High Expertise Teaching

A Joint Project of the Working Group for Educator Excellence (WGEE) and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE)

Jon Saphier, WGEE Co-Chair and Founder of Research for Better Teaching
Susan Freedman, Former President of Teachers21, Founder of WGEE, and Human Resources Pilot Project Leader

In October 2008, Susan Freedman and Jon Saphier, then co-chairs of the Working Group for Educator Excellence (WGEE), and several other members met with Commissioner of Education, Mitchell Chester, to discuss ways to pursue our shared commitment to comprehensive support for educator professionalism in difficult financial times. The outcome was an agreement to pursue a joint project between the DESE and the WGEE to define the knowledge and skills of professional teaching practice in a deep and detailed way, a project that would enable clearer communication and coordinated programs and practices across the 10 key elements of the human resource pipeline. Thus, the “Knowledge and Skills of Professional Teaching Project” was born. In 2010, “High Expertise Teaching” (HET) became the new title for this project.

Education stakeholders and expert practitioners in Massachusetts have not had the opportunity to come together to agree upon a common professional knowledge base for teaching or to organize a centralized repository of that knowledge. However, today there is a vast amount of validated, research-based knowledge about successful teaching waiting to be delineated and organized into a centralized resource. The WGEE and DESE goal is to strengthen and bind together previously disconnected and often dysfunctional elements of the personnel pipeline with the glue of high-level professional knowledge and skill, and to do so comprehensively and compellingly.

The many teaching standards documents available throughout the 50 states list important competencies, but they do so at an abstract level that does not specifically explain what teachers need to know and be able to do. The WGEE-DESE partnership project is creating a detailed and specific inventory of the great range of knowledge and skills that might be a part of the teacher’s repertoire. Established as a dynamic tool, this evolving resource will be organized by essential domains around which there is professional consensus.

In Phase One of the project, teams of researchers and expert practitioners have completed defining the following Four Knowledge Bases of Professional Teaching:

  1. General Pedagogical Knowledge and Skill
  2. Teaching All Children
  3. Professional Culture, and
  4. Parent and Community Involvement

Working groups are adding classroom-ready detail to the knowledge and competencies delineated in Phase One. Additionally, to facilitate school, and classroom-level implementation of the HET knowledge base, our teams have been working diligently to align the HET project with the recently-approved statewide supervision and evaluation regulations.

At the end of March 2012, WGEE and DESE launched Phase Two of the project, describing, in detail, the knowledge base as it is reflected in the following  Seven Content Pedagogies:

  1. Math
  2. Reading/Writing
  3. Science
  4. Social Studies
  5. Arts
  6. Health/Physical Education
  7. World Languages

In Phase Two of the project, the domain of academic disciplines will remain intact because each aligns with existing state and national standards. As with Phase One, our volunteer teams of researchers and exemplary practitioners are approaching this work with enthusiasm and the cutting-edge knowledge necessary to improve instruction in the Commonwealth and beyond.


updated 12/2013
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