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Going from teaching veteran to expert teacher

By Nicole Pokorney

The more I research and study the facets of teaching, the more I am aware that we as educators don't always apply the same methods of reflection on ourselves as we do to the youth we serve. Do we study to be scholarly teachers? Do we understand the scholarship of teaching as it pertains to our professional development and promotion? Do we take the time to dive deep into reflection to become experts in our teaching?

Over the last few years, I have been studying the art of teaching and reflective practice as a nonformal educator. In his book, Becoming a Reflective Teacher, Robert J. Marzano and his team from the Marzano Research Laboratory compare the development of an expert teacher to that of an athlete. "Just as athletes wanting to improve their skills must identify personal strengths and weaknesses, set goals, and engage in focused practice to meet those goals, teachers must also examine their practices, set growth goals, and use focused practice and feedback to achieve those goals. These reflective practices are essential to the development of expertise in teaching."

Bowden describes the scholarship of teaching as "centered on student learning" and an "act of excellent teaching." Glassick defines scholarship of teaching further to include that the work must be public, available for peer review and critique, and must be able to be reproduced and used by other educators (p. 879). Kreber describes, "The scholarship of teaching and learning, or professionalism in teaching, therefore, needs to be conceptualized broadly and integrate the notion of professionalism..."

Through this literature review, I summarized a list of indicators for scholarship of teaching that are within the reach of all nonformal educators:
  • Develop a teaching philosophy
  • Continually question everything we do in the learning environment
  • Ask for peer review of educational materials
  • Use course evaluations
  • Watch others teach
  • Participate in a curriculum review committee
  • Take part in philosophical discussions on student learning
  • Read scholarly works related to teaching pedagogy
  • Attend teaching conferences
  • Share information with colleagues
  • Transform learning through critical reflection from evaluations and teaching journal
  • Create a teaching portfolio
After each teaching opportunity, I now use my teaching experience, as well as participant data, to reflect on the session and meticulously make revisions to program content and methods of presentation, as well as prepare for my next teaching opportunity. I developed a personal teaching diary, solicit participant feedback, developed my teaching philosophy, and pursue opportunities to gain new knowledge of teaching techniques.

Do you consider yourself a scholarly teacher? What are the techniques you use to improve your skills as an educator?
-- Nicole Pokorney, Extension educator

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  1. Thanks for your post, Nicole! It reminds me of the notion that we develop expertise through deliberate practice – or, appropriately challenging tasks that are chosen with the goal of improving performance. The idea is that we hone our expertise when we have ongoing opportunities to engage with the full range of challenges associated with our practice and receive authentic feedback. I appreciate the deeply reflective process you outline, and would add the importance of receiving feedback – being observed, recorded and reflected upon by others.

  2. Thanks for the post Nicole. Very interesting items for me to take a look at--thanks for sharing!
    I am curious to the analogy to star athletes in your second paragraph-- it challenges my notion of how elite athletes are more focused on their one sport (along with general strength trng, etc of course)--and how when I think of teaching I think of ALL the things we have to improve on to be effective and reflective in our teaching! So it's a good analogy to consider more...what are some specific areas we as teachers want to focus attention on? and then making a more intentional plan for that being an important aspect of becoming a better teacher.
    I'll enjoy digging into your resources!

  3. This is a great post, Nicole. You provide a rich list for educators! As we are planning for a facilitator training for our staff later in the year, this gives us some good food for thought. One other strategy we are considering for teaching improvement is videotaping for peer feedback and self-feedback. Your thoughts on that addition to your list? I have considered it in my plan of work the past few years but have never pulled the trigger to implement the idea. It is a bit intimidating but also would provide powerful feedback!

  4. Thank you for the comments, Kate! Yes! We challenge the youth we work with and have them develop goals, yet may not take the time for us to establish and practice the same guidelines for ourselves. Receiving colleague feedback is vital to improvement. Videotaping remains a valuable experience for educators.

  5. Anne, the analogy about the athletes really struck me, too! Marzano uses this analogy in the first section of the book to refer to becoming an expert. Athletes become elite/expert in their field by a deliberate practice over many years. It doesn't happen overnight. There are many facets of becoming an elite athlete, as so it is with becoming an expert educator!


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