By Shirley Hall and Lee Kappes
After spending the last few months introducing people to the updated Framework for Teaching (FFT) and highlighting changes to language and content, we have a rather counterintuitive take away that we feel compelled to share: what is most important about the FFT 2022, isn’t actually anything new. Let us be clear: yes, there are new and important updates that were made to the FFT. And yet, what is most fundamental to the FFT — what is at the heart of why it was created and why it works so well to improve professional practice and student learning — has not changed at all.
The architecture, structure, common themes and underlying philosophy of what makes the FFT work has not changed. But what has changed is the world we are all operating in. We can’t view the FFT through the same lens that we did in 1996. The context and landscape have changed and so we must change with it. What was once implicit about the FFT, must now not only be explicit but must be central to everything we do.
It is through that lens that we want to share our biggest takeaways with you. They may not be new, but they are more important than ever:
- Put equity at the center. There is no question that most educators care deeply about equity. But valuing equity and living it out in your classroom and your instruction are two different things. 1b (Knowing and Valuing Students) is an essential equity imperative and we know now, with absolute certainty, that leading with equity begins with a growth mindset and the committed belief that all students bring strengths and assets into our classrooms. When teachers take the time to learn about the “wholeness” of their students and value that knowledge in their planning, preparation, and instruction they are taking a critical step in bringing equity to life in their classroom. In the updated FFT, we’ve made sure we’re not just stating the “what” around equity, but also sharing much more about the “how”.
- Elevate the Common Themes. You may not have noticed this before, but in addition to the Domains and Components of the FFT, there are 6 Common Themes that name how teachers bring the FFT to life in their practice. Equity is the primary Common Theme and it is supported and undergirded by the other five: Developmental Appropriateness, Attention to Individual Students, High Expectations, Cultural Competence, and Student Assumption of Responsibility. These themes are a common thread across the domains and components and they are often what bind together to create the overall impact of the FFT. We now realize the need to elevate these Common Themes and pay special attention to the role they play in ensuring equity through excellence in practice.
- Make the FFT a multi-purpose tool. As we work to understand this updated version of the FFT, it’s clear we must simultaneously emphasize the multiple ways to use and leverage this resource. Over time, as the FFT became primarily used as an evaluation tool, people lost sight of its original intent and inadvertently diluted its potential for impact. We must not only think about the content of the FFT differently, but also change how we introduce it to educators and how we incorporate it into professional learning. We need to help people evolve past memorizing a set of Domains and Components and instead view the FFT as a living document that embeds into their every day work. How we approach learning around this tool, how we build things like collaboration, growth, and trust into our language and processes – it all sends a message about our intent. If we emphasize the importance of building a strong culture in which the FFT can exist, then it becomes so much more than a tool simply for evaluation. It becomes the catalyst that drives both professional fulfillment and student learning and growth.
The updated FFT has been “live” now for a few months and we are excited by the positive response it has received. And while we truly believe there’s not a lot that is “new” in its content, there is so much that can and should be new in how we revisit this tool with fresh eyes. Educators and leaders are ready to see the FFT in a new light – one that explicitly prioritizes equity, relies on common themes for learning, and encourages authentic growth and collaboration. These may not be new ideas, but they provide us with new ways to think about instructional excellence.