Examining Alabama Teacher of the Year Nominee Applications: Toward a Prototype of Expert Teaching
Type of DegreeDissertation
Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology
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Because of the complex nature of teaching (Gün, 2014), studying teacher expertise is no easy task. Many researchers have contributed to our understanding of teacher expertise by comparing expert teachers to non-experts (i.e., Ho & Liu, 2005; Qiong & Yujing, 2009). In their call for a reconceptualization of teacher expertise, Sternberg and Horvath (1995) suggested that researchers study teacher expertise using a categorization, prototype model, which they believed would “allow us to adopt a fuller, more inclusive understanding of teacher expertise” (p. 9). Using small sample sizes (N<20), three research teams conducted studies using Sternberg and Horvath’s model (Gün, 2014; Li, Huang, & Yang, 2011; Smith & Strahan, 2004). They found that expert teachers shared six central tendencies: confidence, classroom community, positive teacher-student relationships, a student-centered approach, leadership and service, and content mastery. Gün (2014) added one additional central tendency, which he termed persistence. In an effort to replicate and extend the prototype teacher expertise research, I conducted a qualitative, grounded theory study of teacher expertise. Analyzing their application packets, which included essays, stakeholder letters, and teaching exemplars recorded in video format, I studied four Alabama teachers who had reached the semi-finals or higher in the Alabama Teacher of the Year program. I addressed this research question: How were 2009-2013 Alabama Teacher of the Year applications similar? I found that the expert teachers share seven central tendencies: These teachers exhibited confidence in themselves and their colleagues; promoted classroom community by increasing student input in decision-making; fostered positive teacher-student relationships, practiced a student-centered approach; led teachers and other stakeholders in educational decision-making and served the larger community; met indicators that supported content mastery; and persisted in setting high standards for themselves and for students collectively and individually. I concluded that because teaching is a complex profession, basic standards of professional competence are necessary; however, organizing the beliefs and practices of expert teachers into a prototype, as suggested by Sternberg and Horvath (1995) informs the work of school administrators and experienced teachers by providing guidance in determining professional development needs.