by: Kenn Barron
Recently, I was asked what makes someone a master teacher. Like many concepts in higher education, there are numerous definitions linked with what a “master teacher” is or what a “master teacher” does. But rather than offering a definition, I wanted to share an analogy that I heard at a national teaching conference. One of the keynote speakers pointed out that just like driving a car our whole lives doesn’t qualify us to be a professional race car driver… being a teacher our whole lives doesn’t qualify us to be a master teacher.
This analogy quickly struck a chord with me. Last year, I had a friend who is a professional race car instructor invite me to go race with him. Even though I’ve been driving for over 25 years and I’ve ”practiced” driving a car each day for most of those years, his invitation instantly made me feel like a driving novice. I questioned whether I had the necessary skills to race against other expert (aka, master) drivers, and I was a little anxious saying yes to his offer. But like a master teacher, my friend started putting my fears to rest by showing me the training program that he takes drivers through to gradually help them move from being a novice to an expert.
The notion of how long it takes to move from a novice to an expert in any particular area has received a lot of attention as a result of Malcolm Gladwell’s best-selling book, “Outliers.” Gladwell is a science writer who excels at translating the research findings from my field of psychology for the everyday public, and in “Outliers” he highlights the “10,000 Hour Rule” where psychological research shows it typically takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert on a given task. Then if we do a little math and consider dedicating ourselves full time to becoming an expert in something (8 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 52 weeks of the year), it would take approximately 5 years to meet the 10,000 hour threshold.
Interestingly, one individual decided to put the “10,000 Hour Rule” to a unique test. In 2010, Dan McLaughlin quit his job at age 30 and decided to start playing golf to see if he could become a professional golfer after 10,000 hours of practice. He also created a website and blog where you can track his progress over time.