Improvisation and Teacher Expertise: Implications for the Professional Development of Outstanding Teachers

February 2017

Source: Professional Development in Education, Vol. 43, No. 1, 6–22, 2017
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose of this study aimed to gain an understanding of teachers' expertise.
It also aimed to determine the extent to which improvisation was a facet of advanced professional practice.

The participants were seven experienced teachers working in secondary schools in the South West of England. They have been identified as being expert within their school setting.
The authors used a qualitative case-study design.
The authors collected data through interviews, observations, conversations and documentary evidence.The documentary evidence contained the prospectus and other school-produced literature, Ofsted reports, published material and photographs.

The findings reveal that teacher’s expertise is best expressed as continually evolving practice. The participants argued that advanced practitioners use their expertise to adapt and to interact with their pupils in order to create the conditions in which learning can, and does, take place.

The findings also showed that teacher expertise is seen as fundamentally improvisatory through being socially constructed and that this has a positive impact on the quality of teaching. The author found that the primary concern of the teachers was to develop relationships with pupils in order to maximise interaction in the classroom. The findings revealed that the teachers had each developed a personalised approach to teaching based on their values and beliefs, the relationships they established with the pupils and the personalisation of the learning environment.

The study offers implications for continued professional development for teachers.
First, the author suggests the expert practise of teachers needs to be seen as a process of continually improving the ways in which the teacher relates to their pupils.
Second, the author argues that teacher expertise cannot be expressed as an essentialist list of skills or competencies.

The author concludes that the improvisational aspect of teacher expertise is concerned with four processes: the expression of tacit knowledge; the relational and interactive; personalisation of learning, the personalisation of teacher and the learning environment; and self-reflective and adaptive.

Updated: May. 22, 2018