The Framework's Common Themes

The Common Themes permeate all the components and elements of the Framework for Teaching and are characteristics of performance at a high level.

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.

Cultural Competence

Culturally competent teachers create culturally responsive and inclusive learning environments that move beyond surface level attention to cultural differences and foster a sense of belonging by embracing and giving power to diverse points of view.

High Expectations

Excellent teachers hold and communicate high expectations and ensure access to rigorous content for all students. Teachers also demonstrate high expectations by encouraging productive struggle and tenacity.

Developmental Appropriateness

Learners do the learning, and excellent teachers understand the cognitive and social-emotional development of students in ways that support their creation of appropriate learning environments and opportunities.

Attention to Individual Students

Classrooms are comprised of individuals with unique characteristics and needs. For this reason, excellent teachers ensure that goals and tasks have to potential to challenge students at different levels and with different needs.

Student Assumption of Responsibility

Excellent teachers create the 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.

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