But Worst Prof Ever argues (sort of) for the opposite: expertise in a field is not only no assurance of being a good teacher, it tends to make for worse teachers. Her proposal:
The thing is, experts are often the worst teachers; they’ve been practicing whatever topic for way too long, and snug in their cocoon of pigeonholed expertise, they have lost touch with what it feels like to be the student who finds, say, Econ 101 as inaccessible as alien hieroglyphics. ... you’re a better teacher if you were (and perhaps are) completely baffled by the subject you’re supposed to be teaching.I have several thoughts here: First, 'expert' seems to be defined up here, not simply the way we would think any trained academic is an expert in her field. 'Expert' here seems to designate the cream of the crop. I'm not an 'expert' in logic in this sense, but Bertrand Russell was, say.
Her more intriguing idea is that natural geniuses make poor teachers because they've never had a personal struggle with learning. If it's never been hard for you to learn X, then you're likely to have difficulty attempting to teach X to those for whom learning X is hard. In my observation, there's some truth to this. Those who are superduperexpert in something often teach essentially by talking out loud, by laying out their understanding of a problem or question. This is terrific if that understanding is transparent to you, if you can readily appreciate why their understanding of the problem or question is a good one. But for anyone else, an expert talking out loud isn't teaching in any substantive sense. The expert is displaying knowledge, but transmitting it accidentally, if at all.
But I'm interested to know: What is the relationship between expertise and teaching ability? Socrates was on to something surely: You can't teach what you don't know. But is knowing too well (or too much) a hindrance to good teaching?