The Danielson Framework for Teaching as tool for professional reflection and conversation

2013 Danielson Framework for Teaching Evaluation Instrument cover

2013 Danielson Framework for Teaching Evaluation Instrument cover

The Framework for Teaching is a research-based set of components of instruction, aligned to the INTASC standards, and grounded in a constructivist view of learning and teaching. The complex activity of teaching is divided into 22 components (and 76 smaller elements) clustered into four domains of teaching responsibility. ~ Danielson Group website

I have spent a lot of time blogging about the coaching part of my school’s coaching model and some outlining the specifics of the model and the ways we use lesson data. I’ve spent less time talking about why and how we use Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching as a tool for professional reflection and conversation. In this post, I’ll illuminate some of the reasons for adopting the Framework and the ways in which we use it at my Australian school.

Danielson’s Framework—explained in the most detail in Enhancing Professional Practice: A Framework for Teaching (Danielson, 2008)—provides a map of what excellence in teaching might look like, providing a set of shared, explicit descriptors. Grounded in research, it is a thorough, multi-layered definition of good teaching which identifies a comprehensive range of teacher responsibilities. The Framework is intended to be part of transparent, active processes such as teacher reflection, professional inquiry, classroom observations, mentoring, coaching, and Human Resources processes such as recruitment, evaluation of teacher performance and appraisal. The use of such a framework depersonalises conversations about teaching, focusing discussion on specific elements of practice, rather than on the individual. It provides a shared, explicit set of descriptors.

The Framework clusters its twenty two components of teaching into four domains of teacher responsibility:

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

The components are intended to be applicable to diverse settings and independent of any particular teaching methodology. Whilst these components are separated for the purpose of the Framework, they are acknowledged as interrelated parts of a complex holistic endeavour. In action, the Framework is more web-like than grid-like. This is reflected in the choice of cover artwork for The Framework for Teaching Evaluation Instrument (Danielson, 2013) which shows the four domains as an intersecting Venn diagram.

The Gates Foundation’s Measures of Effective Teaching project studied 23,000 lessons of 3,000 teacher volunteers in six USA urban school districts in order to investigate how teacher practice affects student achievement. It found that the Framework:

  • was positively associated with student achievement gains;
  • focused observers’ attention on specific aspects of teaching practice;
  • established common evidentiary standards for each level of practice; and
  • created a common vocabulary for pursuing a shared vision of effective instruction.

The project also concluded that, when implementing an instrument for teacher  evaluation (or, in our case, reflection and growth):

  • clear standards and multiple observations are required when evaluating a teacher’s practice;
  • evaluation systems should include multiple measures;
  • combining observation scores with evidence of student achievement gains and student feedback improved predictive power and reliability and identified teachers with larger gains on state tests; and
  • the true promise of classroom observations is the potential to identify strengths and address specific weaknesses in teachers’ practice.

It was our reading—of Kane and Staiger’s (2012) Measures of Effective Teaching research paper and Sartain, Stoelinga and Brown’s (2011) report on Chicago’s implementation of the Danielson Framework, as part of its Excellence in Teaching Pilot—which influenced the design of our observation model in which each teacher has four 20 minute observations per annual cycle of coaching.

For us, using Danielson is about each teacher looking at specific lesson data at a particular moment in time, and interrogating where the evidence places that data against Danielson’s framework. In any one observation, teachers’ data might be rated (by themselves, or as calibrated with a coach or manager) across three different levels. Of course with knowledge and increasing familiarity of Danielson’s framework, teachers can work with an understanding of the way it frames ‘distinguished’ teaching, aiming for that, but all teachers, no matter their expertise, will have lessons which fall across components and across bands.

Dylan Wiliam's book on my desk; just a few Post-its

Dylan Wiliam’s new book on my desk; just a few Post-its

Imagine my delight (yes, serious nerd delight) when I discovered that Dylan Wiliam’s just-released book Leadership for Teacher Learning spends seven pages (pp.45-51) outlining the research findings around the Danielson Framework. While he cautions that the Framework is limited, especially in its ability to differentiate variation among teachers, he describes it as “rigorously researched” and “the best we can do in relating student progress to classroom observations.” Wiliam cites research on which my school’s decision to use Danielson was based. He points out that it has been shown that students taught by teachers who are rated highly on the Framework make more progress. In fact, students taught by a teacher rated as ‘distinguished’ make almost 30% more progress than those rated as ‘unsatisfactory’.

For my school, the Danielson Framework for Teaching instrument—congruent with our performance review, professional development and coaching processes—helps us to develop a precise and shared language of practice. It isn’t used as a scorecard for external evaluation, something which I strongly advocate against. We instead use it in the following ways.

  • Coaches and managers are trained by a Danielson consultant in generating lesson data and using the Framework in professional conversations (which aligns with out Cognitive Coaching model for coaching conversations).
  • Teachers complete an annual online self-reflection against the Framework, in order to surface reflections about their teaching, help them set goals, and guide their thinking as they plan for the year ahead;
  • During coaching conversations, coaches help teachers to consider their lesson data against the Danielson Framework, looking closely at the descriptors and facilitating reflection against the rubrics.
  • The Danielson Framework sits alongside the Australian National Professional Standards for Teachers as a tool for deepening reflection and conversation about practice, allowing teachers to more specifically envisage, articulate and enact excellence in teaching practice.

This use of the Danielson Framework fits with our philosophical position that everyone is coachable, that all teachers have the will and skill to improve, that coaching should develop internal capacities, and that the coach is always in the service of the coachee.

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Teacher Growth: Helping teachers open their gates from the inside

This post on my Australian school’s teacher growth model was originally written as a guest post for Starr Sackstein, acclaimed educator, author and bloggess extraordinaire. It was inspired by a #sunchat Twitter chat moderated by Starr, which challenged me to talk more specifically about the professional learning and culture model I keep going on about …

~ ~ ~

No one can persuade another to change. Each of us guards a gate of change that can only be opened from the inside. We cannot open the gate of another, either by argument or emotional appeal. ~ Marilyn Ferguson

open your gate from the inside

How do you help someone open their gate from the inside?

The global education community tends to agree that better teaching equals better student achievement. Schools, districts and nations have taken this notion and used it in attempts to improve the quality of teachers through professional development and teacher evaluation systems.

There is a long continuum of possibilities for developing teachers and teaching, but it seems that many systems sit solidly at the teacher-evaluation-for-improvement end. When I visited the USA I was surprised at the quantitative, and at times punitive, approaches being used to score and evaluate teachers. Eric Saibel’s recent post questions whether all the work and time put into teacher evaluation has made a difference to teaching or student learning. In this thoughtful video conversation Eric talks with Starr Sackstein about ideas for meaningful teacher feedback and growth.

As a teacher, school leader, researcher and parent, teacher growth and evaluation are areas of immersion and passion for me. My own ideas are based on my:

  • Experiences as a classroom teacher in Australia and the UK;
  • Experiences as Head of Faculty in Australian schools;
  • Recent visits to New York schools, researchers and edu-experts;
  • Current PhD research on what makes transformative professional learning and leadership; and
  • In-school strategic work on researching, piloting and developing a teacher growth model for my Australian school. We are at full implementation phase this calendar year.

To develop my school’s teacher growth model we have used a Schooling by Design backwards design approach to planning and implementation. This has allowed us to align our vision, purpose, evidence and action. This has centred us around our own context and our goals of improving the learning of our students and developing the professional culture of our school.

Our change management philosophies of ‘go slow to go fast’ and ‘evolution not revolution’ have given us permission and time to tailor the model to our context and nurture teacher buy-in. Adaptive Schools, which I have written about here, has influenced our work by providing us with models of collaborative strategically-aligned change.

Our model itself is based in a belief that schools are relational places where trust is key to risk taking, growth, willingness to be vulnerable, deprivatising classrooms and learning from, with and alongside each other. It involves teachers-trained-as-coaches (and, every few years, administrators) who help teachers to use non-judgemental lesson data (written scripting, video, audio) as the basis for reflection against the Danielson Framework for Teaching and teachers’ own goals. The Danielson Framework was chosen for its research-basis and specificity. We like that ‘distinguished’ teaching is all about what the students are doing.

As well as meeting with Charlotte Danielson in Melbourne and Princeton (where we spoke about the nature of coaching and my school’s use of her Framework), I heard her speak at the 2014 Australian Council for Educational Leaders Conference in which she explained the importance of a trust environment of challenge and support for teachers, and teaching frameworks as conduits for the thinking of the teacher, rather than telling by the administrator. Ellie Drago-Severson agrees that adult learning needs an environment of support and challenge. Her work on ‘holding environments’ and adult learning is based in trusting the capacity of adult learners. I spoke with her in October about her work with schools and the importance of starting slow and building momentum. We are similarly focused on self-directed teacher growth with a belief in the capacity of teachers to reflect, learn and grow.

As the cornerstone of our conversations, Cognitive Coaching places our emphasis heavily on the coach as non-threatening facilitator of teacher thinking, rather than feedback-giver and scorer. The coach focuses on facilitating the teacher’s thinking, not giving advice or solving problems. This approach is partly based on research like this which shows that what actually gets our brains to be open and changeable is compassionate, positive conversation which sparks our own thinking.

The opening quote by Marilyn Ferguson reflects my thinking on teacher growth and evaluation: teachers need to be supported in opening their own gates from the inside. If, as David Rock and Dan Pink have explained, rewards and punishments don’t motivate, change behaviour or facilitate creativity, how can we encourage students and teachers to be intrinsically motivated, passion-driven, continuous learners who seek improvement through curiosity, reflection, collaboration and risk tasking?

Does your teacher growth or evaluation model encourage self-directed growth and a culture of professional learning? How might you build trust, apply a belief in the capacity of teachers, or develop collaboration in your own context?

it's all about the growth

it’s all about the growth

New York as a site for insights around teacher growth

A collection of superstar teachers cannot produce the results of interdependent colleagues who share and develop professional practices together. ~ Garmston and Wellman, 2009

NYC snow dome by @debsnet https://theeduflaneuse.wordpress.com/

As I mentioned in my first post, New York is an apt place to conduct my professional learning visits – next month – which are focused around the roll out and implementation of a growth model of teacher professional learning. Our teacher growth model emerges out of the strategic vision, mission and values of the school, and uses:
– non-judgmental classroom observations
– the Danielson Framework for Teaching; and
– a Cognitive Coaching approach to professional conversations around practice, reflection and growth.

NYC has been rolling out the Common Core Learning Standards and Advance, the NYC system of teacher evaluation and improvement. 2011-13 was the preparation phase, including research such as the Gates Foundation’s Measures of Effective Teaching project. 2013-14 was the enactment phase and 2014-15 is the phase for reflection and refinement.

The NYCDOE’s 2014-15 Citywide Instructional Expectations call on schools to:
1. Ensure knowledge of students and their work, and use this knowledge as the starting point for planning;
2. Integrate policy into an established, clearly articulated instructional focus; and,
3. Develop a culture of collaborative professional learning that enables school and individual development.
There is a focus on supporting schools in building coherence among their culture, structures, and instructional core and supporting them in reaching the benchmarks for school quality described in the Quality Review Rubric.

The primary NYC teacher evaluation model – Measures of Teacher Practice (MOTP) – involves each teacher:
– Assessing their own practice against the Danielson Framework for Teaching;
– Being observed multiple times by a principal or administrator;
– Reviewing evidence and artefacts which demonstrate their teaching practice; and
– Receiving feedback on these observations and evidence;
– Receiving student survey feedback.

I enjoyed Lisa Nielson’s post on using digital portfolios to ‘capture practice’ and showcase teacher effectiveness. Lisa says that putting together a portfolio on the four domains of the Danielson Framework is “an incredible opportunity to do something that is rare in the teaching profession. It provides an opportunity for teachers to release the great work they are doing from the classroom and share it with the world. It also provides a common language and method for looking at and sharing the work we do.” My hunch is that many teachers do not see the Framework as an opportunity for growth and connecting through professional conversation. Perhaps this depends on the context in and focus for which it is used?

The immediate difference I can see between the model being developed by my Australian school and the NYC Advance program is one of emphasis. Advance seems focused on evaluation, whereas our focus is on teacher growth. That is, our deliberate default position is one of focusing on self-directed growth, rather than on external evaluation or performance management, although in some situations consulting, collaborating and evaluating might be appropriate.

On their website, the Danielson Group outlines the tension between evaluation and growth: “tension between these two purposes; a system of accountability can feel like an ‘inspection’ to teachers, while one entirely focused on professional learning can result in underperforming teachers not receiving important information about their teaching.”

Charlotte Danielson talks about her framework not originally being designed as an evaluation system, although that’s how it was quickly adopted around the world. Her video on The Collaborative Observation Process explains Danielson’s focus on growth rather than inspection. For my school’s context, this was central to our approach to using the Framework. I look forward to exploring this further with Charlotte when I meet with her next week and later next month.

Certainly my school is passionate about developing the culture of professional learning and protecting the meaningfulness of a formalised reflection process for teachers. Our approach is one in which the teacher is in control of the process; they self-direct their own foci and are Cognitively Coached through their thinking about and reflection on non-inferential data, collected from their classroom practice by a teacher-coach (that is, someone without an administrative position, whose role is to observe, listen and facilitate thinking).

Do any educators have experience with how Danielson’s Framework for Teaching is being used in their schools or districts? I am very interested in successes, lessons learned and stories of schools, leaders and teachers.

Lucky (edu)fellow: beginnings of a flânerial professional trip

It’s time to bring the magic and wonder back into teaching. It’s time to recover the missionary spirit and deep moral purpose of engaging and inspiring all our students. It’s time to put down the spreadsheets and look to each other and elsewhere for how to get beyond the present turning point so we can transform our society and our schools. Hargreaves and Shirley, 2009

Two months til take off.

How does an Australian educator end up planning her way to New York City for a week, in search of insights into teacher learning, implementing teacher growth models in school contexts and using the Charlotte Danielson Framework for Teaching?

Because she is a lucky fellow.

I have been fortunate enough to receive a travelling fellowship from my Australian school in order to undertake an investigative series of visits to educators, school leaders, researchers and edu-experts in New York.

My meetings and visits cover one week in and around New York City. My week will be focused, as Hargreaves and Shirley suggest, on looking ‘to each other and elsewhere’ for learning and growth: my professional growth, teachers’ growth and the growth of my school’s professional learning culture.

Hargreaves and Shirley’s focus on the transformative ‘magic and wonder’ of teaching reflects my own fundamental beliefs about commitment to student learning. Our core business as teachers is enabling our students to find magic and wonder in the world around them, and empowering them to be thinkers, learners and leaders. As teachers, we should see teaching and learning as wonder-finding, wonder-generating and wonder-full.

The particular context for my upcoming professional trip is my school’s teacher growth initiative, which emerges from the widespread research-supported assertion that teacher quality is a crucial determinant in improving student achievement and learning.

Since 2012, I have been working with a diverse team of teachers at my school to design and pilot an idiosyncratic professional learning model intended to refine individual practice and capacity for self-reflection, appropriate to my school’s context. Another key aim of our model is the facilitation of a more passionate, reflective, purposeful community of professional learners in which individual teachers participate in ongoing communal activity to continuously develop the effectiveness of student learning by improving the quality of their teaching.

So, our aim has been to craft a process which is teacher-centred, teacher-directed and focused on teachers’ capacities for reflection and self-actualisation. We are using the Charlotte Danielson Framework for Teaching and a Cognitive Coaching model of coaching as the basis of our professional learning model. The Framework for Teaching (one of a number of maps for teacher practice, chosen because of its relevance to our specific context) gives us a common language for talking about our teaching, and a targeted specificity of focus for our reflections and conversations about evidence and practice. Cognitive Coaching is helping us to focus on growth rather than judgment, with our notion of ‘coaching’ being one of mediating the thinking of the teacher, rather than providing instructional feedback.

New York is the perfect place to refine our thinking as we continue to roll out our own model. The Danielson Framework for Teaching is one of those approved by the New York State Education Department as part of its implementation of the provisions of Education Law 3012-c regarding annual professional performance reviews (APPR) of classroom teachers and building principals. The New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) has been implementing use of the Danielson Framework since June 2013, after three years of piloting and researching it in NYC schools.

During my time in New York, I am especially interested to see in what ways schools and districts have been implementing the Framework for Teaching; what might be success stories or lessons learned from their experiences so far; different approaches to school leadership in these kinds of initiatives; how data are collected and used to measure success; and any resources, references or contacts which might help my school, especially in its implementation stage, to begin in January 2015.

Can any educators out there share their experiences of current teacher growth or teacher evaluation systems?