Sunday, February 12, 2012

Classroom teachers - the real educational experts

Our staff had a professional development day recently.  The group was asked some “simple” questions such as “How do children learn” and “What do you do to facilitate learning”.  The thoughts of the group were then collected and presented as a word cloud.  Obviously this is a relatively crude way of summarising the ideas of the group - but it does capture the essence of what was discussed.

It seems to me that this is a solid representation of the “wisdom of the group” approach. There were no “outside” educational leaders or gurus present at this workshop, no-one was flown in from interstate to facilitate, no-one earned a cent in presenters fees.  Yet the result is a more than fair representation of the things that effective teachers do. In fact, if each item was to be expanded and clarified we would have the basis of a fairly satisfactory professional text.

Obviously knowing what to do and being able to do it are two different things. If our staff can enact these practices in the classroom our students will be the beneficiaries.  However, it strikes me that the knowledge base in our staffroom is a fairly significant one. There is an expression that an expert is someone who lives more than 100 miles away. Upon reflection it is obvious that we all must live 100 miles away from someone - and thus can all be classified as experts.

Whilst it must be acknowledged that effective teachers need to be effective learners themselves and always strive to develop their skills and knowledge base, perhaps it is time to place more value on the “home grown” wisdom within our schools.

Effective classroom teachers may well be the real educational experts.


  1. Well said! Indeed there is a wealth of wisdom in our own schools, and it's fantastic that you are harnessing knowledge and skills at a grassroots level. In this day and age it is true that an "expert" can be someone right under your nose, not necessarily someone who must be flown in. Twitter and blogs have been great tools to show this, as people are judged for the quality of what they impart to others rather than their title. (With the exception of celebrities, to whom the inverse still remains.)

    I'd add that there can still be a place for flown in experts when there's a lack of knowledge on a topic at the school level, such as in ICT where the rate of technology change combined with teachers self-identifying the need for additional support to learn how to best apply effective ICT into the classroom, can mean the only way to get the learning is from outside the particular school. If you're lucky enough to already have these skills in your school fantastic, but if you don't you might have to look elsewhere.

    Though, who's to say you couldn't 'fly in' a teacher expert from another school who does have these skills to share. In a way that's what we're aiming to do at PLANE: interconnect Australian teachers across all sectors so they can share their skills and knowledge and collaborate in a self directed professional learning world.

    Thanks again for the great blog post :)
    Luci @ PLANE

  2. Hi Luci,
    Thanks for your comment. Yes – I’d have to agree that there is a place for genuine experts, or that schools can lack specific expertise at a particular time. I think your comment about using an “expert” from a nearby school is a good one too. I think there is a good argument that schools could develop their Professional Learning Networks and use them to acquire the skills that they need – which would appear to be what PLANE is trying to achieve. The main reason I wrote the piece was simply to acknowledge the knowledge base that the “average” teacher has – obviously there are exceptions but in the main, when people in schools work together, regardless of their official job description, there is a vast range of talent and a sound knowledge base across many areas of the curricula.
    It’s a bit like the Greenpeace slogan – “Think global, act local”. That approach may work well for schools too.
    Again, thanks for your comment.

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