General questions about the Framework

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What was your original purpose in writing the Framework for Teaching? Was it intended to be used for teacher evaluation?

When I wrote Enhancing Professional Practice in 1996, I intended it to be a definition of good teaching, in all its complexity. I hoped (and wrote) that it might be useful for any number of purposes: first, and most importantly, for teachers’ own self assessment and reflection; for teacher preparation, recruitment and hiring, mentoring and induction; for professional development; and yes, also teacher evaluation. The latter was simply one of many uses to which it could be put.

However, that’s been a source of some tension, since many educators have made evaluation its first use. And in the last few years, with the new emphasis on teaching evaluation, people have had to base their evaluations on something. I’d prefer that they use my Framework for that
purpose, rather than some other instructional model that’s not as well researched or well accepted. That’s not to say that I approve of every evaluation system that’s been developed, particularly if it’s seen as something that’s done to teachers, rather than as a collaborative effort.

Why should a state or district adopt the Framework for Teaching?

First, the Framework for Teaching (FFT) is a valid instrument for defining effective teaching. Several large research studies (the MET project, a study in Chicago) demonstrated its predictive validity: that is, when teachers demonstrate high levels of proficiency on the FFT, their students show greater learning gains than do the students of teachers who perform less well. The latest edition of the FFT (2013) incorporates the instructional implications of the Common Core State Standards.

Second, the Framework for Teaching represents what Lee Shulman has called the “wisdom of practice.” That is, when teachers consider the FFT in light of the complex work they do, it makes sense to them and illuminates some of the complexity. Furthermore, the levels of performance represent a natural progression for teachers as they acquire greater experience and expertise.

Third, the Framework for Teaching is supported by a large ecosystem of training and online materials. These comprise face to face training for all educators, training and assessment of observers, and published resources to support observation, evaluation, and professional development. These are available through the Danielson Group and other partners.

What do you think of states or districts modifying the Framework for Teaching?

In general, I discourage educators from making revisions to the Framework, since that can jeopardize its validity. The language in the levels of performance for the FFT has evolved since 1996; it has become more precise and tighter, with clearer distinctions between the different levels. I am aware of how challenging this is to do well, and I advise practitioners to adopt the FFT as it stands. If people want to customize it for their own setting, my advice is to add possible examples to illustrate practice in that setting.

Does the Framework for Teaching apply to all situations?

The FFT is intended to apply to all disciplines, K12. That is grounded in the simple fact that teaching, in whatever context, requires the same basic tasks, namely, knowing one’s subject, knowing one’s students, having clear outcomes, establishing a culture for learning, engaging students in learning, etc. The details of how each of those things is done, naturally, is highly level and discipline specific, and requires expertise on the part of teachers in these settings. But in general, the FFT is intended to apply equally to primary mathematics and high school studio art. It’s certainly true that the details of teaching in, for example, world languages and fine arts, are different from the details in primary reading, but it’s also the case that the details of primary reading are different from those of middle school mathematics, or high school history. That is, while teaching is highly contextualized, the basic work of teaching is universal.

  • All populations?
    Every class includes students of a wide variety of backgrounds, cultures, native languages, and knowledge and skill; indeed it is one of the greatest challenges of teaching to create learning experiences that address this wide variation. Some educators, in particular, are concerned about the applicability of the FFT to classrooms of students with special needs; they fear that their performance could never be judged to be at the highest level because of the limitations of their students. This is an understandable concern. However, the FFT should be considered in light of student characteristics of any group. For example, what constitutes a high level question for a special needs student is a different question than that for a regular education student, but it is higher order for that student.
  • Teachers who teach many students, for example vocal music?
    There’s no doubt that the Framework for Teaching must be considered in light of the “context” of the classrooms in which teachers are being observed, and that “knowing one’s students” is different, in practice, when a teacher teaches hundreds (as in music, PE, or art) from what it might be in a primary classroom with, say, 23 students. As in other aspects of using the FFT, it’s important for common sense and reason to prevail. Therefore, a vocal music teacher might know that the alto section is coming in too early at a specific point in a piece of music. That same teacher might also know, however, that a particular student has a strong voice that might be suitable for a small solo role. But much of the teacher’s knowledge of students will be, inevitably, group-based.
  • Non-classroom specialists, for example school nurses, librarians, counselors, etc.?
    Non classroom specialists (nurses, etc.,) typically do some teaching, but they also normally do many other things as well; for example, school nurses may dispense medications. That is, the work they do is somewhat different from that of classroom teachers, and they need their own frameworks. In the second edition of the Framework for Teaching (ASCD, 2007) I drafted specialist Frameworks, and I encourage educators to use or adapt them. It’s important to recognize, however, that they do not have the extensive validity research as the FFT has for teaching, and it’s hard to envision how that might be done.

Are all the components in the Framework for Teaching equally important?

While most educators have opinions on this subject, there is no research (at least not yet) to suggest that any of the components in the Framework for Teaching are more important than others. However, in the MET study, teachers’ ratings were higher, in general, for the components in Domain 2 than they were for Domain 3, suggesting that getting the classroom environment “right” is a prerequisite to serious attention to instruction, and might explain why many mentoring programs begin with the procedural and management concerns of first year teachers. However, that does not imply that Domain 2 is more important that Domain 3, only that it develops earlier. Skill in Domain 3 is absolutely critical for promoting student engagement and learning, and while it may develop after Domain 2, teaching cannot be considered “good” until teachers perform the Components of Domain 3 at a high level.

You’ve said that the Framework for Teaching is not a checklist of specific behaviors; what does this mean?

The Framework for Teaching is definitely not a checklist of specific behaviors. For example, in 2a, (creating an environment of respect and rapport) there are many ways teachers create an environment that’s safe for students to take intellectual risks, in which they respect the contributions of their classmates, etc. – not just one practice that every teacher should demonstrate. The same can be said for each of the 22 components... you can illustrate this by picking one, consider how you would demonstrate proficient or distinguished level performance, and then ask whether there are other things you (or someone else) might do that would also fit that description. The answer is certainly that there are “lots of ways to be good.”

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Pre-Service Teacher, May 2016

“[The consultant] gave the best PD I have seen in 15 years of teaching, and was the first to explain [the] Danielson [Framework] in a human way. Bravo.”

A teacher, June 2015

“I am so impressed with the Danielson Group consultants. They are all so real. Your trainers helped make [proficient] teaching stronger and steered [basic teaching] toward increasing effectiveness.” 

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"Due to your consultant's seamless and meaningful transitions, knowledge of content, and rapport with the audience, the room was alive with energy and it made us all feel ready to begin the year off with success."

"Never before have I seen a group of seasoned educators like your consultants master the art of communicating with an audience with varied levels of expertise and interests. The two days that I spent with your team, I walked away with a desire to use the rubric to truly enhance my own practice."

"I left with a renewed look at the rubric, thinking that the rubric is the Great Equalizer! We can ALL enhance our practice by using it as a tool and a roadmap to produce students who think and are ready for college and careers. THANK YOU!"

"Your consultants' presence and organization of the day will not only impact the new teachers that attended, but will make the year alive for a vast number of students this year."

"Our workshop focused on calibration and inter-rater agreement training, so it was directly aligned to our individual and collective work with teacher performance evaluation.  With new administrators on the team, this type of training is critical."

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"Your consultant presented a perfectly differentiated learning experience for all our principals. They were highly engaged, as demonstrated by on-topic conversations using academic language, completion of tasks requiring evidence identification, and note taking and 'grading' during classroom videos of teaching."

"Our school principals said the Framework observation training was the best training they had ever had, including the training provided when earning their Master’s degrees."

"I have a principal who was so excited about the breakthrough work with her staff in special education. I am already getting my money back!"

"My concern about the extra time it would take to implement the Framework successfully was not accurate. It took about the same amount of time as our prior evaluation system, and the benefits in professional growth and increased student achievement were more than worth it."

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