Thursday, October 1, 2009

Are We Experts?

In Learner experts or Content experts? from Technology Teacher, fivbert begins by asking,

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

and finishes by stating,

“Teachers should be facilitators of learning, Information Facilitators, not just Information Dispensers.”

This reminded me of the many times that my students thought (and expected) that I knew everything about anything. Many were shocked when I could look them in the eye and actually tell them that I didn’t know the answer. I also was quick to say that they asked a good question and that I was interested in knowing the answer so I would guide them towards finding the answer. Do you remember that old story about “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” I always feel like that when I can show a student how to find an answer to their question.

I think it is important that students know that we aren’t experts. Some teachers have an ego problem (or maybe an inferiority complex?) and refuse to tell students they don’t know an answer.

Now after saying all that above, I believe that my answer to fivbert would be that we need both. Just like there are doctors who are general practitioners, there are other doctors who are specialists. If I need brain surgery, I would hope that I could find an “expert” in this field rather than just going to a “facilitator.” I am so glad to know that because there are so many different educators with different interests, students are able to have both.

I’m not saying that as educators we shouldn’t know what we are teaching or that everyone should be experts. I think teachers need to have basic knowledge about their subject area but wouldn’t it be great to be able to help individual students travel on different journeys in order to meet their needs. I think it is important for us to teach students how to learn as well as have the information we are giving them. By having basic information, they will be able to grow and move forward.

I also think if a student is interested in a specific subject, it is good that there are teachers who specialize in these subjects. These teachers will be the one who can quench a student’s thirst for more information about a topic and stimulate discussion and deeper thought. I see this as fine tuning a student’s education.

If educators who are facilitators and those who are experts work together to meet the needs of students, I believe students will be successful in life.

Original image: 'Trust us, we're expert' Paolo Massa


fivbert said...

Thanks for a link to my blog post.

I agree that we do need both types of experts at different times. As in all learning there is a blending of skills and expertise.

Keep up the good work on your blog as well.

loonyhiker said...

@fivbert Thanks for the kind words! I enjoy reading your blog!

Amber said...

Loonyhiker, I really enjoyed your post. I completely agree with you. Although it can be easier and faster to simply give your students the answer, they have to be able to find answers for themselves. We're lucky that there are so many information sources available to us today but we need to give our students the tools to find answers for themselves.

I also agree with you wholeheartedly that we need to let students know that we do not actually know anything and that we are still learning new things all the time. It is important to model life-long learning to our students.