Understanding the Framework’s Common Themes and their implications is essential to understanding the details provided by the domains, clusters, and components. They are fundamental in our efforts to propel teacher growth and ultimately improve teaching and learning in classrooms across the country and the world.
Equity is, and always has been, at the heart of the Framework. It is the primary Common Theme and describes the ultimate purpose of our work with students. In the classrooms of excellent teachers, the purpose of instruction is not the transmission of basic knowledge or student compliance but deep understanding, important learning, and active intellectual engagement so that each student can succeed in school and beyond.
If equity is the goal, “it is important for students – all students – to acquire deep and flexible understanding of complex content, to be able to formulate and test hypotheses, to analyze information, and to be able to relate one part of their learning to another.” Students need to experience this type of learning to be successful in their education, their careers, and their lives.
The assurance of great teaching for every student has proven difficult to achieve in both policy and practice. Teachers strive for excellence, but “a commitment to excellence is not complete without a commitment to equity.” Each student deserves access to world-class teaching and learning environments that promote joyful inquiry, intellectual rigor, and reflection. As a profession, we must be dedicated to the pursuit of great teaching for each and every student.
Excellent teachers hold high expectations and ensure access to rigorous content for all students. We know teacher expectations have a direct and powerful impact on student success and low expectations contribute directly to inequities in our schools. Research confirms the importance of high expectations in promoting high levels of student achievement, particularly for students traditionally underserved by schools.
Culturally competent teachers create culturally responsive and inclusive learning environments. Cultural competence moves teaching beyond surface level attention to cultural differences and fosters a sense of belonging by embracing and giving power to diverse points of view. Culturally competent teachers recognize that valuing students and the identities they bring to the classroom is a prerequisite to engagement.
Meeting the Needs of All Learners
Developmental appropriateness and attention to individuals are fundamental to meeting the social, emotional, and academic needs of students. How students engage with academic content is shaped by their social, emotional, and cognitive development. Teachers observe important patterns of development in addition to students’ many individual differences. Developmental considerations are central to a constructivist view of learning.
Student Assumption of Responsibility
Excellent teachers create conditions for students to assume responsibility for their own learning. Student agency may be fostered through a variety of different school models and instructional approaches but is essential to successful teaching and learning.