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Title: Conceptualising-Operationalising Expertise in Independent Schools: Teacher and Leader Perceptions
Contributor(s): Bell, Andrew (author); Fletcher, Peter  (supervisor)orcid ; Hardy, Joy  (supervisor)
Conferred Date: 2018-06-12
Copyright Date: 2017-12-22
Open Access: Yes
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Abstract: The importance and nature of the work of teachers is unequivocally complex (Loughran, 2010; Shagrir & Altan, 2014). Within schools, teachers have been identified as the greatest resource (Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership, 2011a) who also have the largest in-school influence on student learning outcomes (Hattie, 2003, 2009). Barber & Mourshed (2007) claim that the overall quality of any education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers. Teacher expertise directly impacts on student learning, illustrated by Jensen & Reichl's (2011) claims that, 'all studies show that more effective teachers are the key to producing higher performing students' (p. 3). This thesis researches how professionals in schools conceptualise and operationalise the attributes and practices of teacher expertise. An underlying premise of this study, is: as teacher expertise increases, student learning is optimised.
Theories of generic expertise predominantly focus on novice versus expert comparisons, and Williams & Ericsson (2008) contend that more research is needed into how experts learn. Developmental teacher professional standards comprise several career levels that 'articulate what teachers are expected to know and be able to do at [various] career stages' (AITSL, 2011a p. 1). In reality, not all experienced practitioners progress to an expert stage (Bereiter & Scardamalia, 1993; Berliner, 2004; Ericsson & Poole, 2016).
There is a gap in the literature about how teachers and school leaders conceptualise-operationalise expertise in teaching. In this study, perceptions are conveyed by professionals about how they conceptualise-operationalise expertise in classroom teaching. Participants are asked what attributes and practices characterise expertise and how experts and experienced non-experts differ as classroom teachers. Further inquiry includes how expertise development is enabled or inhibited, and what informs teachers and leaders on the topic of expertise, as well as how to recognise it. This research could inform the thinking of professionals in practice on the topic of how expertise is conceptualised-operationalised by a group of teachers and leaders.
This study utilised qualitative case studies methodology (Yin, 2009) situated within an interpretivist paradigm to research the perceptions of professionals in practice. This occurred at three sites in two Australian states (Queensland and New South Wales) and one territory (The Australian Capital Territory) in K–12 coeducational and single sex school settings. All participants who volunteered for this study had four or more years' experience as a professional foundation to underpin their views and perceptions on expertise in teaching, expressed in individual and focus group interviews. Two cases were formed: a teacher case and a leader case.
Two theoretical frameworks were used in this study. These were Practice Architectures/Ecologies of Practice (Kemmis et al., 2012; 2014a) and Ecological Systems Theory (Bronfenbrenner, 1994). Both were selected because of their specific focus and relevance to schools and compatibility with this study's approach. The applied constructive use of these two frameworks in Chapter 6 and Chapter 7, make the findings of the study more useful because they enable greater potential for accessibility of the results for other professionals in education. The Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (AITSL, 2011a) was also used to map alignment of the emergent themes of this study to the Focus Areas of the seven Standards.
Data for the two cases were collected separately from teachers and leaders at each of the three sites. Analysis of the data involved Creswell's (2014) seven-step thematic analysis process to reveal five emergent themes. The results of the two cases were reported in separate chapters, then compared and contrasted in the Discussion chapter. The nature of the themes that emerged were the same in both cases: teachers and leaders alike identified overall thematic conceptualisations involving expertise and expert teacher attributes and practices. Themes involving dimensions of teaching were related to the following: possessing high levels of subject content knowledge; applying pedagogical practice; building relationships in the school community; displaying particular character traits and qualities of teachers; and, demonstrating receptiveness to growth and improvement involving the mindset of teachers. However, while the overall themes were largely consistent between the two cases, noteworthy differences are signalled and elaborated on as part of this study.
When comparing this study's emergent themes to an analysis of the wider literature on teacher expertise, three themes are commonly recognised in the literature, while two themes are scarcely documented. Themes involving dimensions of expertise on subject content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge and skill, and relationship building are well covered in the literature. However, our key themes concerned with either particular teacher character traits and qualities, or teacher mindset receptive to growth and improvement are not as common in the wider literature. These latter two themes form areas to consider as implications for the profession and as recommendations for further research.
Publication Type: Thesis Doctoral
Fields of Research (FoR) 2008: 130106 Secondary Education
139999 Education not elsewhere classified
Fields of Research (FoR) 2020: 390306 Secondary education
399999 Other education not elsewhere classified
Socio-Economic Objective (SEO) 2008: 930101 Learner and Learning Achievement
939903 Equity and Access to Education
Socio-Economic Objective (SEO) 2020: 160201 Equity and access to education
HERDC Category Description: T2 Thesis - Doctorate by Research
Description: The dataset related to this thesis can be found at:
Appears in Collections:School of Education
Thesis Doctoral

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