Subject-matter expertise requires well-organized knowledge of concepts and inquiry procedures. Similarly, studies of teaching conclude that expertise consists of more than a set of general methods that can be applied across all subject matter. These two sets of research-based findings contradict the common misconception about what teachers need to know in order to design effective learning environments for students. Both subject-matter knowledge and pedagogical knowledge are important for expert teaching because knowledge domains have unique structures and methods of inquiry associated with them.

Accomplished teachers also assess their own effectiveness with their students. They reflect on what goes on in the classroom and modify their teaching plans accordingly. Thinking about teaching is not an abstract or esoteric activity. It is a disciplined, systematic approach to professional development. By reflecting on and evaluating one’s own practices, either alone or in the company of a critical colleague, teachers develop ways to change and improve their practices, like any other opportunity for learning with feedback.

  • Teachers need expertise in both subject matter content and in teaching.

  • Teachers need to develop understanding of the theories of knowledge (epistemologies) that guide the subject-matter disciplines in which they work.

  • Teachers need to develop an understanding of pedagogy as an intellectual discipline that reflects theories of learning, including knowledge of how cultural beliefs and the personal characteristics of learners influence learning.

  • Teachers are learners and the principles of learning and transfer for student learners apply to teachers.

  • Teachers need opportunities to learn about children’s cognitive development and children’s development of thought (children’s epistemologies) in order to know how teaching practices build on learners’ prior knowledge.

  • Teachers need to develop models of their own professional development that are based on lifelong learning, rather than on an “updating” model of learning, in order to have frameworks to guide their career planning.

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