What IS good teaching?

I thought about this old Far Side cartoon at a meeting last week when a leader in my district was telling me his belief that if we just said things clearly enough and included an explanation of the theoretical research base behind our work, then the teachers would stop resisting (i.e. asking critical questions) and just get on with the work the district is asking us to do.  Blah, blah, blah.

In addition to ignoring the emotional context of school change (see Switch by Chip and Dan Heath or Primal Leadership by Daniel Golem), that premise also acknowledges what we know about good teaching and learning in general, as well as the foundations of adult learning theory and professional development.  As I hone in on my app design for this mobile learning class, I have been reminding myself that real change takes place in the intersection between theory and the people with whom you are working.  In previous posts I have made the case for high-quality and individualized professional development, and in this post I will look at standards for the teaching profession that might help guide that work.

Standards for Teachers

National Board:  The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards came out with “Five Propositions” for what teachers should know and be able to do (2002):

  1. Teachers are committed to students and their learning
  2. Teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students
  3. Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning
  4. Teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from experience
  5. Teachers are members of learning communities.

Throughout the process of becoming National Board certified, teachers spend at least a year recording, reflecting and collecting evidence of their competencies in each of the realms based on a long and unwieldy rubric – taking hours and hours of time to reach certification.

California State:  The State of California published the California Standards for the Teaching Profession in an effort to streamline feedback and the teacher evaluation process, as well as to create standards for the BTSA program.  My former District, San Francisco Unified, developed a CSTP Rubric that describes the developmental stages of the standards listed below:

  1. Engaging and supporting all students in learning
  2. Creating and maintaining an effective environment of learning
  3. Understanding and organizing subject matter knowledge
  4. Planning, designing and delivering learning experiences for all students
  5. Assessing student learning
  6. Developing as a professional educator

The Danielson Framework:  The Danielson group breaks teacher competency into four domains; planning and preparation, classroom environment, instruction and professional responsibilities.  The New York State Department of Education created a framework for teaching that describes what those domains might look like in practice.  For a good description of the rationale behind this framework, see Thinking Differently blog on the subject.

Robert Marzano:  In The Art and Science of Teaching, Robert Marzano (2007) describes a framework for quality teaching that is broken into “segments” that might take place in a class:

  1. Communicating learning goals, tracking student progress and celebrating success
  2. Establishing or maintaining rules and procedures
  3. Introducing new content) critical input lessons
  4. Knowledge practicing and deepening lessons
  5. Hypothesis generating and testing lessons (knowledge-application lessons)
  6. Increasing student engagement
  7. Recognizing and acknowledging adherence and lack of adherence to classroom rules and procedures
  8. Establishing and maintaining effective relationships with students
  9. Communicating high expectations for every student

Marzano (2010) organizes these segments into three categories, (the relationships of which are shown in his chart below), and describes specifically what would be seen in the classroom in the interplay between the segments.

What’s My Point?

On top of all of the general standards for good teaching, there is plenty of research to show more specifically what type of teaching leads to learning.  There is also District and site information about specific gaps in learning that might need to be addressed in a more targeted way (for example, boys lagging behind girls in math, or EL students not achieving in science).

So, like standards for student learning, standards for teaching are very general, and usually not too surprising.  Like standards for learning, individual teachers, departments, grade-level teams, sites and Districts might be all over the place in terms of what gaps exist and where professional development should be targeted.  In order to effectively address gaps that might exist, as well as to utilize resources, feedback given to individual teachers as well as to site and district administrators should be based on a consistent description of teaching based on what is known about student learning.

How do Teachers Get Feedback on Their Teaching

Apart from their own reflection, the myriad standards, rubrics, coaching, mentoring and evaluation processes used to help teachers understand their teaching are indicators of the haphazard ways teaching is assessed.  When observing teaching, administrators might be looking for one thing, coaches another, colleagues yet something else.  Or, they might all be looking for the same thing, but using different lenses or tools to document what they see.  The app I have designed, My PD, is an attempt to streamline the process of giving feedback to teachers based on professional standards in a way that is helpful to the teacher in understanding her areas for growth, as well as informative to site and district administrators in their planning for targeted professional development.

Next week:  a complete description of My PD and how it could be used.


Marzano, R. (2007)  The Art and Science of Teaching. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.

Marzano, R. (2010) Developing Teacher Experts.  On Excellence in Teaching. Robert Marzano (ed).  Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.

“What Teachers Should Know and Be Able to Do” (2002, August).  National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.  Retrieved from www.nbpts.org


About Katy Foster

I am an Assistant Principal in Larkspur, CA. I blog to publicly reflect on my own learning in leadership.
This entry was posted in Professional Development and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to What IS good teaching?

  1. Pingback: What IS good teaching? | Technology in EducationTeaching and Learning | Scoop.it

  2. Pingback: What IS good teaching? | Trends in EdTech | Scoop.it

  3. Sam Boswell says:

    I like the context you’ve shared for directing school improvements with teachers at your school; cutting through all the blah is certainly an art form.
    You might also appreciate the recently-released national standards for Australian teachers and principals available here: http://www.newsroom.aitsl.edu.au/blog/performance-and-development-1
    I look forward to an opportunity to explore your app.
    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Pingback: What IS good teaching? | L'actualité des enseignants | Scoop.it

  5. Pingback: What IS good teaching? | ifyoucantbeatem | New York State and the Common Core Standards | Scoop.it

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