Educational Psychology: Expertise in Teaching
Expert Teacher Interview Questions
1) Do you feel you are confident teaching all the subject matter? Are there some areas you feel more comfortable teaching? Less comfortable? Has an area of specialization aided you in teaching the subject matter?
2) How have you encouraged the less motivated students to participate in the lesson and do their work?
3) What student-centered techniques do you utilize to enhance student understanding? (e.g. small group work, class discussions, jigsaw method of group work, student-centered discovery, etc.) Do you recommend some types of student-directed learning over others, or not at all?
4) What teaching materials have you found to be educationally useful in the classroom (e.g. computer, Internet, CD-ROM, board games, flash cards, etc.)?
5) Briefly, how would you age appropriate a lesson on sexual harassment, for example, to third graders?
6) How have you integrated multi-cultural issues into the classroom (e.g. guest speakers, field trips, etc.)?
7) Due to the mainstreaming of exceptional children, how would you generally change or alter the curriculum for a student with a mild learning disability?
8) How have you dealt with issues of classroom management and disruptive students (e.g. set rules and consequences, notes home or conferences with parents, principal, etc.)?
9) What are some of your professional goals? How about long-term goals for your students?
10) In your own words, what should be the main goal of any teacher?
Expertise in Teaching
When asked to name the teachers who have had the greatest positive impact on us, we tend to name those who were warm, energetic, enthusiastic, organized, impartial, and competent in their field. Expert teachers employ all of these traits, and, as the text states, are "experienced" and "effective" and have "developed solutions for common classroom problems" (Woolfolk, 2001). I chose to interview my fourth grade teacher, Mr. Brian Mendez, because he not only demonstrates expertise in teaching, but also has created a fun and proactive learning environment, which I hope to emulate in my future classroom.
In order to teach effectively, the teacher must have a strong knowledge base of the material (Woolfolk, 2001). Mr. Mendez feels confident teaching all areas of the curriculum. A teacher who does not feel comfortable in his or her ability presenting a certain aspect of the material would most likely have difficulty relating the material to children. Specializing in a subject is not only important for advanced knowledge base, but for practicality as well. Mr. Mendez noted that having different teachers specializing (and teaching) in different areas of the curriculum saves time in lesson planning: students visit another classroom for science, for example. This arrangement also offers him an opportunity to meet with other students.
Expert teachers are also instrumental in motivating all students to learn (Woolfolk, 2001). When a student lacks motivation to learn or do work, these experts scout out ways to encourage learning. Mr. Mendez holds his fourth grade students accountable for getting their work in and in on time. The students are given choices as to whether to redo homework for a better grade, thus granting them more autonomy in the classroom. An important goal would be to have his students be motivated by intrinsic goals – a will to do better. When students are essentially in control of their learning, they can better set goals for themselves, and take pride in their finished product. However, some students still need that extra push of encouragement, and that is when parents are informed.
Expert teachers take into consideration "settings in which students learn" (Woolfolk, 2001). Mr. Mendez is very aware of these "settings," and has explored various ways in which group work enhances learning in his classroom. He has found that having students work individually on a task, share their findings with a neighbor, and then regroup for a class discussion is recommended for larger class sizes. With class sizes growing, expert teachers must discover effective approaches to group learning.
Expertise in teaching involves utilizing materials that are curriculum based and age appropriate (Woolfolk, 2001). My expert teacher says he is quite impressed with a typing program which is informative and fun for the children. Educational board games, such as Boggle, aid in word recognition and are fast-paced fun. Mr. Mendez realizes that students learn best when the computer program, board game, or project, is enjoyable to the students. The expert teacher knows that learning can be fun, and will integrate different learning activities into the curriculum.
Not specifically mentioned in the text, but of equal importance regarding expert teaching, is the manner in which the teacher handles serious problems. Expert teachers are able to explain difficult situations, such as sexual harassment, to students in an age-appropriate manner. Mr. Mendez realizes that issues as complicated as sexual harassment may not be appropriate to discuss with fourth graders in a large group setting. Specialists such as the school guidance counselor offer age-appropriate lessons, such as "good touch, bad touch." Unless the school was experiencing problems, it would be unnecessary to subject young students to discussions, outside that of the guidance counselor, that could cause awkwardness, discomfort, or cause even more problems. Moreover, expert teachers would not wait for the problem to escalate; problems are dealt with immediately and fairly.
Expert teachers understand the importance of diversity in the classroom, and understand how cultural differences can affect how one learns (Woolfolk, 2001). They also utilize the school as a democratic institution where values such as tolerance and acceptance are stressed. Mr. Mendez demonstrates his expertise by starting off the year explaining to students that they are not to judge other people based on race, weight, etc. Although the teacher's year is filled with curriculum standards and testing mandates, an expert teacher will make time to discuss with his or her class the "I Have A Dream" speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., or take a field trip to the Mexican Fiesta.
A teacher's main goal is to teach, and this does not just apply to average or above average students. Expert teachers strive to help every student achieve, even those with special needs. By reading through a student's I.E.P., Mr. Mendez can determine what kind, and how much help a student will need for test preparation, homework, etc. Expert teachers care about every student's achievement and make accommodations for students with special needs, in order to create a fair learning environment.
Expert teachers handle the classroom in an orderly and democratic fashion. Teachers should not have to scold their students or beg and plead to gain attention or control. Through the years, Mr. Mendez has based his classroom management philosophy on the issue of respect. I believe this is a very important classroom philosophy: the teacher respects the students, and in turn, the students respect the teacher. He stated that good teachers set classroom rules and follow through with the proper consequences.
Professional development was not mentioned specifically in the text, but I believe it to be an important aspect of expert teaching. Continuing education not only keeps the teacher's mind active, but also creates more opportunity to explore different areas of teaching. Mr. Mendez chose to pursuit a Masters program in administration, but found he was not interested. By pursuing a higher education, teachers discover areas that peak their interests (thus becoming areas explored in depth) and those areas that do not.
Expert teachers have goals for themselves, their students, and their schools (Woolfolk, 2001). These might be day-to-day goals, such as teaching the concept of long division; or they might be long-term, such as helping students develop tolerance for people of a different culture. My interviewee, Mr. Mendez, emphasized that every teacher, beginner and veteran, must realize that his or her main purpose is "to TEACH." Expert teachers know their main goal is to teach, but also go that extra mile by making learning fun, expressing warmth, and establishing a fair and democratic learning environment.
Achieving expert teacher status is not solely dependant on years of teaching. Some veteran teachers do not exhibit any of the above qualities, and some beginning teachers seem to be born with such abilities. Analyzing Mr. Mendez's comments, I have come to the conclusion that expertise in teaching develops after some time and practice, but is mainly a product of patience, and an understanding of children. Expert teachers are aware of how each individual learns, and is attune to every unique learning style. Preparation is key to establishing teacher quality (Woolfolk, 2001). Expertise in teaching is not a terminal state: methods and styles must continuously be altered to accommodate for each new influx of students. Thus, expert teachers are flexible. However, teachers can develop their expertise by listening to students, offering feedback, noticing effective individual learning styles, and understanding the ways in which each student is unique and special.
Woolfolk, Anita. (2001). Educational Psychology. (9th ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.