The BTR Early Career Teaching Network is a community of teacher educators, scholars, and early career teacher-leaders working to improve how teachers learn to develop the flexible, adaptive expertise needed to prepare all students for a rapidly changing world.

The Challenge

Powerful student learning in schools depends on adults’ ability to learn from one another. Through their daily work, teachers learn about the complex interactions between learners, teaching, and content, but without authentic opportunities to reflect on what they know and how they came to learn it, these understandings often remain tacit and contextualized to their specific experiences in the classroom.

Lacking routines to develop, test, and refine theories about teaching and to learn from other teachers’ decision making, many early career teachers plateau in developing the professional judgment and flexible, adaptive skills needed to prepare all students for success. If we in teacher prep and induction don’t develop new structures and leadership roles for effective coaching and knowledge sharing across classrooms, we will continue to see disparities in teacher growth and lose promising educators to roles far removed from the core work of teaching. Our students are learning for a world already changing. We cannot wait to adapt.

“Through the BTR Early Career Teaching Network coaching, I became aware of aspects of my teaching that felt peripheral, but are critical to my effectiveness.  I’m now able to share those practices with other teachers.”

-Kyle Dempsey, cohort 10, 1st grade teacher at Guild School

The Aim

Our north star: adaptive expertise in teaching

Educators are skilled professionals who must solve problems and make decisions in complex, often ambiguous situations. Teachers who develop adaptive expertise1 show a balance between efficient teaching routines and flexible, innovative skills for responding to novel problems in the classroom.2 Our goal is that by 2020, 80% of BTR graduates who engage with our network will demonstrate adaptive expertise in teaching.

Our Working Theory

We organize our improvement work by targeting four primary drivers we believe to be critical to supporting teachers’ development of adaptive expertise.

“Through the process of working with the Early Career Teaching Network to develop my Learning Site, we identified and addressed obstacles to student learning. It’s changed the way I think about relating to students. Behavior management is about controlling behavior.  Instead, I focus on what I can do to help the student to be more successful. When teachers come to my Learning Site, they ask how I achieved this classroom culture. We (the students and I) build the culture together. We create the place where all of us want to learn.”

-Alice McCabe, cohort 9, 2nd grade teacher at Boston Teachers Union School


1 Hatano, G., & Inagaki, K. (1986). Two courses of expertise. In H. Stevenson, H. Azuma, & K. Hakuta (Eds.), Children development and education in Japan (pp. 262-272). New York: Freeman.

2 Hammerness, K., Darling-Hammond, L. E., & Bransford, J. with Berliner, D. Cochran-Smith, M. McDonald, M. & Zeichner, K. (2005). How teachers learn and develop. In L. Darling-Hammond & J. Bransford (Eds.), Preparing teachers for a changing world: What teachers should learn and be able to do, (pp. 358-389). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.