During my video interview (question 7) I mentioned the difference between experienced teachers and expert teachers.

Hello everybody
I find this a very interesting distinction. I first came across it in a book by Amy Tsui, Understanding Expertise in Teaching, and used it in a talk I gave about 'Cutting Edge Trainers'. Does anyone have any other references to this aspect of development?
1. Experience does not necessarily result in expertise.
  • Eighteen years of experience can be one year's experience repeated seventeen times
  • Experience will only contribute to expertise if practitioners are capable of learning from it
  • To learn from experience requires that practitioners constantly reflect on their practices.
2. Experts:
  • tackle problems that increase their expertise : they problematise the routine
  • approach a task in a way that maximises their opportunities for growth
  • pursue new goals and challenges: problem-solving at an ever-higher level

3. Non-experts

  • tackle problems for which they do not have to extend themselves
  • approach a task in a way that minimises opportunities for growth
  • have a diminishing number of problems to solve: they develop practised routines to handle all problems

4. Expertise is a process rather than a state.
Experts continuously extend the outer edge of their competence, by:

  • taking on further challenges
  • setting themselves higher standards
  • working hard to reach those standards

Experts continuously reinvest their mental resources, in problematising what is taken as routine, in reformulating problems and in solving them.

Reducing problems to levels that can be handled by learned patterns and procedures gets people into ruts.

What do you think?




There is one point that I'm not sure about...

"[Non-experts] have a diminishing number of problems to solve: they develop practised routines to handle all problems."

Everything else makes absolute sense.  To develop we need to be reflective, to tackle problems that challenge us, pursue new goals & challenges, extend ourselves, approach tasks in different ways, set our selves higher standards and work hard to reach those standards... yes, all that makes sense, and it really distinguishes the experts from the just plain experienced.  But...

The 'handle all (or most) problems' bit is something that some people can and do do.  And well, why not?  Imagine if doctors could find a cure-all... would they reject it because it doesn't help themselves develop professionally?  

Obviously, they'd need to keep developing themselves and other techniques as a back-up measure... but if the cure-all works on everything...


Funny, actually... what I was going to continue on to say is: One of our aims needs to be to develop routines that can handle everything, while we continue to develop other aims and challenge ourselves with other problems to ensure we are ready when something unforeseen comes up.  But, then, I thought back to what I've always said, about anything...  So back to the cure-all analogy.

The cure-all works on everything.  That we know.

Any patient.  Any sickness.  Any doctor using it.  It works.  So why would we use anything different?

Does it work faster than anything else in all cases?
Does it cause less damage to the rest of the body than anything else?
Does it result in longer lasting health than anything else?
Etc... etc...


Maybe it works.  But we should always look for what works better!


Hi Jenny,

Well, I do believe that expertise is a skill or skills that is/are acquired through careful cultivation. It involves time, determination and dedication to be developed. As you mentioned it is a process that involves putting all your body and mental energy in what you are doing! It  also requires awareness of your actions.  In order to develop expertise , we, teachers, should  be attentive /focused to the whole spirit of our teaching: planning (content, methodology), students, equipment, the school enviroment, parents, and should also be open to accept the challenges and learn from and start all over again. It is a continuous process to make things work better. Expertise teachers are the ones who  reflect in action and about action as a way to achieve excellence, whereas experienced teachers may just do things automatically without caring too much about excellence. Expert teachers are the ones who manga to turn their teaching experience into an art!




Hi Heath

thanks for your comments. The way I understand it is that rather than respond to a new problem with the same set responses or routines with which they solve familiar problems every day, experts relish new problems and rather than apply the same sticking plaster they will look for new, untried solutions for this new problem so as to challenge themselves and learn from the experience.

Let's take a simple example:

One particular class activity works fairly well with most of the students. In each new class the experienced teacher pulls out the same activity and each time it works pretty well with most of the students. The expert teacher though is not happy with this. S/he looks at the activity before using it with each new class, and makes yet more changes to it so it appeals to more students, and each time more of the students benefit from it, and each time the teacher learns more about how the activity works and how different students respond to it. Eventually the teacher takes the activity into their colleague's class of difficult teenagers, and change it yet again, and learn more.

I agree with you: we always need to look for what works better.

thank you!



Hi Monica! How are you today?

thanks for your comments once again. I totally agree with you! Running on automatic pilot is dangerous in teaching, in my opinion. Not only does the teacher get bored, but s/he is bound to burn out eventually. And the effect on their students is not too great either! It's a bit like going to the gym: you feel lazy and don't feel like it, but you make the effort and go and you feel better, as you knew you would. It's just making that initial effort!

thanks again!

all best regards



Dear Heath,

I've got an idea about the cure-all you mentioned.

This cure-all may be the dream of those who would like to develop the ever-effective routine, but is actually a possession of the expert.

The cure-all is inspiration set to work. It will never be a pre-developed routine which could be used in a static way, favouring one's lazy side.

Instead, it is you, me, or any of us facing a challenge and daring ask ourselves 'What is going on here?' and being full-heartedly interested in the solution. And this is the minuscule interval in which you have time for nothing else but for grasping the best solution available within your head/mind at that very moment. Having succeeded in this you are to set your fresh idea to work and sort out the problem.

In other words, when you are an expert - I believe - you are where you are with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. It is after this when all the rest can be considered - in my opinion.

I am reminded of astory which goes like this - in a temple there was a marble statue with a marble piece at the foot of it onthe floor.People used to step on the marble stone every time they came to worship the statue.The poor stone always thought that we both are marbles and the statue is worshiped and I am stampped by the feet of the worshippers though we both are made of the same substance.

One day it asked the statue why is it that you are worshipped and I lie helplessly  beneath.

The statue replied i have faced lot of beating of hammers and chissels and that is why I am worshipped. You did not face any of them.This is the reason i am worshipped and you lie beneath .

Thus challenges in life strengthen you and that is the expertise,experience of course keeps coming as time passes.

Hi Jenny

I think one important distinction between the expert teacher and the experienced teacher is their ability to see students as unique individuals with unique needs, abilities, challenges and experiences rather than blocks of B1s or A3s. This ability, I believe is dependent upon  a teachers' curiosity and their own desire to learn and know more, not just about teaching, bu about the people they teach.


Nik Peachey | Learning Technology Consultant, Writer, Trainer
Teacher Development: http://nikpeachey.blogspot.com/
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Hi Nik and my other peers,

Your comment made me think about an article that I read " Language Education: Equipping or Enabling? by Prabhu.

He sees education from two perspectives:

Equipping: a procedure by which the learner gets equipped with the knowledge, skill or pattern of behaviour envisaged as the educational target. It aims at conformity and assesses sucess in those terms.

Enabling: a procedure by which  the learner is provided with opportunity and support in realising his/her potential, in the form of understanding or ability. This view recognises that the demands to be made in later years can be varied and unpredicted. It regards ongoing change as a part of its achievement.

 I guess that when you focus on the teaching and see the students like a block , you are simply equipping(training) them; providing young people with the knowledge and skill necessary for functioning in later years as useful and productive members of the society. This is what most schools do here in my country. Students are prepared to pass the college entrance examination. This kind of education is usually very content-driven and teacher centred! According to Prabhu, educational effort, on this view, is directed to defining expected outcomes more and more accurately and to relating means to ends more and more directly. It provide learners with a restricted competence to enable to cope with certain clearly defined tasks.

Whereas when you are focusing on the students, you are commited to develop developing your learners´capacity (education) to extend and adapt what is learnt in the face of varied and emerging demands. It provides learners with a general capacity to enable them to cope with undifined eventualities in future.

Looking back at my long,  complex  and rough (far from being smooth) process of teaching learning development, I can recognise that along the way, I had been exposed to both types of procedures. Now as a more mature teacher, I am more aware of the importance of the latest and I ´m being a more educational teacher! I do feel that  I´m on my aim towards expertise. Experience with reflection brings a better understanding.

Best wishes,




I loved your story! So simple but so profound! It goes to show that the more open you are towards life ( sharing your potentialities with the others being in the service of others), the more recognized you will be!

Best wishes,


Hi Nik, Monica, and others on this blog

thanks for all your posts! some wonderful things are emerging here!

Nik I like that you picked up on the importance of the students. I felt I only started really teaching when I focussed on the students getting the most out of the class, and saw them as individuals with their own needs and attitudes. This is advice I try to give to novice teachers right at the very beginning of their training and development, to help them get over their (very natural) obsession with what they themselves are doing in the classroom, often at the expense of 'enabling' the students. Indeed, enabling the students rather than simply equipping them is a very good aim, thank you Monica for bringing Prabhu in!

I loved the story about the marble statue and the marble piece, the image of facing a lot of beating hammers and chisels is a great metaphor for the challenges we go through! (I'm not sure if being worshipped is quite the aim, though ;-) Also I love the idea of total commitment being that "you are where you are with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength".

thank you everybody!