easily narrow the opportunities open to children and encourage superficial learning. Strategies, approaches and characteristics in developing expertise (adapted from Alexander, 2010, pp. 416-7) Stage Novice Strategies Overall approach Context-free rules Relatively inflexible, and guidelines limited skill Characteristi c Deliberate Advance Practical case d knowledge beginne r
Use of rules qualified by Insightful greater understanding of conditions Compet Discrimination of ent what matters or not Conscious choices, but not Rational yet fast, fluid or flexible Proficien Accumulated case Degree of intuition based t knowledge on prediction of pupil enabling key response points to be noticed Intuitive Expert
Arational Deep reserves of tacit knowledge Apparently effortless, fluid, instinctive, though able to fall back on deliberate, analytical Implications for the development of primary classteacher expertise Expertise in teaching a class of young children: involves being in control, without controlling requires confidence, based on subject knowledge, knowledge of the class, well-planned lessons, and knowledge of ones own strengths and weaknesses and collaboration with others takes years to build up and is never fully achieved
Possible implications for mentors 1: skills and craft knowledge I suggest that mentors should work on trying with students to: help them recognise that one does not become an outstanding teacher in every respect quickly develop PCK rather than subject knowledge, as such, with a particular focus on childrens common misconceptions build up case knowledge by watching (several) other teachers at work and trying to identify what they do and why plan carefully but for flexibility, and recognising how short-term planning fits into a longer view of progression Shulman (2004, p 564) sees case studies as valuable because 'participants are urged to elaborate on .. what actually happened, what was said and done, how all that occurred made them feel... to dig deep into the particularity of the context because it is in the
devilish details that practice differs dramatically from theory.' Possible implications for mentors 2: attitudes and beliefs Twiselton's (2006) research into primary student teachers characterises some as 'task managers', with little emphasis on children's learning; some as 'curriculum deliverers' where the focus is more on learning but largely based on external demands; and some as 'concept/skill builders' where they understand and encouraged patterns of learning beyond the task. So, mentors have a key role for: influencing students beliefs about teaching and children so that they see the immediate task as part of a bigger picture and understand the importance of their own (and childrens) beliefs about ability
encouraging students to understand the emotional and relational aspects of teaching and so of judgement rather than just to be curriculum deliverers helping students to be attuned to children and maintain their own enthusiasm and passion for teaching A few last comments Please feel free to comment, to challenge or ask questions, especially ones which we can explore further in the afternoon workshop. If you are interested in my book, I have a few copies with me or it can be ordered via http://criticalpublishing.com/index.php/browse-by-subject-1/teacher-train ing.html Thank you for listening. I hope that you have found the ideas resonate with your own experience- and good luck in your further work with students. References Alexander, R. (Ed). (2010). Children, their World, their Education - final report and recommendations of the Cambridge Primary Review. Abingdon, Routledge. Cooper, P., & McIntyre, D. (1996). Effective teaching and learning. Buckingham: Open University Press. Eaude, T. (2012). How do expert primary classteachers really work? A critical guide for teachers, headteachers and
teacher educators. Critical Publishing www.criticalpublishing.com Eaude, T. (2014) What makes primary classteachers special? Exploring the features of expertise in the primary classroom Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 20 (1), 4-18 (DOI: 10.1080/13540602.2013.848513). Elliott, J.G., Stemler, S.E., Sternberg, R.J., Grigorenko, E.L. and Hoffman, N. (2011). The socially skilled teacher and the development of tacit knowledge. British Educational Research Journal, 37 (1), 83- 103. Grimmett, P.P. and Mackinnon, A.M. (1992). Craft knowledge and the education of teachers. Review of Research in Education, 18, 385- 456. John, P. (2000). Awareness and intuition: how student teachers read their own lessons. In T. Atkinson and G. Claxton (Eds.) The Intuitive Practitioner - on the value of not always knowing what one is doing (pp. 84 - 106). Buckingham, Open University Press. Sawyer, R. K. (2004). Creative teaching: Collaborative discussion as disciplined improvisation. Educational Researcher, 33, 1220. Shulman, L.S. (2004). The Wisdom of Practice - Essays on Teaching, Learning and Learning to Teach. San Francisco, Jossey Bass. Sternberg, R.J. and Horvath, J.A. (1995). A Prototype View of Expert Teaching. Educational Researcher, 24 (6), 9-17.
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