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.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.