Professional conversations: Adaptive expertise

Helen Timperley, Professor of Education, University of Auckland. Increasingly the literature’s sort of distinguishing between routine expertise and adaptive expertise. Routine expertise is great for stable environments where we can perfect our skills and our knowledge, but unfortunately, schools aren’t like that anymore. Students are changing, knowledge is changing. And so, this idea of adaptive expertise is really gaining currency. Essentially, it's about having that moral imperative of students at the heart of everything we do, and looking closely at are we optimising the outcomes for them in the ways that we need to. And a key part of adaptive expertise is about taking agency for making a difference. So it's not that your practice is no good or you can’t improve, but it's about thinking about the students and “how can I really reach those most difficult-to-reach students and teach them better,” and then you can teach everyone better. And the third aspect of adaptive expertise that I really emphasise is the self-awareness that sometimes something you do may not be as effective as it could be, and that you're constantly questioning whether this is the most effective way of doing something for those students. So it's related to metacognition, self-regulated learning, that again, for students and for teachers, we know is becoming more and more important The professional conversation’s absolutely crucial to it. We learn socially, we learn from one another. So when I say they’ve got agency for making a difference for those students, it has to be a collective agency. And you can’t get a collective agency without having professional conversations. Conversations are like the oil that kind of seeps through everything we do. So they're informal, they're formal, but they are the way that we communicate and learn from one another, and they're absolutely essential to developing adaptive expertise.