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Premium Member Book (Feb 2007)

Enhancing Professional Practice: A Framework for Teaching, 2nd Edition

by Charlotte Danielson

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. The Framework for Teaching: An Overview

The framework for teaching described in this book identifies those aspects of a teacher's responsibilities that have been documented through empirical studies and theoretical research as promoting improved student learning. Although they are not the only possible description of practice, these responsibilities seek to define what teachers should know and be able to do in the exercise of their profession.

In this framework, the complex activity of teaching is divided into 22 components clustered into the following 4 domains of teaching responsibility:

  • Domain 1: Planning and Preparation
  • Domain 2: The Classroom Environment
  • Domain 3: Instruction
  • Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities

Each component defines a distinct aspect of a domain; two to five elements describe a specific feature of a component. For example, Domain 2, The Classroom Environment, contains five components. Component 2a is Creating an Environment of Respect and Rapport, which consists of two elements: “Teacher interaction with students” and “Student interactions with other students.” This component applies in some manner to all settings, as do all the other components. But although teachers at all levels and in all subjects establish rapport with and convey respect for their students, they do so in different ways. Figure 1.1 summarizes the components and their elements; Chapter 4 describes them in detail.

Figure 1.1. Domains, Components, and Elements of the Framework for Teaching

Domain 1: Planning and Preparation

Component 1a: Demonstrating Knowledge of Content and Pedagogy

  • Knowledge of content and the structure of the discipline
  • Knowledge of prerequisite relationships
  • Knowledge of content-related pedagogy

Component 1b: Demonstrating Knowledge of Students

  • Knowledge of child and adolescent development
  • Knowledge of the learning process
  • Knowledge of students' skills, knowledge, and language proficiency
  • Knowledge of students' interests and cultural heritage
  • Knowledge of students' special needs

Component 1c: Setting Instructional Outcomes

  • Value, sequence, and alignment
  • Clarity
  • Balance
  • Suitability for diverse learners

Component 1d: Demonstrating Knowledge of Resources

  • Resources for classroom use
  • Resources to extend content knowledge and pedagogy
  • Resources for students

Component 1e: Designing Coherent Instruction

  • Learning activities
  • Instructional materials and resources
  • Instructional groups
  • Lesson and unit structure

Component 1f: Designing Student Assessments

  • Congruence with instructional outcomes
  • Criteria and standards
  • Design of formative assessments
  • Use for planning

Domain 2: The Classroom Environment

Component 2a: Creating an Environment of Respect and Rapport

  • Teacher interaction with students
  • Student interactions with other students

Component 2b: Establishing a Culture for Learning

  • Importance of the content
  • Expectations for learning and achievement
  • Student pride in work

Component 2c: Managing Classroom Procedures

  • Management of instructional groups
  • Management of transitions
  • Management of materials and supplies
  • Performance of noninstructional duties
  • Supervision of volunteers and paraprofessionals

Component 2d: Managing Student Behavior

  • Expectations
  • Monitoring of student behavior
  • Response to student misbehavior

Component 2e: Organizing Physical Space

  • Safety and accessibility
  • Arrangement of furniture and use of physical resources

Domain 3: Instruction

Component 3a: Communicating with Students

  • Expectations for learning
  • Directions and procedures
  • Explanations of content
  • Use of oral and written language

Component 3b: Using Questioning and Discussion Techniques

  • Quality of questions
  • Discussion techniques
  • Student participation

Component 3c: Engaging Students in Learning

  • Activities and assignments
  • Grouping of students
  • Instructional materials and resources
  • Structure and pacing

Component 3d: Using Assessment in Instruction

  • Assessment criteria
  • Monitoring of student learning
  • Feedback to students
  • Student self-assessment and monitoring of progress

Component 3e: Demonstrating Flexibility and Responsiveness

  • Lesson adjustment
  • Response to students
  • Persistence

Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities

Component 4a: Reflecting on Teaching

  • Accuracy
  • Use in future teaching

Component 4b: Maintaining Accurate Records

  • Student completion of assignments
  • Student progress in learning
  • Noninstructional records

Component 4c: Communicating with Families

  • Information about the instructional program
  • Information about individual students
  • Engagement of families in the instructional program

Component 4d: Participating in a Professional Community

  • Relationships with colleagues
  • Involvement in a culture of professional inquiry
  • Service to the school
  • Participation in school and district projects

Component 4e: Growing and Developing Professionally

  • Enhancement of content knowledge and pedagogical skill
  • Receptivity to feedback from colleagues
  • Service to the profession

Component 4f: Showing Professionalism

  • Integrity and ethical conduct
  • Service to students
  • Advocacy
  • Decision making
  • Compliance with school and district regulations

The components of professional practice constitute a comprehensive framework reflecting the many different aspects of teaching. Although the components are distinct, they are, of course, related to one another. A teacher's planning and preparation affect instruction, and all these are affected by the reflection on practice that accompanies a unit or lesson. In addition, many features of teaching, such as the appropriate use of technology or a concern for equity, do not each constitute a single component but rather apply to them all. Chapter 3 identifies the common themes that apply to many of the components.

Why Have a Framework?

A framework for professional practice is not unique to education. Indeed, other professions—medicine, accounting, and architecture, among many others—have well-established definitions of expertise and procedures to certify novice and advanced practitioners. Such procedures are the public's guarantee that the members of a profession hold themselves and their colleagues to high standards of practice. Similarly, a framework for teaching is useful not only to practicing educators but also to the larger community, because it conveys that educators, like other professionals, are members of a professional community.

A framework for professional practice can be used for a wide range of purposes, from meeting novices' needs to enhancing veterans' skills. Because teaching is complex, it is helpful to have a road map through the territory, structured around a shared understanding of teaching. Novice teachers, of necessity, are concerned with day-to-day survival; experienced teachers want to improve their effectiveness and help their colleagues do so as well; accomplished teachers may want to move toward advanced certification and serve as a resource to less-experienced colleagues.

A Reflection of the Complexity of Teaching

The complexity of teaching is well recognized, and this complexity extends over several aspects of the work. Teaching is physically demanding; teachers are active, moving from one part of the classroom, and of the school, to another. Student teachers, as every cooperating teacher knows, are physically exhausted at the end of a day. Teaching is also emotionally demanding, and the more caring a teacher is, the more demanding it is. Many teachers struggle to not care too much about the plights of some of their students, particularly if they are able to exert only minimal influence on the contributing factors. But even when teachers exercise self-discipline, they are frequently emotionally drained at the end of a day.

More recent research has confirmed that teaching is also cognitively demanding; a teacher makes hundreds of nontrivial decisions daily, from designing lessons, to responding to students' questions, to meeting with parents. In other words, teaching is a thinking person's job; it is not simply a matter of following a script or carrying out other people's instructional designs.

On a more general level, it is useful to think of teaching as similar to not one but several other professions, combining the skills of business management, human relations, and theater arts.

Business managers set goals for groups of subordinates and try to lead them toward accomplishing the goals. Such managers must allocate time and other scarce resources as they balance task-related and socioemotional considerations. They distribute rewards and sanctions to those in their charge. Similarly, teachers must motivate students to engage in learning, set goals and subgoals, manage time and other resources, and be accountable for the results.

Human relations work involves understanding the dynamics of a large group of individuals, each with a complex set of needs and desires. A teacher must also consider the range of individual personalities and take advantage of any opportunities for motivating students. A teacher must be able to connect with diverse students and establish relationships of caring and concern. In addition, in interactions with parents and colleagues, teachers must demonstrate sensitivity to multiple aspects of those relationships—personal, professional, and cultural.

Theater arts include many types of professionals, such as director, stage manager, actor, set designer, and even playwright. Teaching includes an equivalent of all the components of the theater arts. But although a director can, for example, delegate responsibility for props and sets, a teacher must manage all materials. Moreover, teachers may have to follow a “script” they do not particularly like, and the “audience” is frequently not attending voluntarily.

Other metaphors come to mind. Teachers have been likened to orchestra conductors, gardeners, engineers, and artists. Indeed, depending on which aspect of the job one is considering, any of these references may be appropriate. Many metaphors include students, such as Theodore Sizer's “student as worker; teacher as coach.” These metaphors remind us of the intellectual and emotional demands of teaching and the many, sometimes competing, aspects of the job.

But even more demanding than its complexity is the level of stress that teaching generates. Planning for the productive activity of 30 or more individuals (some of them present reluctantly) and successfully executing those plans, all within the context of multiple (and sometimes conflicting) demands from the school, district, community, and state, leave many teachers—particularly novices—buffeted, confused, or discouraged. As noted, the physical demands of the job are daunting, requiring enormous stamina. Most teachers leave school exhausted at the end of the day, knowing that their students will return the next day rested and ready for more. “Will I be ready?” teachers ask themselves. “Can I be ready? What will we do all day? How will I engage my students in learning important content?”

An environment of high-stakes accountability only exacerbates teachers' levels of stress. Schools are being asked to, in Michael Fullan's phrase, “raise the bar and narrow the gap” (2005). Teachers are under enormous external pressure, as never before, to prepare their students for productive lives in the knowledge economy and success in externally mandated assessments.

A Common Language for Professional Conversation

Every profession establishes a language of practice, one that captures the important concepts and understandings shared by members of the profession. Similarly, a framework for teaching offers educators a means of communicating about excellence. This is not a new finding; because of Madeline Hunter's work, most educators know what is meant by “anticipatory set,” “input and modeling,” and “teaching for transfer.” Now, as our understanding of teaching expands and deepens, we need a vocabulary that is correspondingly rich, one that reflects the realities of a classroom where students are engaged in learning important content. Such a framework is valuable for veterans as well as novices as they all strive to enhance their skills in this complex work.

During conversations about practice, particularly when such conversations are organized around a common framework, teachers are able to learn from one another and to thereby enrich their own teaching. It is this joint learning that makes the conversations so rich—and so valued. Therefore, although attendance at courses and workshops is an important vehicle for professional learning, so is focused conversation with colleagues.

It is through serious, professional conversations about the framework's components that the components are validated for any particular setting. As educators study the components and consider them within their own contexts, they can determine which components and elements are applicable and which are not. This process is critical both to enriching the professional lives of educators and to ensuring that the components used in a given setting actually do apply there. Only educators in that setting can make those determinations.

By providing an agreed-upon framework for excellence, a framework for teaching serves to structure conversations among educators about exemplary practice. A uniform framework allows those conversations to guide novices as well as to enhance the performance of veterans.

A Structure for Self-Assessment and Reflection on Practice

It is not only through conversation, however, that teachers can use a framework for teaching to strengthen their practice. Clear descriptions of practice enable teachers to consider their own teaching in light of the statements. Indeed, the statements, particularly when accompanied by descriptions of levels of performance, invite teachers to do so. It is virtually impossible for teachers to read clear statements of what teachers do, and how those actions appear when they are done well, and not engage in a thought process of “finding themselves” in the descriptors. It is natural, then, to read the statement at the next-higher level and to think to oneself, “Oh, I can do that.”

The Tradition of Frameworks for Teaching

Even before the initial publication of the framework for teaching in 1996, there was a long and highly respectable tradition of attempting to definitively describe good practice. Although the purposes of such frameworks have ranged from accountability to enhancing the profession, their value has been consistently recognized.

Contributions of a Research Base

The origin of identified components of professional practice lies in a combination of Madeline Hunter's work and research in process-product and cognitive science. Hunter was one of the first educators to argue persuasively that teaching is not only an art but also a science; some instructional practices are demonstrably more effective than others. This idea was also the message of process-product research, which sought to establish relationships among certain teaching practices and enhanced student achievement, as measured by standardized tests (Wittrock, 1986). The optimistic title of a book by Gage is instructive: The Scientific Basis of the Art of Teaching (1977). Identifying effective practices (and, in the case of Hunter, promulgating them) became the research focus in teaching during the 1970s and 1980s. Wittrock (1986) contributed to the collective knowledge base of educators by publishing the series Handbook of Research on Teaching.

State Standards

Exactly how to best use the results of research on teaching became the next challenge for educators. On a statewide basis, Georgia took the lead and used the research to create a performance assessment system as the basis for awarding a permanent license to teach in the state. Other states (particularly in the Southeast) followed suit, with systems that were modeled on Georgia's and yet had their own distinctive features. By 1990, state performance assessment systems were in place in North Carolina, Florida, and Connecticut, with others proposed (but never implemented) in Kansas and Louisiana. Over the years since then, policymakers in many states (and in numerous countries) have promulgated teaching standards to guide both teacher preparation and the evaluation of teaching. In response to, and in some cases independently of, the policy requirements, practitioners have discovered the value of clear standards of practice in structuring professional conversations.

The earliest systems of teaching standards tended to identify specific teaching behaviors (such as writing learning objectives on the board) supposedly derived from the research on effective teaching, and to rate teachers on their demonstration of these practices. The later systems adopted a more complex view of teaching and considered the quality of a teacher's judgment. For example, a Connecticut competency states that teachers should be able to “formulate meaningful questions about the subject matter.” These developments reflect an increasing recognition of the complexity of teaching and the role of professional autonomy.

National Frameworks

Nationally prominent organizations have proposed sets of standards primarily for student teachers. For example, the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC) developed standards for new teachers and has created a portfolio system designed to permit assessment of those standards. This combination has served as the foundation of standardsetting efforts in many states. A correlation of the framework offered here and the INTASC standards is shown in Figure 1.2. Similarly, the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC) and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) have both proposed standards for beginning teacher competencies. And Educational Testing Service, in designing the Praxis series of assessments for states to adopt for licensing, developed Praxis III: Classroom Performance Assessments, in which trained and certified assessors observe classroom teaching and evaluate performance against established criteria (Reynolds, 1992).

Figure 1.2. Correlation of the INTASC Standards with the Framework for Teaching Components

INTASC Standard

Description of Teacher Performance

Framework Component

Description of Teacher Performance

Principle 1

Understands the central concepts, tools of inquiry, and structure of the disciplines taught; creates learning experiences to make them meaningful to students.


Demonstrates knowledge of content and pedagogy.


Designs coherent instruction.


Engages students in learning.

Principle 2

Understands how children learn and develop; provides learning opportunities that support their development.


Demonstrates knowledge of students.


Sets instructional outcomes.


Designs student assessments.


Uses questioning and discussion techniques.


Engages students in learning.

Principle 3

Understands how students differ in their approaches to learning; creates instructional opportunities adapted to diverse learners.


Demonstrates knowledge of students.


Designs coherent instruction.


Creates an environment of respect and rapport.


Establishes a culture for learning.

3b to 3e

Instruction Domain.

Principle 4

Understands and uses a variety of instructional strategies.


Demonstrates knowledge of resources.


Designs coherent instruction.

3b to 3e

Instruction Domain.

Principle 5

Creates a learning environment that encourages positive social interaction, active engagement in learning, and self-motivation.


Designs coherent instruction.


Creates an environment of respect and rapport.


Establishes a culture for learning.


Manages classroom procedures.


Manages student behavior.


Organizes physical space.


Engages students in learning.

Principle 6

Uses knowledge of communication techniques to foster active inquiry, collaboration, and supportive interaction.


Creates an environment of respect and rapport.


Communicates with students.


Uses questioning and discussion techniques.


Engages students in learning.

Principle 7

Plans instruction based on knowledge of subject matter, students, the community, and curriculum goals.

1a to 1e

Planning and Preparation Domain.


Engages students in learning.


Demonstrates flexibility and responsiveness.

Principle 8

Understands and uses formal and informal assessment strategies.


Demonstrates knowledge of students.


Designs student assessments.


Uses assessment in instruction.


Demonstrates flexibility and responsiveness.


Reflects on teaching.


Maintains accurate records.


Communicates with families.

Principle 9

Reflects on teaching.


Reflects on teaching.


Participates in a professional community.


Grows and develops professionally.

Principle 10

Fosters relationships with colleagues, parents, and agencies in the larger community.


Demonstrates knowledge of resources.


Communicates with families.


Participates in a professional community.


Shows professionalism.

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) has made an enormous contribution to teaching standards. It was created in 1987 following the publication of A Nation Prepared (Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy's Task Force on Teaching as a Profession, 1986). Through rigorous assessments, NBPTS offers teachers the equivalent of advanced board certification in medicine. Just as a medical doctor earns an initial license to practice medicine and then passes a test for board certification in, for example, pediatrics, the theory of the national board is that teachers should be able to earn advanced certification in any of multiple disciplines or levels—for example, early childhood or high school mathematics. NBPTS offers more than 30 separate certificates to teachers; increasing numbers of teachers have taken advantage of this opportunity, finding the experience to be both challenging and professionally rewarding.

By-products of the Movement Toward Frameworks

The use of frameworks that define and describe excellence in teaching has produced powerful side effects. Even when the original purpose was to demonstrate accountability, practitioners themselves have enjoyed enormous benefits.

It has long been recognized that articulating clear standards for student learning, illustrated by examples of exemplary student work, enhances the quality of that work and students' sense of purpose. Teachers have discovered that when they are clear to students about the criteria used to evaluate a science project, for example, students are far more focused, and the resulting projects are of higher quality than when such criteria are not provided. Furthermore, students who might have believed that high grades were beyond their reach now see clearly how to achieve them.

The same phenomenon is at work with a framework for teaching. When teachers are beginning their careers, the challenge of becoming a skilled practitioner is daunting. Teaching is so complex and its various components so intertwined that many novices feel overwhelmed. A framework for teaching offers a structure for teachers to assess their practice and to organize improvement efforts. In addition, to implement teacher mentoring and licensing systems or to certify teachers under NBPTS, many educators must be trained as mentors or assessors. During such training, practitioners think seriously about teaching, learn to recognize the various components in different contexts, and as a result, reflect deeply on their own practice. This reflection, conducted in a professional and supportive environment and in the service of another purpose (becoming a mentor or a certified assessor), is an enriching experience. Practitioners report that the experience is their first opportunity in many years to discuss teaching seriously—in its complex entirety—with respected colleagues.

The components of professional practice are part of a long tradition of applying standards to both student learning and the complex role of teaching. The benefits—for individuals, universities, or schools and districts—are enormous.

Uses for a Framework

A framework for professional practice has many distinct, though related, uses. These are described briefly here and in greater detail in Chapter 6.

The Preparation of New Teachers

Many teacher educators, both in the United States and in other countries, have found the framework for teaching to be of value as they structure their programs to prepare students for the demanding and important work of teaching. The framework contributes to the organization of the program itself, the courses offered, and the supervision of student teachers.

Teacher educators have found that when they recognize the existence of a clearly articulated framework for teaching that describes the work for which they are preparing their students, they must be able to offer assurance that their graduates are, in fact, proficient in the knowledge and skills described in that framework. Such recognition leads naturally to an “audit” of their own practice, to ensure that their programs include what students will need to be successful as teachers. Furthermore, during the clinical phase of teacher preparation, teachers-in-training benefit from a clear framework for teaching, both in their observations of experienced teachers and as an organizing structure for the feedback they receive from their supervisors.

The Recruitment and Hiring of Teachers

Many school districts have discovered that recruitment and hiring are facilitated if those activities are informed by a coherent definition of good teaching, one that is aligned with their approaches to mentoring, professional development, and teacher evaluation. As a result, they have created interview questions based on the components and elements of the framework for teaching, ensuring consistency in the interview process and in the skills of teachers who join the faculty. Furthermore, through their questions, educators convey to teaching candidates what the district values and how it defines good teaching; as a result, when the new teachers are later working in the schools, they are not surprised by the district's conceptualization of good teaching.

A Road Map for Novices

Most professions designate a period of apprenticeship for a novice practitioner. Doctors work as interns and residents before assuming complete responsibility for patients. Attorneys practice as clerks for experienced lawyers or judges and then join a firm or an agency where they practice with attorneys experienced in the different specialty areas. Social workers employed in public agencies work under supervision before they earn a license to practice on their own.

But teachers, from the moment they are awarded their first license and work as the teacher of record, are considered full members of the profession. The responsibilities of a first-year teacher are just as complex (in some situations, more so) as those of a 20-year veteran. In very few locations do teachers have an experience equivalent to the internship of a doctor or a social worker; they are plunged immediately into the full responsibilities of a teacher. A newly licensed architect, for example, would never be asked to design a major building the first week on the job, all alone. But this is exactly what teachers are asked to do, and it reflects a structural challenge in the profession. Any structural solutions that might be effective, such as professional development schools that include a full-year internship, are expensive to implement.

Given the complexity of teaching, a map of the territory is invaluable to novices, providing them with a pathway to excellence. If the map is used well and shared by mentors, it can help make the experience of becoming an accomplished professional a rewarding one. Furthermore, well-designed mentoring programs significantly reduce the rate of attrition of new teachers.

Guidance for Experienced Professionals

A framework for professional practice offers the teaching profession the same definition long afforded other professions. A framework answers the questions “What does an effective teacher know?” and “What does an accomplished teacher do in the performance of her duties?” A framework is useful for all teachers, from those just entering the profession, to veterans who may have lost enthusiasm for their work, to master teachers who are trying to convey their wisdom to others. Thus far, educators have lacked an agreed-upon structure that reflects new understandings of teaching and learning and offers a context for describing and discussing excellence. They rarely devote precious time to professional dialogue and sharing of techniques. A framework for teaching provides the structure for such discussions and an opportunity for genuine professionalism.

A Structure for Focusing Improvement Efforts

When novice teachers meet with their mentors or when experienced teachers consult with their coaches or supervisors, they need a framework to determine which aspects of teaching require their attention. They must decide which parts, of all the complex elements of instruction reflected in any lesson, to concentrate on. A framework for teaching provides such a structure.

Without a framework, the structure is reduced to whatever the mentor, coach, or supervisor has in her head, and it thus reflects the personal beliefs that individual holds about teaching, regardless of whether these have ever been made explicit. Many teachers have had the experience of conducting what they thought was a brilliant lesson only to have a principal react negatively because, for example, students were talking to one another. The teacher and the principal did not share a common understanding of what represented effective teaching.

With a framework for teaching in hand, however, participants can conduct conversations about where to focus improvement efforts within the context of shared definitions and understandings. When a teacher is struggling in the classroom, when a lesson is ineffective, or when students are not engaged, a comprehensive framework is useful in identifying the source of the difficulty and therefore in guiding improvement efforts. These conversations focus on means, not ends, and they are conducted in an environment of professional respect.

Communication with the Larger Community

An important step to enhancing the stature of educators in the family of professions is defining clearly what constitutes excellence in teaching. As long as practitioners present teaching as a mysterious art form without well-defined duties and competencies, the larger community will regard it with mistrust. For example, many in the general public do not understand the need for teachers to attend courses and workshops: “They went to college, didn't they?” The clarity that a framework for teaching provides, including Component 4e, Growing and Developing Professionally, can situate such activities squarely within the responsibilities of teaching.

A framework for professional practice has important uses in the service of teaching and learning. These uses demonstrate the framework's power to elevate professional conversations that characterize the interaction of exemplary teachers everywhere.


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