Nexus: A Journal for Teachers in Development
November 2005 Issue
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By Susan L. Schwartz

Welcome to the first web-based edition of "Nexus"!  Eight years ago, when this journal was started, publishing via email made the most sense because it was practical and easy, and not everyone who had email had access to the World Wide Web.  Now, however, the situation is quite different; not only is it easy to create websites, the prevalence of filters screening out spam email has caused many copies of the journal to bounce back even though they were sent to people who subscribed to "Nexus."  As a result, and to provide greater access to the journal, it will now be published in this format.

This issue focuses on what is involved in being a good teacher.  Nancy Keranen's article surveys the literature on teacher expertise and offers some ideas on what it means to be an expert teacher.  Andy Halvorsen then describes a training program for primary and secondary teachers in Albania which aimed to develop their teaching skills.  Our regular book reviewers, Kirsten Schaetzel and Ruth Wajnryb, are on hiatus but Andrew Finch reviews a book that tries to explain why some teachers are "stars" and others are not.

I thank everyone who has subscribed over the years to "Nexus" and hope that you will continue to read the journal here.   Please let your colleagues know about it!  I welcome your feedback regarding this new format.  Enjoy the journal.


Table of Contents

1) Teacher Expertise Studies and Their Implications for Teacher Education: A Review of the Literature; by Nancy Keranen

2) In-Service Teacher Training Program for Teachers of English in Tirana, Albania; by Andy Halvorsen

3) Book Review: Star Teachers: The Ideology and Best Practice of Effective Teachers of Diverse Children and Youth in Poverty; reviewed by Andrew Finch


Teacher Expertise Studies and Their Implications for Teacher Education:  A Review of the Literature

By Nancy Keranen


For anyone not in areas involved in artificial intelligence or robotics, research into areas of expertise might be unknown or at least not well known. The purpose of this brief literature review is intended to provide an introduction to expertise studies in the area of teacher education.  As teacher educators, expertise studies can be useful or even essential to our understanding of the characteristics of novice and expert teachers.  Those characteristics have implications for both pre-service and in-service teacher education.

Before we talk about the implications, it would probably be useful to briefly discuss four main terms used in the studies:

Expert – Expertise literature from a variety of domains provides a fairly consistent definition of what an expert is.  There are certain qualities that can be accepted as characteristics of an expert.  Tsui defines being an expert as someone who is very knowledgeable of their particular area, one who can “engage in skillful practice, … make accurate diagnoses, insightful analysis, and [can make] decisions” usually very quickly (2003, p. 1). 

Experienced – Experience does not necessarily imply expertise.  We all know teachers with years of experience but whom we would be reluctant to label as experts.  Some people fail to develop into experts.  Bereiter and Scardamalia (1993) suggest that instead of looking for comparisons between experts and novices as most studies have done, research should look for factors or differences between the experienced non-expert and the expert and try to determine why some people become experts while some remain merely experienced non-experts. 

Novice and beginner – These terms signify people lacking in experience or newcomers to a particular domain.  In teaching, novice and beginner refer to teachers who are in their first year or who are still in their student teaching phase (Tsui 2003).  Sometimes people from outside of teaching enter the field.  They have content knowledge but no pedagogical knowledge.  These people have also been referred to as novices or “postulants” (Berliner & Carter; Sabers, Cushing, and Berliner, studies cited in Tsui, 2003).


Implications for Teacher Development from Expertise Studies

One of the biggest contributions of expertise studies in teaching has been related to a sort of new teacher myth.  Berliner (1994) reminds us of the historical devaluing of pedagogical knowledge.  The bright, shiny, young, fresh out of training, new teacher is commonly favored when administrations consider hiring teachers.  As Berliner states, those qualities would not be considered as assets when, for example, one selects a surgeon or hires a commercial airline pilot.  In fact, there are very few professions that favor the raw novice over the experienced professional other than teaching.  Berliner gives several reasons for that.  One is that teaching is traditionally considered something like child care or as something that requires no specific abilities.  For example, many teachers in higher education have not been trained in pedagogy but are merely hired for their domain expertise (see for example: Roche and Marsh, 2002; Hattie and Marsh, 1996; Marsh, 1987).  Another reason for this devaluation, according to Berliner, is due to the fact that teaching (primarily K-12) is considered by many to be “women’s work”, and therefore, he says, not nearly as complicated as “physics problem solving, a male domain” (1994, para. 10).  However, as he concludes, and as most teachers know, teaching is a complicated process which includes mastery of “a complex social and political environment” ( Berliner 1994, para. 10).

After a discussion of the five stages from novice to expert as described by Dreyfus and Dreyfus, Berliner formulates 12 propositions regarding teaching expertise.  The propositions come from expert studies across a variety of domains as well as from teacher expertise studies.  Each one of the propositions has its pedagogical implications for teacher development. 

To avoid repetition of the implications and in the interest of space limitations, I have presented below only propositions one, two, three, four and six. 

Berliner’s Proposition One

Berliner (1994) cites expertise studies from a variety of domains and their criteria for describing an expert.  From Chi, Glaser, and Farr (1988) comes the idea that experts are expert in mainly a single domain.  This is because of the amount of time required to become expert in a particular area.  Humans rarely have the time necessary to become expert in more than one area.  Studies that talk about time commitments to becoming an expert include Lesgold, Rubinson, Feltovich, Glaser, Klopfer, and Wang (1988), who found that expert radiologists have looked at at least 100,000 x-rays before developing an expertise in identifying irregularities in the pictures; de Groot (1965), found that chess have spent between 10,000 and 20,000 hours playing chess; in Berliner (1994) expert teachers have had at least five years of classroom practice before most researchers would begin to consider them expert. Berliner estimates that a teacher with 10 years of classroom practice will have about 10,000 hours in the classroom as well as about 15,000 hours before that as a student in an educational setting; however, he states that there is no evidence that experience as a student adds anything to teaching expertise.  The main point is that all expert teachers have years of classroom practice behind them. 

Implications:  The implication is that a certificate given at the end of teacher training does not signify that the teacher is a fully competent and prepared teacher since becoming a fully prepared teacher is the result of years of experience, among other factors (Bereiter & Scardamalia, 1993).  Almost always new teachers are put into positions that assume that they have expertise or are fully competent teachers.  The studies show that new teachers should not be expected to perform at expert teacher levels.  Instead they should be mentored and supervised in their first years of practice.  

The Chi, Glaser, and Farr study (cited in Berliner 1994) implies that expertise is highly contextualized.  It is not appropriate to assume that teachers can move their expertise to new contexts.  Because a teacher is an expert in one level does not automatically mean they will have equally expert performance in another grade level or in other subjects.  Also, because of this contextualization, Berliner (1994) says that teacher evaluations that use simulations in an artificial classroom environment are probably not valid because they take teachers out of their contexts and put them into a controlled laboratory environment.  For evaluation purposes, teachers should be observed in their own contexts, not always a practical way to accomplish evaluations, however.

Berliner’s Proposition Two

Studies which Berliner (1994) cites, such as Glaser (1987), Leinhardt and Greeno (1986), Krabbe and Tullgren (1989), and Brooks and Hawke (1985), have shown that expert teachers rely on routinization and automaticity for handling repetitive classroom actions.  This, according to Berliner and the studies cited above, allows the teachers to allocate more of their cognitive processes to dealing with novel or spontaneous classroom situations. 

Implications: Berliner notes that teacher training should perhaps focus more on establishing routine behavior such as handling homework; classroom management functions such as taking attendance, giving and turning in assignments; testing procedures; and opening, transition, and closing lesson routines.  If those functions can be well established in the novice teacher during initial training, then, like the expert, they could possibly attend to the more cognitive challenges of teaching. 

Berliner’s Proposition Three

In studies by Glaser and Housner and Griffey (cited in Berliner 1994), expert teachers were shown to be more aware of the demands and the social context of teaching situations.  In other words, when asked to plan a class or activities in a special context, expert teachers asked more questions about the situation and especially about the students involved in the task.  The conclusion is that expert teachers are more sensitive to the “social and physical environment in which instruction was to take place” (Berliner 1994, Proposition Three, para. 1).

Implications: Administrations often regard a newly-graduated university trained teacher to be completely ready to teach.  However, studies like those cited above show that novice teachers cannot perform like expert teachers when it comes to judging and reacting to situations associated with classroom practice.  New teachers should be closely supervised and mentored instead of being thrown into the classroom to “sink or swim” (Berliner 1994, Proposition Three, para. 6). 

Berliner’s Proposition Four

Expert teachers were found to be more creative, flexible, improvisational, opportunistic, and spontaneous to novel situations than novices (Glaser; Borko & Livingston; Westerman; Sharpe & Hawkins cited in Berliner 1994).  Other studies looking at planning strategies of expert teachers show that they focus their planning on students’ abilities and interests, available materials, the educational setting, and lesson content rather than on the more structural planning which starts with lesson aims and objectives (Tsui, 2003).  In a study of university novice and award-winning teachers’ concepts on teaching, Dunkin (2002) reports that novice teachers were not able to access alternative approaches in a classroom situation due to a lack of pedagogical strategies.  He says that even though a teacher has content knowledge, without the experience related to pedagogical knowledge, novice teachers are limited in their choice of classroom strategies. 

Implications:  Berliner (1994) reminds us that children need to crawl before they can walk.  Developmental stages are involved in all types of learning, including learning to become an expert teacher.  Many innovative curriculum revision programs that call for alternative student-centered approaches to teaching in education might just fail because novice teachers are unable to use such approaches at novice developmental levels.  As Berliner says, perhaps teachers must work through being highly structured before they can be expected to be creative, spontaneous, opportunistic, and unstructured. 

Berliner’s Proposition Six

Experts can quickly assess and act on situations based on highly developed pattern recognition abilities.  This ability allows expert teachers to make sense of a given situation.  Expert teachers are able to “read” a classroom like expert chess players are able to read the pieces on a chess board and accurately determine the next move.  Novice teachers are not able to do this because the ability is the result of years of classroom experience and the subsequent acquisition of content as well as pedagogical knowledge.  In their study of decision making processes of novice and expert teachers, Vanci Osam and Balby (2004) found similar characteristics of time spent in decision making as those identified by Berliner.

Implications: The studies cited in this proposition indicate that novices frequently cannot “make a lot of sense of what they experience” simply because they do not have the experience that allows this (Berliner, 1994, Proposition Six, para. 12).  Once again Berliner notes the practice of hiring new teachers fresh from their initial training as something desirable.  This practice indicates “a deep underestimation of the complexity of teaching” (Berliner, 1994, Proposition Six, para. 12).  People involved in teacher preparation and expert teachers need to inform decision-makers of the findings of expert studies that novice teachers are not yet fully prepared to take on the cognitive and performance loads of expert teachers.  Once again the findings indicate that mentoring and supervision programs should be in place to help novice teachers develop toward expertise.



The implications also have something to say about people entering teaching from alternative tracks rather than through traditional ones of university training in pedagogy.  While there is no evidence to date that teachers entering through the traditional tracks develop any better than those entering through alternative tracks, there is evidence that content knowledge or real-world work experience is not a replacement for pedagogical knowledge (Berliner, 1994; Dunkin, 2002; Shulman, 2000).

Berliner’s propositions and the research cited in expertise studies clearly indicate that there are significant differences between novices and experts.  Novices are generally not prepared or ready to perform at an expert level.  In fact, their performance can be characterized as lacking in many ways.  Novice or beginning teachers should not be abandoned when they finish their initial training.  The educational work setting should have programs in place for their continuing growth and development. 

The studies also show clearly the value of expertise in teaching, the value of expert teachers.  The devaluing of pedagogical knowledge favors novice teachers over expert teachers.  As Berliner (1994) says, this shows a complete misunderstanding of the complexity of teaching on the part of school administrations and decision makers, parents, and other interested parties.  Expert research can help reverse this misconception.

In her review of expertise literature, Tsui (2003) discusses three main areas: 1) the characteristics of expert performance; in other words, how have expertise researchers defined what makes up or what the qualities of an expert performance are, 2) the characteristics or features that define an expert and that define a novice, and 3) how people move from being novices to being experts and how they maintain their expertise.

Tsui (2003) notes that there is a great amount of agreement between studies showing that expert performance is characterized as a product of an extensive amount of time in the area of performance, i.e. experience and practice.  In what ways experts differ from novices is still not exactly clear.  Dreyfus and Dreyfus (1986) consider that through extensive experience in a domain, experts are able to develop automatic and routinized performances which free up their minds for dealing with spontaneous or novel performances or problem-solving.  Glaser and Chi (1988) also recognize the characteristic of automatic performance but add that experts act in a deliberate manner based on knowledge of the situation and reflection.  Eraut takes it one more step and dismisses automatic performance, saying that expert performance is characterized by “conscious deliberation” that can be seen in expert problem-solving.  Through reflection and self-monitoring, experts “maintain their superior performance” (Eraut cited in Tsui, 2003, p. 20).

Regarding the third area on expertise discussed by Tsui (2003), the issue of how experts become experts, Tsui notes that not many studies have looked at this.  She says that Bereiter and Scardamalia’s expertise theory is one of the few.  They propose that studies comparing novices and experts may not be as useful in understanding expert performance as comparing experienced non-experts with experts. Scardamalia and Bereiter (1991) observe that most of the studies also do not show the process that an individual moves through to become an expert. The studies only attempt to define expertise.  They regard expertise as a process rather than a state that one achieves after years of practice.  Their theory takes into account the fact that there are plenty of people with a lot of experience but who would not be considered experts.  


Areas for Further Research

With Scardamali and Bereiter’s theory in mind, research that shows the development of expertise would fill a gap in the research.  Tsui (2003) presents other gaps in the research.  Specifically related to teaching, she says that there are few studies of why “expert teachers become what they are while their peers remain experienced nonexperts” (p. 3).  Studies cited in Tsui that look at this are Bullough (1989) and Bullough and Baughman (1993, 1995).

Tsui (2003) says that with the exception of Leinhardt, Putnam, Stein, and Baxter; Leinhardt and Smith; Elbaz; and Grossman there have been few studies that attempt to understand expertise in specific knowledge contexts.  Most of the expertise studies have been in classroom management or in some general aspect of teaching (cited in Tsui, 2003).  Studies that look at expertise and content knowledge in a specific discipline would help fill this gap.

Another area that needs further research is in expertise in English as a second language (ESL) teaching.  Tsui (2003) cites one study: Richards, Li, and Tang on expertise in second-language.  This study was a novice/expert comparison study.  Tsui says there is even less research in the area of development of expertise in ESL teaching. Her book begins to fill that gap by reporting on her case study research of four K-12 ESL teachers.  It is clear that this field is wide open for research.  Research on expertise in foreign language teaching in a non-English speaking setting would be particularly welcome as well as expertise studies in higher education in a non-English speaking setting.

Finally, Tsui (2003) suggests one more gap in the research.  Most novice/expert studies examine what happens in the minds of teachers as if they were divorced from the work context.  Ethnographic research on teachers’ lives reveals that the context in which the teacher works and their “knowledge and skills” are almost inseparable (p. 2).  Expertise research that considers teachers and their responses to their contexts is needed.

Expertise research in teaching is an area that can provide exciting new theories about teachers and teaching.  It can enlighten how we educate the next generation of teachers as well as how we encourage teacher development of practicing teachers.  As seen above, there are still many gaps in the research that need to be filled.



Berliner, D.C.  (1994).  The wonder of exemplary performances.  In Mangieri, J. N. & C. Collins Block (Eds.), Creating powerful thinking in teachers and students.  Fort Worth, TX: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.  Retrieved May 7, 2005, from

Dunkin, M.J.  (2002).  Novice and award-winning teachers’ concepts and beliefs about teaching in higher education.  In N. Hativa & P. Goodyear (Eds.), Teacher thinking, beliefs and knowledge in higher education (pp. 41-57).  London: Kluwer Academic Publishers. 

Hattie, J., & Marsh, H.W.  (1996).  The relationship between research and teaching – a meta-analysis.  Review of Educational Research, 66, 507-542.

Marsh, H.W.  (1987).  Students’ evaluations of university teaching: Research findings, methodological issues, and directions for future research.  International Journal of Educational Research, 11, 253-388.

Roche, L.A., & Marsh, H.W.  (2002).  Teaching self-concept in higher education.  In N. Hativa & P. Goodyear (Eds.), Teacher thinking, beliefs and knowledge in higher education (pp. 179-218).  London: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Scardamalia, M. & Bereiter, C.  (1991).  Literate expertise.  In K. Anders Ericcson & J. Smith (Eds.), Toward a general theory of expertise: Prospects and limits (pp. 172-194).  Cambridge University Press.

Shulman, L.S.  (2000).  Teacher development: Roles of domain expertise and pedagogical knowledge.  Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 21(1), 129-135.

Tsui, A.B.M.  (2003).  Understanding expertise in teaching: Case studies of EFL teachers.  Cambridge University Press.

Vanci Osam, U. & Balby, S.  (2004)  Investigating the decision making skills of cooperating teachers and student teachers of English in a Turkish context.  Teaching & Teacher Education, 20, 745-758.



Bereiter, C., & Scardamalia, M.  (1993).  Surpassing ourselves--An inquiry into the nature and implications of expertise.  Illinois: Open Court.

Berliner, D.C.  (1994).  The wonder of exemplary performances.  In Mangieri, J. N. & C. Collins Block (Eds.), Creating powerful thinking in teachers and students.  Fort Worth, TX: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.  Retrieved May 7, 2005, from

Berliner, D.C., & Carter, K.  (1989).  Differences in processing classroom information by expert and novice teachers.  In J. Lowyck & C. Clark (Eds.), Teacher thinking and professional action (pp. 55-74).  Louvain: Louvain University Press.

Borko, H., & Livingston, C.  (1988, April).  Expert and novice teachers’ mathematics instruction: Planning, teaching and post lesson reflections.  Paper presented at the meetings of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, LA.

Brooks, D.M., & Hawke, G.  (1985, April).  Effective and ineffective session opening teacher activity and task structures.  Paper presented at the meetings of the American Educational Research Association, Chicaco, IL.

Bullough, R.V. (1989).  First year teacher: A case study.  New York: Teachers College Press.

Bullough, R.V., & Baughman, K.  (1993).  Continuity and change in teacher development: First year teacher after five years.  Journal of Teacher Education, 44(2), 86-95.

Carter, K., Cushing, K., Sabers, D., Stein, P., & Berliner, D.C.  (1988).  Expert –Novice differences in perceiving and processing visual information.  Journal of Teacher Education, 3, 147-57.

Chase, W.G., & Simon, H.A.  (1973).  Perception in chess. Cognitive Psychology, 4, 55-81.

Chi, M.T.H., Glaser, R., & Farr, M.  (1988).  The nature of expertise.  Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

de Groot, A.D.  (1965).  Thought and choice in chess.  The Hague: Mouton.

Dreyfus, H. L., & Dreyfus, S.E.  (1986).  Mind over machine. New York: Free Press.

Dunkin, M.J.  (2002).  Novice and award-winning teachers’ concepts and beliefs about teaching in higher education.  In N. Hativa & P. Goodyear (Eds.), Teacher thinking, beliefs and knowledge in higher education (pp. 41-57).  London: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Elbaz, F.  (1983).  Teacher thinking: A study of practical knowledge.  London: Croom Helm.

Elbaz, F.  (1991).  Research on teachers’ knowledge: The evolution of a discourse.  Journal of Curriculum Studies, 23, 1-19.

Eraut, M.  (1994).  Developing professional knowledge and competence.  London: The Falmer Press.

Glaser, R.  (1987).  Thoughts on expertise.  In C. Schooler & W. Schaie (Eds.), Cognitive functioning and social structure over the life course.  Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

Glaser, R., & Chi, M.T.H.  (1988).  Overview.  In M.T.H. Chi, R. Glaser, & M. Farr (Eds.), The nature of expertise (pp. xv-xxxvi).  Hillsdale, N.J: Erlbaum.

Grossman, P.  (1990).  The making of a teacher.  New York: Teachers College Press.

Hattie, J., & Marsh, H.W.  (1996).  The relationship between research and teaching – a meta-analysis.  Review of Educational Research, 66, 507-542.

Housner, L.D., & Griffey, D.C.  (1985).  Teacher cognition: Differences in planning and interactive decision making between experienced and inexperienced teachers.  Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 56, 44-53.

Krabbe, M.A., & Tullgren, R.  (1989, March).  A comparison of experienced and novice teachers’ routines and procedures during set and discussion instructional activity segments.  Paper presented at meetings of the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco, CA.

Leinhardt, G., Putnam, R.T., Stein, M.K., & Baxter, J.  (1991).  Where subject knowing matters.  In J. Brophy (Ed.), Advances in Research on Teaching, 2 (pp. 87-114).  London: JAI Press.

Leinhardt, G., & Smith, D.A.  (1985).  Expertise in mathematics instruction: Subject matter knowledge.  Journal of Educational Psychology, 77(3), 247-271.

Lesgold, A., Rubinson, H., Feltovich, P., Glaser, R., Klopfer, D., & Wang, Y.  (1988).  Expertise in a complex skill: Diagnosing x-ray pictures.  In M.T.H. Chi, R. Glaser, & M. Farr (Eds.). The nature of expertise. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Marsh, H.W.  (1987).  Students’ evaluations of university teaching: Research findings, methodological issues, and directions for future research.  International Journal of Educational Research, 11, 253-388.

Newell, A., & Simon, H.A.  (1972).  Human problem solving.  Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Richards, J.C., Li, B., & Tang, A.  (1995).  A comparison of pedagogical reasoning skills in novice and experienced ESL teachers.  RELC, 26(2), 1-24.

Roche, L.A., & Marsh, H.W.  (2002).  Teaching self-concept in higher education.  In N. Hativa & P. Goodyear (Eds.), Teacher thinking, beliefs and knowledge in higher education (pp. 179-218).  London: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Sabers, D.S., Cushing, K.S., & Berliner, D.C.  (1991).  Differences among teachers in a task characterized by simultaneity, multidimensionality, and immediacy.  American Educational Research Journal, 28, 63-88.

Scardamalia, M. & Bereiter, C.  (1991).  Literate expertise.  In K. Anders Ericcson & J. Smith (Eds.), Toward a general theory of expertise: Prospects and limits (pp. 172-194).  Cambridge University Press.

Sharpe, T. L., & Hawkins, A. (Eds.).  (1992).  Field systems analysis: An alternative strategy for the study of teaching expertise.  Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, 12, 1.

Shulman, L.S.  (2000).  Teacher development: Roles of domain expertise and pedagogical knowledge.  Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 21(1), 129-135.

Tsui, A.B.M.  (2003).  Understanding expertise in teaching: Case studies of EFL teachers.  Cambridge University Press.

Vanci Osam, U. & Balby, S.  (2004).  Investigating the decision making skills of cooperating teachers and student teachers of English in a Turkish context.  Teaching & Teacher Education, 20, 745-758.

Nancy Keranen has an MA-TESOL from Seattle Pacific University.  She is a full-time associate professor at the Benemérita Universidad Autonóma de Puebla, in Puebla, Mexico.  She is also a first year PhD candidate at Lancaster University, Lancaster, United Kingdom.  Her research is on expertise and teacher professional development.  Email:


An In-Service Teacher Training Program for Primary and Secondary School Teachers of English in Tirana, Albania

By Andy Halvorsen



Countries in the developing world often lack the necessary funds, human resources and experience to develop a modern educational infrastructure capable of providing quality professional development opportunities and networks of support for teachers.  For this reason teachers often feel isolated and cut-off from the greater educational community, both in their own countries and abroad.   In Tirana, to combat this and to address the twin needs of professional development and community support for teachers in developing countries, a teacher training program was set up for primary and secondary school teachers of English.

This program was developed through a collaborative effort by the US Department of State’s English Language Fellow (ELF) program and Tirana’s Office of the Educational Director (OED), the division of Albania’s Ministry of Education which is responsible for pre-service and in-service training at the primary and secondary school level.  As the English Language Fellow assigned to the project, I was responsible for the coordination of the program, the development of the training materials, and for leading the bi-weekly training sessions.


Program Aims

Defining the aims of a program of this nature was a complex task, primarily due to the fact that the stakeholders involved had rather varied interests.  Nevertheless, the program outline defined four main objectives:

1. Program sustainability:  All efforts were made to develop a training program that would carry on into the future and ultimately be operated solely by the OED and without the assistance of the ELF program. 

2. Professional development:  Training materials were designed primarily to raise teacher awareness of significant issues in the field of English language teaching and workshops were implemented which allowed teachers to reflect on and discuss these issues.  Teachers were also given repeated opportunities to practice newly acquired teaching skills in the controlled environment of the training workshops.

3. Cadre support:  Because teachers often benefit from the support that can be provided by a group of qualified and willing colleagues, this program hoped to develop and foster a sustainable network of supportive teachers.

4. Civic education: At the time that these workshops were being developed, Albania’s Ministry of Education was emphasizing the value of civic education in the classroom.  For this reason, issues like environmental degradation and human rights abuses were incorporated into the training program and teachers were encouraged to discuss how these types of issues could fit reasonably and naturally into their classes.


Description of Program and Participants

The agreed-upon training group was a cadre of young and comparatively inexperienced teachers from Tirana’s primary and secondary schools.  Approximately forty teachers were selected from twenty schools in and around the Tirana area.  To be eligible, teachers were obligated to have less than five years formal teaching experience and to have graduated from an Albanian university with a degree in English language teaching or literature. 

Forty teachers were divided into two groups of approximately twenty each and the program ran for eight months, starting in November 2004 and finishing in June 2005.  Each of the two groups met once a month for four hours for a total training time of 32 hours.

As the English Language Fellow based in Tirana, I was primarily responsible for leading the training workshops, although I occasionally enlisted the support of others, including American Peace Corps Volunteers in Albania and the staff of the OED.


Struggles with Participant Motivation

From my point of view, it was essential that teachers not simply be obligated to participate through an external authority like the regional OED but that they have some internal motivation of their own.  The reasons for this were both pedagogical and structural.  From a pedagogical point of view, I believe that participants who are internally motivated to attend trainings are more likely to participate meaningfully in workshops, more likely to be actively engaged in the learning process, and generally more likely to give the workshops a high priority in their lives.  Structurally, as program sustainability was one of the primary aims, it made more sense to develop a training program that participants wanted to attend as it would generally be better received by the teachers and be more likely to carry on in the future.

The motivation of the teachers, however, turned out to be one of the most difficult and complex issues to work out in the training program.  The reality was that teachers were, in essence, strongly encouraged to attend by the OED and, indeed, attendance became more of a numbers game for the OED than a meaningful gauge of the value that the teachers were placing on the program and the perceived benefit they were receiving from it.  Unfortunately my efforts to get a teacher salary increase tied to the successful completion of the training program were ultimately denied as were my efforts to allow the completion of the training program to substitute for the yearly exams that teachers are obligated to take in Tirana.  The result of these difficulties, in my opinion, was a training program that was well attended but that teachers sometimes felt pressured and obligated to participate in it.

Approaches and Methods

The training approach was based both on my own belief that any form of education should primarily be about the process of discovery and on the theory of collaborative learning, as one of the primary goals was to develop a supportive community of teachers who could rely on one another for professional development and assistance in the future.  Through a series of modules structured around various issues related to teaching (student motivation, class discipline, etc.), I attempted to encourage teachers to reflect on their own beliefs about teaching as well as their strengths and weaknesses as teachers.  Ultimately, by creating a positive and supportive atmosphere in the training workshops, I hoped that teachers would develop the ability and desire to continually reflect on and seek to improve their own skills in the classroom.


Strengths and Weaknesses

In my opinion, the main strengths of the program were the participants themselves and the collaborative approach to learning that took place in the workshops.  The teachers were well selected for the program; they were young, motivated, intelligent, and trusting of the training process.  For this reason, they were able to collaborate well with one another and, as a training group, we were able to maximize the value of the time spent in the workshops. 

Another strength of this program was the unique and innovative approach it took to teacher training in Albania.  A collaborative approach to learning was relatively new in Albania, where participants are more used to the traditional teacher-fronted model of education.  The civic education component of this program was also unique both in our attempts to filter it down to the classroom level and in the way it connected to some of the difficult social issues presented in a newly emerging democracy like Albania.

In retrospect, it is fairly easy to identify two primary weaknesses of this program.  The first and most serious was the failure of the original program aim to create something sustainable.  I believe this happened for a couple of reasons.  The first was my own inability to get other trainers involved in the project who would be able to carry on the work after I left. Once funding from the ELF program was removed, it proved impossible to find suitable local trainers willing to carry on the work.  The second issue relating to sustainability is the question of teacher motivation, which was discussed earlier.

Aside from this, the program also suffered an internal, structural weakness in communication.  Bringing together forty teachers from twenty different schools at a fixed time and date proved to be a difficult task, largely due to the fact that the OED lacked the communication infrastructure to contact the teachers.  We were hindered in particular by a lack of accurate phone numbers and frequent and prolonged telephone outages, a dysfunctional postal system, and very limited use of email as a form of communication.


Concluding Thoughts

Overall, despite the weaknesses listed above, I would rate the training program a success.  When considering the difficulties inherent in creating a teacher training course from scratch, particularly in the developing world, I am proud of how much we were able to accomplish in seven months' time.  The two aims of professional development and cadre support were well-met and, most importantly, the teachers themselves enjoyed and benefited from the process.


Andy Halvorsen is an ESL/EFL instructor and teacher trainer currently living in Maryland, USA, where he is training Algerian military students.  He recently returned from Tirana, Albania, where he spent two years as an English Language Fellow.  Email:


Star Teachers: The Ideology and Best Practice of Effective Teachers of Diverse Children and Youth in Poverty

By Dr. Martin Haberman

Reviewed by Andrew Finch


Dr. Haberman has, in this seminal contribution to educational literature, written an exceptional book that has implications stretching across disciplines and national boundaries.  Although not written as an English Language Teaching (ELT) book, this detailed investigation of the qualities of star teachers and the conditions they have to overcome is extremely relevant to EFL (English as a Foreign Language) instructors and TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) program developers faced with test-driven, failing education systems.  Star Teachers is thus an important read for EFL/ESOL teachers and trainers, since it deals with all-too-familiar problems of teaching to the test, blaming the victims of high stakes testing, ignoring the development of higher-order thinking skills, focusing on punishment-based classroom control, and learning to live with self-perpetuating, inept bureaucracies. 

This book is not simply a statement of the problems.  It is also a well-researched, longitudinal study, made doubly valuable because of the observations and recommendations that it makes.  Having spent fifty years or so researching schools containing diverse children and youth in poverty, the author has produced a telling indictment of the education system in the U.S.A., and in doing this, identifies and addresses themes which are of universal relevance to all teachers.  In addition, a very welcome aspect of the book is that makes its points without pulling any punches.  He shows us an education system in the U.S. which is failing by its own standards (the reader is given a wealth of statistics to support this statement) with no signs of it improving  Teachers who wish to follow their vocation in such an environment must therefore make their own way, and must develop strategies for survival.  In this context, Dr. Haberman has drawn deeply upon his fifty years of research, and has offered valuable insights into the ideologies and techniques of teachers who remain in such surroundings “because their focus is on the students.  They devote their energies before, during and after school to their students” (p. 27).

Part One of Star Teachers (Chapters I to VII) deals with the appalling conditions facing teachers of diverse children in urban poverty in the U.S.A., examining every aspect of the failing “pedagogy of poverty”, including a description of a problem rarely identified in teacher-training programs–dealing with school bureaucracies.  Part Two (Chapters VIII and IX) then goes on to contrast “Traditional Urban Teaching Practices” with “Good Teaching,” since it is evident that the two are mutually exclusive.  These traditional practices, identified by Dr. Haberman as underpinning the pedagogy of poverty, are based on four assumptions which can also be found in TEFL reference books describing the propositional (grammar-translation) paradigm (cf. Breen 1987; Long & Crookes 1993; White, 1988 and its associated teacher-centered format):

A)  Teaching is what teachers do.  Learning is what students do.  Therefore, students and teachers are engaged in different activities.

B)  Teachers are in charge and responsible.  Students are those who still need to learn appropriate behavior.  Therefore, when students follow teacher’s directions, appropriate behavior is being taught and learned.

C)  Students represent a wide range of individual differences.  Therefore, ranking is inevitable, so that some students will end up at the bottom of the class while others finish at the top.

D)  Basic skills are required for subsequent learning and living.  Students are not necessarily interested in basic skills.  Therefore, directive pedagogy (restrictive teaching to the test, cf. Donald’s “well-regulated liberty” [Donald, 1992, p. 12]) must be used to insure that youngsters are compelled to learn their basic skills. (p. 50)

Having read these two parts of the book, it becomes evident that “Urban youths are not just poorly prepared for work but systematically trained to be quitters and failures” (p. 59).

Part Three (Chapters X to XVI) takes us into new territory, by examining the characteristics of star teachers--people who teach successfully and meaningfully inside the system--people whose “raison d’etre is their students, first and last” (p. 17).  In this section, we get to see how star teachers think about teaching and how they transform these ideas into action and effective teaching.  The main assumption here is that “Schooling is living, not preparation for living.  And living is a constant messing with problems that seem to resist final solutions” (p. 54).  Following from this, we find that:

Star teachers believe their students are not only as smart as they are but are more likely to learn more in the future than their teachers now know.  This leads them to respond to students in ways which are not only respectful but highly motivational … and such behaviors also become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  (p. 102)

The reader is now treated to a number of measurable and non-measurable attributes and principles of star teachers.  It is not possible to mention all of these in this review, but a selection is offered below:

  • Star teachers are obsessed with generating effort. (p. 106)
  • Star teachers have extraordinary organizational skills. (p. 113)
  • Stars interact with children as if the purpose of any activity is to get the children to do the work – the speaking, questioning, finding out, writing, measuring or constructing – while the teacher’s job is to serve as a coach and resource to the children. (p. 115)
  • Stars don’t plan by focusing on what they will be doing but on what the children will be dong – alone, in groups or as a whole. (p. 118)
  • Stars know that learning skyrockets and teaching becomes less stressful when they are able to motivate students. (p. 119)
  • Stars seek to create students who will be independent and not need them. (p. 177)
  • Stars frequently model the acceptance of mistakes and on occasion use it as a teachable moment. (p. 189)

This part of the book is very positive, since it offers hope for teachers in similar situations.  It also points out that teachers are not born with exceptional skills.  They have to develop and refine these through a continuous process of reflection and trial-and-error, based on a strong belief system.  Just like effective learning, teaching results are directly proportional to the amount of effort put in, rather than to an imaginary “ability” that allows success without effort.  This has direct applications for ESOL teacher trainers, since their trainees are often people who have been through the norm-referenced mill of high-stakes, competitive testing (Kohn, 2000), and who therefore see innate ability rather than hard work as the defining factor in language learning.

ELT teacher trainers wishing to incorporate ideas from this book into their programs will therefore be glad to read that Dr. Haberman has made a questionnaire for applicants to teacher-training courses, and that this questionnaire is used widely in the U.S.A.  Unfortunately, this questionnaire is not included in the book, though it is possible to go to the home page of the Haberman Foundation ( and to play “The Protocol Game,” in which the player becomes a teacher in a virtual classroom, with children regularly misbehaving for reasons of attention seeking, power, revenge, or avoidance of failure.  The task of the player is to choose appropriate actions to take in order to transform the misbehavior into on-task involvement. Also on the Haberman homepage is the “Star Teacher online pre-screener” (a questionnaire which analyses whether teacher-training applicants are suited to the profession).

In conclusion, Star Teachers can be recommended unconditionally for educators in every discipline, since it details how and why professionals in exceptionally bad conditions manage to educate according to the principles that they know to be effective.

Publication Information:

The Haberman Educational Foundation, Houston, TX; 2005

Paperback, 220 pages

ISBN: 0-9761856-0-6 Paperback


Dr. Andrew Finch is assistant professor of English Education at Kyungpook National University. He was born in Wales and educated in England, where he had various middle school teaching positions before coming to Korea to learn Baduk. Andrew’s research interests include task-based materials design and classroom-based assessment, set within a perspective of language learning as education of the whole person.  Email:

 Volume 8, Issue 1, November 2005

                                            NEXUS   ISSN 1521-1894
                                            Copyright 2007