Sunday, September 20, 2009

Learner experts or Content experts?

Should teachers be Experts in Knowledge of their Subject Matter or Experts in How to Teach Students?

Most people would agree that there should be some of each type of Expert in every teacher. But the question is which is most important?  Also which is most important at what levels of teaching?

In the past, from my experience, and perhaps from a current perspective of how teachers are taught in college, I surmise the following levels of expertise:

Elementary school teachers are to be knowledgeable in HOW to Teach.  It is thought that the knowledge that elementary teachers are presenting to their students is knowledge that every educated person knows if they have received a college degree.  Thus, more of their time in the teacher education degree in college is spent on teaching methods, or on teaching methods related to specific subjects.

High school teachers have had more emphasis prior to teaching certification on being very knowledgeable in their Subject Matter field of teaching, but not to the degree that they are an expert. They need to know beyond high school knowledge of the subject matter, and probably a thorough college level knowledge of their subject matter, but still not an expert.

In college teaching situations, professors need to be true experts in their fields to be respected and able to present the level of material that is necessary for a college level class. Unfortunately many times in college lower level courses, it is teaching assistants that do most of the “teaching.”

In this current day of Information Overload and Access to Instant Information, is this expertise of knowledge of subject matter as important or more important than knowledge of HOW to TEACH?

Are teachers merely the Information Dispensers, the Information Curators, the Information Inspirers, or the Information Extenders?

(I need to work on that word Extenders.  There is a better word that I am not coming up with at this time. Feel free to comment to me about a better term. Maybe Information Facilitators?)

From Ashley Tan’s blog, Another dot in the blogosphere, he writes about this question in Innovation in educational technology. Ashley says":
Polivka offers some answers to his question. But I think the best one is that teachers often see themselves as content experts instead of learning experts.
    • Education as an industry is full of people who are content experts, and severely lacking people who are learning experts. Or more specifically, learner experts. I don’t mean people who know and adhere to theories about learning. I mean people who really get the whole process, and are passionate about it, from the learner’s perspective. People who love the thrill of learning, the way kids in kindergarten love it, and want everyone to have that sort of joy again. People who want to learn, and want others to learn, and want everyone to apply that learning, with the same exuberance that hobbyists do. What makes learning work and why? What makes learning exciting, interesting, rewarding? We need more people who are experts in those things, because whatever products they create will reflect it.
It’s time to relearn teaching.
Teachers should be facilitators of learning, Information Facilitators, not just Information Dispensers.

How do you make learning fun, exciting, interesting, and rewarding to the learner?

[As always, in my author quotes, the underlines, color changes, and bold type is mine, not the author’s!]

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