Experienced vs Expert Teachers Part 2

What would it look like?

My partner is a physiotherapist (in the hospital setting), and they have two pay scales. The first has 5 or 6 steps. The second requires alot of work just to get on, and it requires constant development to stay on and move up. I envision a similar “dual pay scale” in teaching as well. Experienced, and then expert.

The first argument I can see against this is that “all teachers must be experts (professionals), so really we should just have the 2nd pay scale. But that’s what we already have!”. I agree in principle, but the reality looks much different.

Our current pay scale has 7 or 8 steps, and although there is an appraisal system that you are required to be a part of to move up the pay scale,  you basically get promoted up them if you have a pulse. I previously did not agree with this pay system. It wasn’t until I started to take student teachers in my class that I was reminded of all the things I do in a classroom that I take for granted. How I set up my board, how I manage the class, my understanding of the curriculum, timing etc. All this has come through experience, and so now I am in a place where I will gladly say that my experience is an investment, and worth something. Therefore I am happy that I get paid more than graduate teachers. And this really sums up this pay scale. It is an experience pay scale.

The expert teacher has more than just experience, they have the answers to “why does this work in my classroom”. Not all experienced teachers are expert teachers, and not all experienced teachers can, or want to, become expert teachers. Becoming an expert teacher requires a true passion for the profession. It requires time, introspection, evaluation, research, and a heap of learning. I think an expert teacher can accurately answer Hattie’s mantra of “know thy impact”.

The second argument against this “dual pay scale” is that “to become an expert teacher, dont you need to go through an inquiry/appraisal system each year in order to improve your self? Everyone already does that, so everyone is an expert teacher!”

Becoming an expert teacher really does sounds like the inquiry/appraisal system doesn’t it? The problem with our current appraisal system is that everyone is forced into this system, and so the status quo has an incredibly low bar. Although we like to look at our own profession with rose tinted glasses, if we held our appraisal up to scrutiny against the scientific method (which it really should be), we would be laughed off the stage. The reality of our current system is that appraisal and inquiry (in secondary teaching) are largely a box ticking exercise, and consist of “I tried this new thing”, and “it worked”. I may sound cynical, but this is based on experience of both what I do for my inquiry, and what I witness others do.

I would like to see two pay scales (experienced and expert). The first pay scale rewards the journey towards experience. The second pay scale is tied to new learning and the journey to becoming an expert teacher. I believe by having a much higher bar on who can enter the expert pay scale, then we could be far stricter and have higher quality teacher inquiries. Maybe if there were 5 steps on the “expert scale”, then the inquiries could be some self chosen, and others that were predetermined? As an example there could be five years, and these inquiries are 1. Collecting evidence. 2. Self choose. 3. Subject specific pedagogy. 4. Classroom Management. 5. Self choose.

Ill repeat my conclusion from my last post: I seriously believe that teaching wont be recognised as a “true profession” if we continue to spout the mantra that “every teacher is equal”, and “every teacher is an expert”, when in fact both of these mantras are very far from the truth. As Hattie continues to say “too much discussion is focused on between-school differences when the greatest issue is the differences within schools”. That is, the differences between teachers.

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Experienced vs Expert Teachers

I recently watched a paper being debated at the 2018 PPTA conference. This paper was entitled “Career Pathways – Subject Pedagogy Specialists” . During the debate one teacher spoke to how he already “is a subject expert”. Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t. But he certainly thinks he is. I have my doubts though.

I think the difference in one person’s confidence, and my doubts is what I am calling the difference between experienced teachers and expert teachers.

An experienced teacher could be a great teacher (or not…), they know their curriculum and they are effective communicators in class. They manage behaviour well in their classes, students enjoy their classes and they come out of their classes as stronger learners than when they entered.

An expert teacher on the other hand knows why they are a great teacher. They know what pedagogy works specifically for their subject area. They also know other types of subject specific pedagogy and they could compare and contrast the different methods. They know a variety of classroom management techniques and know which are effective for a certain type of teacher and a certain type of classroom. They understand evidence in their classroom, and also they understand evidence more broadly in education research. Expert teachers are very aware of their own weak areas and a working towards improving them.

For me the difference between a experienced and expert teacher is the difference between a great rugby player and a great rugby coach.

I do not profess to be an expert teacher. In fact, I think I am still searching for one to help me. And that is the real reason I want to push in form these two pay scales. One reason is one day I aspire to be there, but for now I just want to meet one, and learn from them.

I seriously believe that teaching wont be recognised as a “true profession” if we continue to spout the mantra that “every teacher is equal”, and “every teacher is an expert”, when in fact both of these mantras are very far from the truth. As Hattie continues to say “too much discussion is focused on between-school differences when the greatest issue is the differences within schools”. That is, the differences between teachers.

I think, until we have teachers that can explain what they are doing, and why they are doing it (subject specific pedagogy, and classroom management etc), then we will continue to not be seen as a true profession, unlike medicine or engineering.