What does it mean to be an expert teacher? : a study of adaptive expertise among mathematics teachers
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Hiring, retaining, and developing quality instructors is arguably one of the most important ways of ensuring a high quality education (Hagedorn, Perrakis & Maxwell, 2006; Sprouse, Ebbers & King, 2008). However, identifying what makes a teacher an expert (i.e., someone who excels at teaching) is difficult. Indeed, Berliner (2005) argued that quality teaching is almost indescribable. Good teaching, he suggested, starts with a combination of skills -- such as modeling, motivating, and mentoring -- and the ability to produce acceptable student performance. Beyond these basic characteristics, he continued, "... a highly qualified individual, always requires keen insight and good judgment" (p. 207). But Berliner saw no way for society to measure this latter aspect of quality teaching. Recent scholarship on expertise, however, is providing new means for understanding what expertise is and how it is acquired (Bereiter & Scardamalia, 1993; Ericsson, 2006; Hatano & Inagaki, 1984). This study applies the theory of adaptive expertise to an investigation of the factors that influence the acquisition of teaching expertise among mathematics instructors. The relations among the institutional environment and instructors goal and problem-solving orientations was measured for mathematics instructors who taught Algebra I, Algebra II/Intermediate Algebra or College Algebra during the past two academic years. Algebra instructors in secondary schools, community colleges, and four-year institutions were asked to participate. This study extends the work of Bereiter and Scardamalia (1993) by applying their theory of an expert career to teaching, an area in which much of the public discussion focuses on the need for more excellent performance. Structural Equation Modeling and Cluster Analyses were used to examine the effects of the reward structure of the institution, the extent to which a teacher identifies himself or herself as mastery goal oriented toward teaching and engaged in a conscious process to improve their teaching practice, and a teacher's acquisition of content and pedagogical knowledge, on a teacher's expert performance. Although the institutional reward structure and mastery goal orientation were found to have a positive effect on a teacher's engagement in continuous improvement behaviors, these behaviors were not found to have a significant impact on expert performance.
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