Can official provision of teachers and teacher training facilitate the identification and development of teaching expertise in Hong Kong primary schools?

Shing Kun David CHAN, Wai Lun Anthony LEUNG, Kuen Fung SIN

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This paper examines the statistics on the official provision of teacher and teaching training in Hong Kong primary schools. It is found that there is no clear and operational definition of the expertise of teaching in the primary workforce, nor teachers are well-prepared for their development of teaching expertise. Under such an unfavourable teacher preparation and development, the writer called for teachers' self-initiation to develop "group expertise among themselves and make improvement in primary education. Introduction: This paper intends to evaluate whether the provision of teachers and teacher training can facilitate the identification and development of teaching expertise with, and for primary school teachers in Hong Kong. Data of such provision are compiled from the official teacher surveys and will be used for analysis. It is noticed that 'provision' of teachers and teacher training is the input to the education system and is only one of the many aspects that constitutes the development of teaching expertise. Other aspects like 'teaching and learning processes', 'teacher performance' and 'pupil achievement' are related and influential. Nevertheless, attention to the input condition can never be dispensable. The Theoretical Framework: Sternberg et al. (1995) argued that there exists 'no well-defined standard that all experts meet and that no nonexperts meet.' A prototype view is proposed to consider teaching expertise as a category of resemblance that 'is structured by the similarity of expert teachers to one another rather than by a set of necessary and sufficient features'. They postulated the following categories which they called the 'expert teaching prototype': The prototype expert teacher has 'extensive, accessible knowledge of subject matter and of teaching per se as well as knowledge of the political and social context in which teaching occurs. The prototype expert teacher posseses a broad perspective of well-organized domain knowledge which is contributive to their ability to investigate a problem deeply and reformulate it insightfully. The prototype expert teacher is efficient in solving problems within the domain of teaching. He is reflective, planful, self-regulating, capable of automatizing well-learned routines and inclined to re- invest time and energy for positive and progressive problem solving activities. Parallel to Sternberg et al.'s emphasis on problem solving, Bereiter and Scardamalia (1993) defined expertise with a similar notion but went further to treat expertise as a process hi which contextual demands and individual traits are vital. On identification of experts, they proposed 'to find it in the ongoing process in which knowledge is used, transformed, enhanced, and attuned to situations.' (p.46) Their key difference is that experts 'tackle problems that increase their expertise, whereas nonexperts tend to tackle problems for which they do not have to extend themselves.' (p.78) To facilitate development of teaching expertise, attention to contexts like physical setting, formal curriculum, school and teacher culture and philosophy are all important. Bereiter et al. invited schools to provide context that teachers can be adaptable and work at their edge of competence without overwhelming. In addition to taking expertise as an individual possession, Bereiter et al. introduced the concept of 'group expertise'. They claimed that in a supportive team environment, experienced teachers can manifest their expertise while nonexperts have room to express and test their own ideas. The outcome can be an interesting and professional challenge leading to the development of expertise on both sides. Methodology This paper is a piece of documentary analysis of Official Statistics on the Provision of Teachers and Teacher Training. Local provision of teachers and teacher training can best be illustrated by the statistics of teacher surveys carried out by the Hong Kong government. Every year, the Statistics Section of the Hong Kong Education Department conducts a teacher survey and produces vital statistics on the local teacher workforce at the primary and secondary school levels. Each survey is one of full coverage, performed with strict statistical procedure and is regarded as very reliable. Information derived from these surveys is indicative to local educational planning and evaluation. The data in this paper come from the three annual publications - Teacher Survey 19931 , 19942 and 19953 . Findings: The statistics provided no support for a clear and operational definition on the expertise of teaching. Examination of the Hong Kong primary workforce can provide evidence of nonexperts rather than experts. The identification of teaching expertise awaits patience and further investigation. On the other hand, it is apparent that the local provision of teacher and teacher training is not capable of establishing an assured foundation and favourable contexts for individuals to develop "for" primary school teacher their expertise of teaching. It seems that teachers start with a weak knowledge background leads to humble chances for further development to acquire better teacher knowledge. It is, in fact, this vicious circle that hinder the development of teaching expertise. Nevertheless, the writer would like to appeal for "group expertise" as a way for teachers to develop "with" themselves on the necessary expertise to strive for excellence in teaching. Conclusion - An appeal for group expertise: Bereiter et al. postulated a beautiful concept "group expertise". They maintained that given a supportive team environment, experienced teachers can work with the nonexperts and develop among themselves the expertise of teaching. In other words, if Hong Kong teachers would like to break the vicious circle within the present provision of workforce, they should somehow take the initiative and unit together in group for their self development and enhancement. Working with a team, of course, may produce clusters of problems that requires techniques and strategies. Openness to share and willingness to accept among members become vital. Consequently, the situation stands as an opportunity for team members to undergo progressive problem-solving. With the help of expert teachers, nonexperts can invest less time in trying to understand the problem of classroom events and more in actually experimenting different solutions. The experts also have the chance to refine their knowledge and skills. Ultimately both experienced and the inexperienced would grow with each other for their expertise in teaching.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1997


Chan, S. K., Leung, W. L., & Sin, K. F. (1997, November). Can official provision of teachers and teacher training facilitate the identification and development of teaching expertise in Hong Kong primary schools? Paper presented at the Hong Kong Educational Research Association (HKERA) 14th Annual Conference: Compulsory Education and Beyond, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, China.


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