‘You can teach a person all you know, but only experience will convince him that what you say is true.’ – Richelle E. Goodrich
Teaching is essential, but experience is what truly takes learning to a different level. This quote can be interpreted in many ways and applied to many contexts, but it got us thinking: what does it say about the difference between a teacher at the beginning of their career and a teacher a few years down the line?
When teachers begin to apply their skills and training in an actual classroom full of students, their perspective and methods may change over time to better help their students and suit different situations. Student learning is influenced by many factors, and that includes teacher skills and knowledge.
Here are a few teacher characteristics that are considered important to student learning:
- The ability to convey ideas clearly to avoid misunderstanding.
- Creating an environment that makes students feel comfortable and nourishes their growth.
- Maintaining positive relationships with students, parents, and colleagues.
These can all be developed through experience, but are they the only things that matter for student learning? We read the research to understand how experience and qualification both uniquely impact a teacher’s work.
Experience vs. Qualification
To become a teacher in the UK, you generally must have an undergraduate degree of 2:2 or above, at least a GCSE grade C in English and Maths, and have completed a one-year program to gain Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). You are then required to undertake an induction year which acts as a probation period before you become fully qualified.
In addition to this, the demands on teachers have become more intense over the years. They are often expected to deal with students from many different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, to be aware of social issues and promote tolerance, and to use new technology or adopt new teaching techniques. This makes the pressure on teachers even higher. Managing a classroom of over 20 students whose parents believe you will bring them academic success whilst juggling changes in the curriculum and sometimes having to council students with learning or behavioural problems is a balancing act that teachers perform every day. But where does this skill come from?
Research shows that higher ratings of student satisfaction are positively associated with higher qualifications amongst staff. Education develops an individual’s speed of learning, which makes them better at adapting to different situations. Although experience may teach you if doing something a certain way does or doesn’t work, education gives you the knowledge and analytical skills to figure out why and adapt.
On the other hand, experience allows for invaluable trial and error which can show teachers the best ways to resolve various situations. Evidence shows a statistically significant difference in teachers’ sense of efficacy depending on the number of years they have been teaching. In the study mentioned, those who had taught for more than 12 years were more effective in their teaching than those who had taught for less than 8 years. Teachers become more confident in their skills over the years as they are gaining experience and seeing the positive results of their teaching methods.
Best of Both Worlds
All the research discussed above indicates that experience is important to allow teachers to keep building on their skills, on top of the strong foundation of qualifications. Both are necessary for efficient teaching but they don’t have to come in a specific order. Teachers at the beginning of their career can work on both their experience and qualification at the same time, to become the best educator they can be.
Without the appropriate qualifications, it is unlikely for someone to become a teacher. However, once these qualifications have been achieved, it is important to gain experience – learning doesn’t stop once university is over. Working with children in a classroom setting is no simple task and teachers must be prepared for a steep learning curve once they begin. Successful teachers are those who are able to identify where changes need to be made and put them into place for effective student learning and positive outcomes – and who, hopefully, can help students understand the importance of qualifications and experience, too.
For more ways to enhance your teaching experience, check out our range of teacher CPD workshops.