The Framework For Teaching

Explore the 2022 updates in the Framework for Teaching with our interactive, digital resource that transforms the guide into a hands on online tool to gain a deeper understanding of the domains, components, elements of success, and more.

Students’ needs have evolved, 
just as teachers have evolved alongside them.

The Framework for Teaching (FFT) was designed to enhance professional practice. It was, in many ways, the first of its kind and has stood the test of time. Over the last two and a half decades, the FFT has been used by countless educators worldwide, and the Danielson Group has partnered with thousands of organizations supporting educators in 49 states and U.S. territories and 15 other countries. We’ve seen the FFT’s power to accelerate teacher growth, improve student outcomes, and create a more rewarding and sustaining professional environment. We know that by supporting teacher reflection, collaboration, inquiry, and innovation, the FFT has had a direct impact on student learning and development.

Start exploring the updated Framework for Teaching below to guide you in your efforts to expand your practice, learn new ways to engage with students, and create innovative approaches that will forever change the way we think about school.


To accompany this interactive, online version of the Framework, our free FFT In Action portal, powered by 2gnoMe is also available. This tool turns self-reflection and classroom observations into a personalized learning experience by matching high-quality resources to individual professional learning goals. With the FFT In Action, educators like you can explore the updated FFT components to reflect on your practice, identify strengths, and areas of growth within each domain. Start putting the updated Framework to use today at

Domain 1: Planning and Preparation

The components in Domain 1: Planning & Preparation describe how teachers organize instruction for student learning. It is difficult to overstate the importance of planning and preparation. One could argue that a teacher’s role is not so much to teach as it is to arrange for learning. That is, a teacher’s essential responsibility is to prepare for learning activities such that students learn important content and develop skills, mindsets, and habits to be successful in school and beyond.

Planning and preparation involves understanding the curriculum and knowing the students in order to adapt to meet their individual needs. In some cases, teachers must take on significant responsibility for the design of learning experiences, either creating lessons and units from scratch or building from materials and resources they find. Ideally though, teachers have access to high-quality resources and instructional materials that have been designed by curriculum experts and provide a solid foundation and jumping off point for planning and preparation.

The work of preparing to teach a lesson or unit is at the core of professional planning and preparation. Though teachers may ultimately deliver instruction alone, their planning and preparation is always enhanced by collaboration with colleagues. Furthermore, thorough preparation considers students’ academic, social, and emotional needs and development, as well as their contexts, and it is grounded in a strong, culturally responsive curriculum. Even the best materials require more than following a script or carrying out other people’s instructional designs. Teachers must themselves intellectually engage with the curriculum, demonstrating qualities of critical judgment and discernment, to understand its features and design and make thoughtful adjustments for the students in front of them – who change from year to year and period to period.

Teachers who excel in Domain 1: Planning & Preparation organize instruction that reflects an understanding of the disciplines they teach—the important concepts and principles within that content, and how the different elements relate to one another and to those in other disciplines. They understand their students—what they know and are able to do within the discipline, as well as their race, culture, ethnicity, background, and interests. They prepare for instruction that sets high expectations for every student, includes sound assessment methods, and expertly structures lessons to support all students’ engagement with content. Importantly, they also consider the why of their disciplines, helping students grapple with big questions and relate their learning to their own purpose in life.

Domain 1 Components

As they prepare for and guide student learning, accomplished teachers demonstrate disciplinary expertise–command of the content and curriculum they teach. They understand the internal relationships within disciplines, knowing which concepts and skills are central, peripheral, and prerequisite to the understanding of others. Their knowledge includes awareness of typical student misconceptions and how to leverage or dispel them. Teachers must also be familiar with the particular pedagogical approaches best suited to each discipline and choose which is the most suitable in different learning contexts to advance student understanding. Strong instructional materials and curricular resources can be a significant support to teachers in this area. When the curriculum is designed by experts and those selecting it have assured that the content is accurate and reflects high standards of pedagogy, the curriculum itself can provide an opportunity for teachers to continue developing their knowledge of content and pedagogy.

The term “content” includes, of course, far more than factual information or skills, and mastery of particular content, while a central goal for students, is not the only goal. When teachers apply their knowledge of interdisciplinary relationships, they support students’ transfer of knowledge and skills in a wide variety of contexts and for a variety of purposes. Teachers further support student understanding and mindsets for learning when they understand how content and methods of inquiry specific to a discipline can vary from different cultural points of view and can be informed by multiple ways of knowing. This type of understanding is key to making the content accessible to students and guiding their learning of specific concepts, but it goes beyond that. Teachers who deeply understand content and pedagogy know which approaches, concepts, and lines of inquiry are likely to interest students. Student interest then yields greater understanding and potentially inspires a sense of purpose that can help them succeed in the classroom and beyond.

Elements Of Success

Disciplinary Expertise

Teachers have deep knowledge of the disciplines they teach, including structures, central concepts and skills, prerequisite relationships, and methods of inquiry.

Pedagogical Content Knowledge

Teachers make content accessible to students by understanding and addressing preconceptions, presenting ideas in comprehensible and powerful ways, and thoughtfully implementing the most effective pedagogical approaches.

Knowledge of Interdisciplinary Relationships and Skills

Teachers make interdisciplinary connections to scaffold learning, support engagement, and build essential knowledge and skills that cross disciplines and support student learning in multiple contexts.


How do teachers’ plans and presentations of content reflect understanding of prerequisite relationships among topics and concepts within the discipline?

What are some ways teachers present content and utilize discipline-specific learning strategies to support deeper understanding?

In what ways do teachers help students make connections between disciplines or develop cross-disciplinary skills?

To maximize learning, teachers must be able to make the curriculum accessible to each and every learner. Successful teachers are consistently guided by who their students are and who they hope to become, which means they understand, honor, and leverage students’ intersecting identities–including their racial, cultural, religious, and gender identities, among others. They support student success by affirming the dignity of students and their lived experiences. Teachers must also develop understanding of students’ current knowledge and skills in order to plan successful learning experiences. However, teachers’ knowledge of students must extend beyond understanding their familiarity with content or their academic skills to include their social, emotional, and personality strengths. While there are patterns in human development for different age groups, students learn in individual ways and bring varied experiences and identities to learning. Teachers must also rely on their knowledge of students when they apply their understanding of the learning process and learning differences when planning and preparing.

Teachers need to spend significant time and effort throughout the year learning about their students, their lives outside of school, their wellbeing, and other assets and needs in relation to learning and development. Successful teachers value the fact that students come to school with a wealth of knowledge, experience, and skills. Students’ experiences outside of formal education (with family and friends, through faith communities, in their jobs and activities) build knowledge, encourage curiosity, and communicate shared norms and values, including mindsets about learning. It is essential that teachers value and partner with students’ families and communities. Doing so allows them to leverage the assets students bring from their out-of-school lives to the in-school learning experience in pursuit of academic and personal development that ultimately contribute to individual and societal flourishing.

Elements Of Success

Respect for Students’ Identities

Students’ lived experiences and funds of knowledge are the foundation for the development of identity, purpose, intellect, and character.

Understanding of Students’ Current Knowledge and Skills

Learning experiences reflect what students bring and are designed with their current knowledge and skills in mind.

Knowledge of Whole Child Development

Students’ cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development are all addressed in the design of learning environments and experiences to promote student success and autonomy.

Knowledge of the Learning Process and Learning Differences

Learning requires active intellectual engagement and appropriate support aligned to students’ individual differences and needs.


In what ways are students’ identities and cultures incorporated and reflected in learning experiences and environments?

How do teachers use their understanding of students’ prior knowledge and experience to support individual learning?

How are students’ academic, social, and emotional assets leveraged to promote student success?

In what ways are teachers’ knowledge of the learning process and learning differences reflected in planning and preparation?

Teaching is a purposeful activity; even the most imaginative activities are directed toward desired learning. Therefore, setting instructional outcomes entails understanding and specifying exactly what students will be expected to learn and how they will learn, not just what students will do while learning. The instructional outcomes should refl ect important learning. The alignment of outcomes to grade-level standards is essential to support ambitious instruction and high expectations for each and every student. Students should understand what they are learning, as well as how they will learn and be able to demonstrate their understanding of the content and skills. While academic content and development is obviously a priority in school, outcomes should incorporate other aspects of student development, including their social and emotional development and habits and mindsets to support learning.

Ideally teachers use high-quality instructional materials as a starting point for setting outcomes. Whether teachers begin with the objectives stated in the curriculum or develop their own based on the standards of the discipline, they must specify the appropriate learning for a given class on a given day and ensure learning experiences are goal-directed and designed to achieve certain well-defined purposes. It is through the articulation of instructional outcomes that the teacher clarifi es these purposes; outcomes should be clear and describe what it is that students are intended to learn as a result of a learning experience. In classrooms organized as a community of learners, teachers also engage students in refining these outcomes, frequently in ways intended to extend their learning beyond the established curriculum.

Elements Of Success

Value and Relevance

Instructional outcomes represent ambitious learning of important content and meaningful opportunities to support student learning and development.

Alignment to Grade-Level Standards

Instructional outcomes reflect appropriate grade-level standards and communicate high expectations for each student.

Clarity of Purpose

Instructional outcomes clearly define what will be learned, why it is important, and how students will develop and demonstrate mastery of content and skills.

Integration of Multiple Aspects of Student Development

Instructional outcomes integrate academic and social-emotional development to complement and build on one another.


In what ways do instructional outcomes reflect the most relevant and valuable learning for students?

In what ways do instructional outcomes align with grade-level standards to ensure ambitious instruction for all students?

How are clear, specific instructional outcomes used to define the purpose of learning experiences?

What are some examples of teachers integrating academic and developmental goals to extend student learning?

Using resources to support students’ learning and development is part of every teacher’s responsibility; these resources include items and services available both through and beyond the school. High-quality instructional materials, including curricular resources adopted by schools and districts, serve as the primary foundation for academic support. These materials and teachers’ understanding of them are key to ensuring successful learning. Adopted curricula often include or recommend resources beyond the texts provided, and teachers may even need to further supplement those resources to address the needs of learners. Supplemental resources may be simple or complex, and may include physical objects, such as math manipulatives or models or science laboratory equipment; and a variety of other texts, such as maps, primary source materials, or trade books.

Technology and digital resources are an essential component of instruction and can provide additional opportunities for students to learn and grow. Online platforms cannot replace a skilled teacher and should not simply be a substitute for non-digital resources (e.g., a PDF version of a workbook), but a digitally-rich environment can provide students with opportunities to expand knowledge and practice the skills they are learning.

Beyond foundational materials, accomplished teachers access supports for students to meet their social, emotional, and academic needs. Such resources might be opportunities outside of the school provided by other organizations and community members. These often include human resources in the form of experts who provide special services, such as an instructional aide to help a student with a hearing impairment or resource room assistance for elementary students with learning differences. Some outside resources help academic learning, such as tutoring services. Others meet nonacademic needs—mentoring programs, for example, for students who have experienced trauma. As teachers gain skill and experience, they realize that they can enrich their students’ experiences by locating supplemental supports that can help them better achieve their instructional purposes. This dexterity, reinforced by an awareness of what is available, is a mark of an expert.

Elements Of Success

Instructional Materials

Teachers utilize high-quality instructional materials to ensure access to rigorous content and support specific student needs, furthering engagement and mastery.

Technology and Digital Resources

Technological and digital resources support personalized instruction, equitable learning, engagement, exploration, connection, and student development.

Supports for Students

Teachers seek and provide additional aligned resources and supports that make content and curriculum materials accessible to students and address their individual needs.


How do teachers effectively use instructional materials to meet the needs of individual students and enhance intellectual engagement?

In what ways do technology and digital resources enhance personalization, connection, exploration, and intellectual engagement?

What are some ways teachers provide resources and supports for students that increase accessibility and promote student agency?

The teacher’s knowledge of the content, students, and resources all come together to enhance student learning of instructional outcomes through the design and implementation of instructional plans. A critical feature of instructional design is coherence; that is, the different elements of the plan—the outcomes, activities, materials, methods, and grouping of students—all support one another. Even in classrooms where students assume considerable responsibility for their learning, the teacher establishes the framework for investigations through tasks and activities. The important question to be answered is this: “How will students learn?” There are many options, of course. They could work—either alone or together—to solve a problem, participate in a class discussion, or reflect in their journals on new information. The list is endless, and skilled teachers draw on high-quality materials and their own extensive repertoire when making these decisions.

When teachers have access to well-designed instructional materials, much of the work of unit and lesson design has been done by the materials’ developers; indeed, this is one of the principal benefits of using such materials. However, it would be a mistake to conclude that in such cases teachers play no role at all in planning coherent instruction, which is, after all, more complex than simply implementing a plan. A curriculum serves as a starting point in preparing for coherent instruction but does not ensure student learning. Excellent teachers adapt curriculum to meet the needs of the students who are in front of them without compromising their high expectations. Opportunities for flexible learning and thoughtful collaboration are additional elements to consider in planning. The teacher, whether designing or adjusting the structure and flow of learning experiences, plays a critical role in arranging for learners to do the learning.

Elements Of Success

Tasks and Activities

Tasks and activities are specifically matched to learning outcomes, encourage higher-level thinking and student agency, and create authentic opportunities to engage with meaningful content.

Flexible Learning

Multiple strategies and approaches are tailored to individual student needs to create the appropriate level of challenge and support for each student.

Student Collaboration

Student groups are an essential component of learning and development, and are organized thoughtfully to maximize opportunities and build on students’ strengths.

Structure and Flow

Lesson and unit plans are well structured and flow from one to the next to support student learning and development.


In what ways do aligned tasks and activities provide opportunities for students to meaningfully engage with content?

What are some ways that individualized strategies and approaches are used to support student success?

How do teachers plan thoughtfully organized instructional groups that will build on students’ strengths, encourage dialogue, and foster collaboration?

How are lessons and learning experiences arranged and structured to build upon and enhance student learning and autonomy?

Assessment plays a critical role in learning and serves as a powerful instructional tool for teachers. It has two related, though distinct, primary uses: assessment of learning and assessment for learning. In either case, there must be congruence with instructional outcomes as well as clear criteria for measuring success. The first purpose, assessment of learning (or summative assessment) is used to determine that students have, in fact, achieved the instructional outcomes. Teachers realize the full power of assessment when they include assessments for learning (or formative assessments) in their planning. Formative assessments are designed to provide information to both students and teachers on progress and to guide next steps. One hallmark of a great curriculum is that it includes multiple, varied approaches to formative assessment: standard “checks for understanding” that give quick snapshots of student progress, specific questions that require written responses, or questions to ask while conferencing with students. These assessments become opportunities for students to develop intellectual virtues such as autonomy, critical thinking, reflection, tenacity, and humility.

Analysis and application of data from both types of assessment are key components of high-quality curricula and effective instruction. For assessment to yield useful information, teachers must give careful attention to student responses both during and after instruction. Gathering assessment information can sometimes be an informal process—done, for example, during a class discussion. When it is gathered more systematically, such as through an assignment or performance task, it is essential for teachers to examine and analyze the student work, to determine what has not yet been learned. In addition, this analysis provides important information to teachers regarding their instructional techniques. After examining student work, they may conclude, “That approach didn’t work!” This process of analysis and application of new understanding makes assessment a critical connection between planning and implementation. The instructional decisions described throughout Domain 1 are based in large part on the analysis of data derived from a variety of assessments.

Elements Of Success

Congruence with Instructional Outcomes

Aligned assessments provide accurate, clear evidence and allow for the analysis of student understanding and mastery of instructional outcomes.

Criteria and Standards

Criteria and standards for assessment are appropriate and aligned, clearly communicated, and whenever possible have been developed with student input.

Planning Formative Assessments

Teachers plan formative assessments to monitor student progress toward instructional outcomes, make needed adjustments, and support students to monitor their own learning.

Analysis and Application

Teachers consistently use assessment data to direct planning and preparation and to support individualized student instruction.


What are some ways that students are given opportunities to demonstrate their understanding of content?

How are clear assessment criteria and standards developed and understood by students?

How do teachers design formative assessments that allow for adjustments to instruction and support student agency?

How is assessment data analyzed and applied to inform instructional decision-making?

Domain 2: Learning Environments

The components of Domain 2: Learning Environments describe conditions and qualities of environments that are conducive to learning and support student success. These aspects of teaching are not associated with the learning of any particular content but rather support the understanding of all content and attend to the social-emotional needs of students. The components of Domain 2 center on establishing a safe and respectful classroom environment and require explicit attention and responsiveness to the individual identities of students, such as race and culture, and the values of the broader community the school serves. Fostering an inviting culture for learning that focuses on student wellbeing, encourages academic risk-taking, and promotes habits and mindsets that support student success is the ultimate goal of these components.

Learning environments should be supportive and challenging. Though what this looks like and how it is established varies, the components of Domain 2 describe common attributes that enhance student success in the context of school, including intentional non-instructional routines and procedures, positive student relationships and behaviors, and spaces that support instructional purposes. When students remember their favorite teachers years later, their memories are often connected to the components and elements of Domain 2. They recall the empathy and caring teachers demonstrated, their high expectations for achievement, and their commitment to students’ well-being. Students feel safe with these teachers and know they can count on them to be fair, equitable, honest, and compassionate. Successful teachers know their natural authority with students is grounded in their knowledge and expertise rather than in their role alone. They recognize that their role and their interactions with students are also situated within a larger societal context, so they carefully reflect upon their own identity and biases to better connect with students.

Teachers who excel in Domain 2: Learning Environments also create an atmosphere of excitement about the importance of learning, significance of the content, and the capacity of their students to master the materials. They are themselves curious, care deeply about their subject, and invite students to share the journey of learning. These teachers affirm their students’ humanity: their culture, histories, interests, concerns, intellectual potential, and sense of purpose. They take into account the individual identities and brilliance of each student when planning and leading learning. Respectful and challenging learning environments support not only the development of intellectual skills and traits (e.g., autonomy, curiosity, academic tenacity, and reflection) but also social and emotional ones (e.g., self-regulation) that are essential to the development of the whole child, including identity and purpose development, social awareness and relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. Excellent teachers support students as they develop and practice compassion, empathy, honesty, respect for others, wisdom, courage, and a sense of justice. Through the environment, they help students learn the importance of dialogue, civility, responsibility, collaboration, and community.

Domain 2 Components

Co-creating an environment with students built on respect is a critical element of a teacher’s skill in promoting social and emotional wellbeing and students’ academic success. In any context, students need to experience safe, supportive, and challenging learning environments where each of them is valued, feels like a full member of the community, and is supported to take academic and intellectual risks. An environment of respect and rapport is essential for learning and development to occur.

Positive relationships between teachers and students and among students provide a foundation for collaborative learning. The nature of learning in today’s classrooms is inherently social. When intentional relationships form the foundation of a respectful environment that honors the dignity of each student, students feel a sense of belonging in the classroom community. Teaching depends, fundamentally, on the quality of relationships among individuals, which are built through and reflected in classroom activities and practices. For instance, the way in which teachers engage students in a discussion or an activity speaks volumes about the extent to which they value their students as individuals.

Classroom environments that support learning for each student are co-created with them and characterized by cultural responsiveness and responsibility; they reflect, honor, and sustain shared values and individual identities. Even in the most respectful classrooms, as in all human endeavors, conflict is likely to arise, and positive conflict resolution is a key aspect of maintaining an environment of respect and rapport, as well as repairing harm and restoring justice when necessary. Co-establishing these community agreements or classroom norms for interaction and conflict resolution is as important as establishing standards of conduct or routines for activities such as sharpening pencils—aspects of creating a learning community that experienced teachers focus much attention on at the outset of a school year.

Elements Of Success

Positive Relationships

Teacher-student and student-student interactions demonstrate caring and respect and honor the dignity of each member of the community.

Sense of Belonging

Teachers and students co-create a community that reflects their unique collective identity and interests as a class while honoring individual identities.

Cultural Responsiveness

Ways of interacting in the classroom are culturally responsive, and they are supported by teachers’ own cultural competence and understanding of societal dynamics and their impact on learning environments.

Positive Conflict Resolution

A clear and culturally competent approach to conflict resolution has been established and is used effectively to resolve conflict and restore trust.


How have teachers intentionally nurtured relationships with and among students?

What evidence indicates that the students feel a sense of shared identity while also feeling celebrated as individuals?

In what ways do teachers demonstrate cultural competence in creating an inclusive learning environment?

What are some ways that teachers maintain a positive and respectful rapport while addressing and resolving student conflicts?

“A culture for learning” refers to an atmosphere in the learning environment that reflects the importance of the work undertaken by both students and teachers. It describes the norms that govern the interactions among individuals about the activities and assignments, the value of hard work and perseverance, and the general tone of the class. Ideally, this culture supports meaningful engagement and dialogue, joyful inquiry, rigorous learning, and reflection. Purpose and motivation are evident and shared by teachers and students in a classroom with rigorous and joyful learning at its center. There is a clear sense of dedication to learning; both content mastery and personal growth are valued. As part of a culture for learning, emphasis is placed on dispositions (e.g., compassion, curiosity, critical thinking, reasoning, and reflection) that support student success and their social, emotional, and academic development. These dispositions are modeled, encouraged, and explicitly taught and reinforced.

Learning in successful classrooms is not just dictated or directed by the teacher but is characterized by student agency and autonomy; students have choices and assume responsibility for their own learning. A strong culture for learning rests on high expectations accompanied by support. When a strong culture for learning has been established, other aspects of teaching become easier and more rewarding. Students view the classroom as a space for connecting and engaging; they assume responsibility for their learning, they persevere through challenges, and they have confidence in their abilities. Students come to recognize important academic learning, and the intellectual challenges that accompany it, as rewarding. When they master complex material, they enjoy the satisfaction that comes only from demonstrating competence in important and demanding work. Without the components of a culture for learning in place, high-level learning is unlikely to occur.

Elements Of Success

Purpose and Motivation

Teachers and students share an overarching dedication to both content mastery and personal growth.

Dispositions for Learning

Teachers model, encourage, explicitly teach, and reinforce curiosity, critical thinking, reasoning, and reflection to support student success and their social, emotional, and academic growth.

Student Agency and Pride in Work

Students make informed choices, devote energy to learning, take pride in their accomplishments, and actively suggest ways to make the classroom more joyful, rigorous, and purposeful.

Support and Perseverance

Teachers and students encourage one another to persevere and use strategies to support each other through challenging work.


How do the teacher and students demonstrate their dedication to content mastery and personal growth?

What evidence indicates that teachers have explicitly modeled and taught the skills that allow students to successfully pursue learning?

In what ways do students demonstrate their agency in the classroom?

What are some ways that students and teachers support and demonstrate perseverance through difficult work?

Teaching is a complex activity, and learning spaces are complex ecosystems that can be supported through the design of routines and procedures to support a purposeful environment. Though effective routines and procedures can (and should) take on a variety of forms, establishing and maintaining them is essential to the success of a classroom community. Because teachers’ goals for students include intellectual engagement, collaboration, and autonomy–and because there are often 30 students with them at a time – thoughtful routines and procedures can help all members of the classroom community act with purpose.

Routines and procedures are not established for the sake of control; rather, they intentionally support other aspects of learning and development. For instance, routines for purposeful collaboration are modeled, taught, and reinforced so that students work cooperatively within the classroom community to support one another’s success. Other routines support student autonomy and responsibility and the development of skills, habits, and mindsets that promote student success. Routines and procedures can also establish equitable access to resources and supports. Finally, though sometimes less obviously, non-instructional tasks must also be handled efficiently to focus time and energy on learning.

As with other components of instruction, it is important to remember that routines and procedures are not established in a vacuum but must reflect the students and their needs. Teachers committed to valuing and affirming students are especially thoughtful about the routines and procedures and the ways in which they are chosen, established, and maintained. They look to their students, families, the school, and community to learn more about how shared norms and values can be reflected in the classroom’s routines. Routines and procedures that are “effective” because they are efficient or suggest choice where none exists, may not always honor the dignity of students and, in the end, may not actually be effective at all.

Elements Of Success

Productive Collaboration

Collaboration is modeled, taught, and reinforced so that students work purposefully and cooperatively in groups, to support one another’s success.

Student Autonomy and Responsibility

Routines support student assumption of responsibility and the development of skills, habits, and mindsets that promote student autonomy.

Equitable Access to Resources and Supports

Resources and supports are deployed efficiently, effectively, and equitably for the benefit of all students.

Non-Instructional Tasks

Teachers complete non-instructional tasks with little to no loss of instructional time or disruption to lesson delivery.


In what ways do teachers thoughtfully and purposefully teach and utilize collaboration in the classroom?

What evidence indicates that classroom procedures that support student responsibility and autonomy have been taught and are responsive to students’ needs?

How do teachers distribute resources and supports in a way that ensures equitable access for all students?

How do teachers complete non-instructional tasks so that they do not take away from instructional time?

In order for learning to occur and for students to feel safe and valued, teachers must attend to supporting a climate of respectful behavior in ways that affirm the dignity of each student. Learning is not supported in an environment characterized by disengagement, apathy, resistance, or bullying. At the same time, the aim of the effective teacher is not to control students or use authority or punitive approaches to eliminate “misbehavior,” but rather to support motivation, compassion, and other positive behaviors within the classroom. Purposeful classroom rules and norms – alongside engaging instruction – combine to support an optimal learning environment that allows students to grow and thrive.

Classrooms, no matter what form they take, are crowded and busy places. Successful learning environments have established expectations to support the common good that are culturally responsive and reflect shared norms and values. Within these environments, it is the teacher’s responsibility to support students by modeling and teaching habits of character (such as compassion and respect) that lead to high-quality learning environments and ultimately help students to act ethically in a variety of settings. Excellent teachers do not simply dictate and then reinforce positive behavior; they work with students to promote them by encouraging self-monitoring, reflection, and collective responsibility.

While ground rules for expected behavior are important, teachers who excel in “classroom management” focus on fostering positive behavior that ultimately results in purposeful selfmanagement as students develop the dispositions and traits they need to make good choices and successfully navigate a variety of contexts. They help students develop and maintain shared norms and expectations, provide opportunities for students to reflect on their interactions with one another, and approach student behavior with community-mindedness–the idea that building a better classroom community is a shared endeavor.

Elements Of Success

Expectations for the Learning Community

Students play an active role in establishing and maintaining expectations for the learning community with regular opportunities for critical reflection both individually and as a group.

Modeling and Teaching Habits of Character

Teachers model, explicitly teach, and reinforce habits that promote learning, ethical behavior, and citizenship.

Self-Monitoring and Collective Responsibility

Students successfully monitor their own behavior, attend to their impact on other students, and appropriately support one another.


In what ways do students demonstrate that clear expectations have been established with their active and continued input?

What are some ways that teachers model and teach habits of character that develop positive behavior in students?

What evidence indicates that students monitor and reflect on their behavior and the impact it has on their classmates and their learning?

What constitutes a classroom space is evolving rapidly and may be different from school to school or teacher to teacher. Some teachers teach in a standard classroom, some travel from classroom to classroom, some teach primarily online, and others teach in a gym or on a stage. Regardless, teachers are responsible for working with their students to create a joyful environment that promotes learning. As part of the work of organizing the space, teachers must attend to safety and equitable accessibility for all students. Beyond this necessity, excellent teachers prioritize design for learning and development. In other words, their classes are not simply arranged for efficiency or based on personal preferences but are thoughtfully designed to support learning and the work that students do with one another.

Though arrangement of objects and resources may vary greatly from space to space, the best spaces for learning reflect shared ownership – a space where all members of the community feel safe, belong, and can learn. When a classroom is a true community of learners, students themselves become involved in the creation of a beautiful and joyful environment and take initiative in ensuring it meets their needs. They may, for example, plan a display of work, move furniture to facilitate a group project, or shift supplies to improve traffic flow. They may lower the shades to block the sun from a classmate’s eyes or shut the door to keep out hall noise. It is their space, and they make it work to promote learning. Naturally, such student involvement can only occur when the teacher cultivates and encourages student participation in establishing the environment as a shared space from the outset.

Elements Of Success

Safety and Accessibility

The learning space is safe and accessible to all students and is modified if necessary by students or teachers to accommodate individual student needs.

Design for Learning and Development

The learning space is thoughtfully designed and adjusted as necessary to support and facilitate learning activities.

Co-Creation and Shared Ownership

Students play a role in the design and adjustment of the learning space and demonstrate a sense of ownership through appropriate participation and interaction.


How do teachers and students modify the learning space as needed to make sure it is safe and accessible?

What evidence indicates that the learning space has been designed specifically to suit and support the content and the students?

In what ways is student input applied to create a sense of shared ownership over the learning space?

Domain 3: Learning Experiences

The components of Domain 3: Learning Experiences describe the engagement of students in learning experiences and reflect the primary mission of schools: enhancing student learning and growth. These components are unified through a vision of students developing complex understanding, achieving goals, cultivating purpose, and participating in a community of learners. The components of the other domains provide a foundation for purposeful, engaging, and successful learning experiences. In many ways, success in Domain 3 is the direct result of success in Domains 1 and 2 in particular. Teachers prepare experiences that are grounded in deep understanding of the content, aligned with appropriate standards, designed to engage students in important work, and planned or adapted with the goals, strengths, needs, and lives of each student in mind. Learning experiences can only be consistently successful for each student when the environment, nurtured by the teacher in collaboration with students, is a space where students are affirmed and challenged.

During effective learning experiences, students are engaged in meaningful work, which carries significance beyond the next test and can provide skills and knowledge necessary for answering significant questions or contributing to important projects. Their engagement is relevant and meaningful to them as individuals. Teachers use practices and take actions that not only advance student learning, but also affirm the humanity of their students. Through learning experiences, successful teachers build on students’ strengths and assets, support the ongoing development of intellectual habits and mindsets (such as curiosity, reasoning, and reflection), encourage the development and pursuit of individual and collective purposes, and further strengthen motivation, confidence, and perseverance. Such teachers prepare and support students to assume responsibility for their own learning, and the student initiative they expect motivates students to excel. The work undertaken through experiences in the learning community is real and significant; it is important to students as well as to teachers.

Teachers who excel in the components of Domain 3: Learning Experiences have finely honed instructional skills. Their work in the classroom is fluid and flexible; they can shift easily from one approach to another when the situation demands it. They seamlessly incorporate ideas and concepts from other parts of the curriculum into their explanations, relating, for example, what the students have just learned to previous learning or real-world experience. Their questions probe student thinking and serve to extend understanding. They monitor understanding and are attentive to different students in the class and the degree to which the students are thoughtfully engaged; when they observe inattention or struggle, they make adjustments. And above all, the most successful teachers teach, model, and coach their students to take responsibility for and ownership of their own learning. When this is the case, students are the ones asking questions, maintaining the momentum of discussions, suggesting alternative approaches and new lines of inquiry, and consistently monitoring their own progress.

Domain 3 Components

Teachers communicate with students constantly and for a variety of purposes. While any communication with or between students has a direct connection to many of the components of learning environments, communication related to the purposes of learning, the expectations for activities, and the content itself are essential aspects of instruction that support (or hinder) students’ intellectual engagement and academic success.

Successful teachers consistently and effectively communicate that learning is a purposeful activity and make the goals and objectives of specific learning experiences clear to students. They emphasize the purpose of these goals, both in relation to the larger curriculum and students’ own interests and purposes, and communicate the why behind the goals in a way that makes them meaningful and relevant. Effective teachers also explain how students will learn and what it will look like when they are successful. Specific learning activities require clear directions and expectations so that students can engage successfully. Constructivist teachers often facilitate experiences that guide students to develop insights and discover underlying principles or ideas on their own. In such cases, there may initially be more focus on explaining how students will engage rather than exactly what they will learn, but explaining the insights and learning that develop as a result of these experiences is critical work for students and teachers.

When teachers present concepts and information, they do so accurately and clearly, using precise, academic language. They often do so imaginatively as well, embellishing their descriptions, using multiple means of representation to explain content, employing analogies or metaphors to support understanding, and linking the content to students’ own lives and prior knowledge. They use vivid, rich, and appropriate academic language and support and encourage students to do the same.

Elements Of Success

Purpose for Learning and Criteria for Success

Teachers communicate the goals and objectives of learning activities and outline an instructional pathway for students to meet the established criteria for success.

Specific Expectations

Student actions during each step of learning activities are clearly and effectively communicated with specific expectations articulated and reinforced throughout.

Explanations of Content

Content knowledge is scaffolded and presented in multiple, engaging ways with frequent, integrated checks for student understanding.

Use of Academic Language

Verbal and written content-related language used by teachers and students is academically rigorous, accurate, and subject and grade appropriate.


How do students connect to the purpose and value of learning to grow both academically and personally?

What are some ways that students show that they understand the expectations associated with learning activities and the process of learning?

How do students demonstrate that content has been explained in a way that enhances their understanding?

In what ways do teachers and students use rigorous and accurate academic language to build content knowledge?

Questioning and discussion, when used effectively during learning experiences, engage students in the exploration of content and deepen student understanding. Before teachers have mastered the skill of questioning and discussion, the questions they ask are often quick, low-level questions with one right answer that only elicit responses from a few students or lead to discussions between the teacher and one student at a time. Skillful teachers frame questions that have multiple answers and invite students to formulate hypotheses, make connections, or challenge previously held views. They are especially adept at valuing students’ responses, building on them, and making use of their ideas to help students arrive at new understandings of complex material.

When a strong culture for learning and a respectful, safe environment are present, classroom discussions engage all students in important issues, provide opportunities for critical thinking, deepen and extend understanding, and promote the use of precise language. Discussions may be based on questions formulated by the teacher or the students. Through questioning and discussion during learning experiences, students are challenged to explain and justify their reasoning, citing specific text or other evidence, and are given opportunities to reflect on learning. Skills and dispositions related to critical thinking, logical reasoning, and reflection are critical to all disciplines and essential to student success in school and beyond.

In the most successful discussions, all students are engaged. A few students do not dominate the conversation, nor is it a back-and-forth between a teacher and students. Rather, all students are drawn into the conversation because members of the classroom community seek the perspective of all students, and all voices are heard. While successful teachers are adept at asking questions that lead to fruitful and purposeful discussions, they have also established routines, created safe spaces with their students, and taught and modeled skills that allow them to gradually move from the center to the side so students can maintain the momentum.

Elements Of Success

Critical Thinking and Deeper Learning

Questions and discussions require critical thinking, have multiple answers, and are used to deepen student understanding of content, themselves, and the larger world.

Reasoning and Reflection

Questions and discussions challenge students to reason, reflect on learning, justify their thinking, and generate ideas for future inquiry.

Student Participation

Students demonstrate curiosity and engage one another through questions and dialogue, challenging each other’s thinking with respect and humility.


How do students demonstrate that questioning and discussion is helping them to think critically and deepen their understanding?

How does questioning and discussion challenge students to justify their reasoning and reflect on their learning?

In what ways do students respectfully and productively engage each other in dialogue?

Ultimately, teachers are responsible for the learning and development of students, which requires students’ active, intellectual engagement in learning experiences. When teachers arrange for ambitious instruction with each of their students in mind and cultivate safe, supportive, and challenging learning environments, the conditions exist for this type of engagement to occur. As such, all other components of the Framework for Teaching contribute to this one, and many have referred to it as the “heart” of the Framework. This designation reinforces the fundamental principles and constructivist foundation of the Framework, especially the idea that it is the learner who does the learning.

True engagement is present when students are intellectually active and emotionally invested in learning important and challenging content, not simply when they are “busy” or “on task.” The critical distinction between experiences in which students are compliant and those in which they are engaged is that in the latter, students are developing their understanding through rich learning experiences, collaboration and teamwork, and thinking and reflection. They are not simply completing an assignment or passively receiving content. When students engage at a deeper level, they are encouraged to be curious, supported to assume responsibility for their learning, and motivated to increase the challenge, complexity, and relevance of learning experiences themselves.

Successful teachers provide multiple ways for students to engage with the content and represent their ideas. Even so, engaging learning experiences typically have a discernible, coherent structure that teachers have carefully prepared. Tasks and activities provide cognitive challenge and students are encouraged to reflect on what they have learned. That is, the experience has closure, in which teachers encourage students to derive the important learning from the tasks, discussion, or materials. The best evidence of engagement is not what teachers are saying or doing (or even what they have planned) but what students are saying and doing as a result. 

Elements Of Success

Rich Learning Experiences

Students demonstrate agency and critical thinking in completion of tasks and activities that require high levels of intellectual engagement.

Collaboration and Teamwork

Student collaboration is a key component of learning and engagement, and students take initiative to collaborate in new or unplanned ways that further their learning and make it more engaging and meaningful.

Use of Instructional Materials and Resources

Instructional materials and resources are used effectively to support intellectual engagement and deep learning of the content.

Opportunities for Thinking and Reflection

Individual lessons, activities, and tasks, as well as instructional pathways, have multiple and effective opportunities to think, reflect, and consolidate understanding.


How do students demonstrate agency in making learning tasks more engaging and meaningful?

What are some ways that teachers ensure that student collaboration is utilized to deepen understanding and further learning?

In what ways are instructional materials and resources used to support deep learning by all students?

What evidence indicates that the lesson is structured to allow students multiple meaningful opportunities to think and consolidate understanding?

While assessments of learning are essential and have often been more heavily emphasized by policymakers, teachers have long known that assessment for learning is a powerful and important tool. Assessment is an integral part of learning experiences themselves, not just a signal of the end of a lesson, unit, or course. Summative assessment has always been and will continue to be an important aspect of teaching, allowing teachers, students, and their families to know whether students have learned and progressed toward their goals. But when formative assessment is a key component of learning experiences, teachers and students are able to gauge whether they have learned the content or mastered skills, as well as where they are on the path to meeting their learning goals, making them ultimately more likely to be successful in achieving their purposes.

Assessment for learning provides essential feedback to students and teachers on successes and challenges. Successful teachers are constantly monitoring student progress, and also encouraging and supporting students to monitor their own understanding. In order for assessment during learning to provide useful feedback, there must be standards and criteria for success that are aligned to the goals and clear to students and those supporting them. Successful opportunities to assess learning, no matter their form (they may be formal or informal, planned or organic), allow teachers to determine the degree of understanding of every student in the class and for each student to monitor their own learning against clear standards and collaborative goals determined by both students and teachers.

In the most successful learning experiences, feedback comes from a variety of sources (including other students). It is specific, useful, timely, and focused on improvement or further learning. While it may prioritize addressing gaps or misunderstandings, it should also provide encouragement and identify strengths that students can leverage in this or future challenges.

Elements Of Success

Clear Standards for Success

Collaborative goals, the characteristics of high-quality work, and the criteria established as evidence of success are clear to students and those supporting them.

Monitoring Student Understanding

Teachers and students are constantly monitoring learning and making use of specific strategies to elicit evidence of understanding.

Timely, Constructive Feedback

High-quality feedback comes from many sources, including students; it is specific and focused on improvement.


In what ways do teachers establish and clearly communicate the standards for high-quality work?

What evidence indicates that students monitor their own understanding to analyze their progress toward learning goals?

How do students receive and utilize high quality feedback to advance their learning?

Teaching is an incredibly complex and demanding activity that requires ongoing, often consequential decision-making. In the course of learning experiences, teachers are making decisions almost constantly. These decisions might include whether to shift approach (or not) based on evidence of student engagement; how to respond to and build upon student inquiries; what to do when one, some, or all students are struggling; and how to acknowledge students’ emotional wellbeing or respond to events in their lives, communities, or the broader society. While some of these decisions might be made in advance, successful teachers are particularly skilled in making adjustments during the course of learning experiences in response to changing conditions.

With experience, teachers develop skills in accurately predicting how a lesson will go and being prepared for different possible scenarios. However, even the most skilled, and best prepared, teachers will occasionally find either that a lesson is not proceeding as they would like or that students are encountering unanticipated difficulties. Additionally, student inquiries or unanticipated events might create new and unexpected learning opportunities that are worth pursuing in the moment. In either case, successful teachers are able to make both minor and (at times) major adjustments to better address the needs of students and ensure their success. Such adjustments are supported by teachers’ expertise, confidence, and sense of efficacy.

When teachers demonstrate flexibility and responsiveness, they also model mindsets and skills for their students. For instance, committed teachers don’t give up easily. Their determination and persistence in supporting students who encounter difficulties or experience failure has a direct impact on students’ own mindsets and the culture for learning in the classroom. A learning experience, even one that goes according to plan, will include moments of struggle, and the determination of students and teachers and the adjustments they make during those times further their success.

Elements Of Success

Evidence-Based Adjustments

When appropriate, teachers use their expertise to alter or replace pre-planned activities based on students’ understanding, questions, and interests.

Receptiveness and Responsiveness

Teachers are open to and capitalize upon unexpected student actions, questions, and internal and external events; they encourage and support students to pursue new learning and opportunities on their own.

Determination and Persistence

Teachers are committed to efficacy, even when students encounter difficulty in learning, and pursue alternative approaches when necessary to help students be successful.


What evidence indicates that teachers make real-time adjustments to learning activities to suit students’ individual needs?

In what ways do teachers incorporate students’ questions and interests into the learning experience to deepen understanding and support curiosity?

What are some ways that teachers and students demonstrate a commitment to success when they experience difficulties?

Domain 4: Principled Teaching

The components of Domain 4: Principled Teaching capture and reflect the practices of educators that extend beyond their classrooms and the learning experiences they facilitate. These activities are critical to preserving and enhancing the profession and to the success of students. Teaching is a purpose-driven profession. It is a calling. Those who take up the work have a lasting and profound impact on the lives of students. Their purpose, and the purpose of education more broadly, is not solely to impart academic knowledge; it is the intellectual and moral development of human beings who will themselves flourish and help create a just society.

Dedication to this work is revealed through a teacher’s ongoing, deliberate process of growth and evolution, their contributions to the school community, and their ongoing partnerships with the families and communities with whom they work. Their actions in these areas are directly connected to the components in other domains, such as knowing and valuing their students and providing safe and supportive environments that promote each student’s learning and personal development.

For teachers, success relies on an ability to reflect, recognize, and analyze strengths and opportunities. More importantly, the collective impact of teachers depends on their ability and desire to learn and grow, their resilience and determination, and the strength of their character. They ultimately measure their success by the success of students – each one – and especially the success of those whose identities and potential have not yet been affirmed or realized in schools.

Like students (and all human beings), teachers are on a journey of personal development and discovery. This journey is fueled by curiosity and compassion; it requires creativity, resourcefulness, humility, leadership, and wisdom. As it relates to the work of teaching, this journey centers around students, their lives, their families, and their purpose.

The components in this domain emphasize what it means to be a full member of the teaching profession, to serve students, and to be dedicated to the collective values and goals of the school and the community it serves. Teachers who excel in Domain 4: Principled Teaching are highly regarded by colleagues and parents. They serve students’ best interests and those of the larger community, and they are active in professional organizations in school, the district, and beyond. They are known as dependable educators who go beyond the technical requirements of their jobs and contribute to the general well-being of the institutions of which they are a part, which sometimes means they question and work to change those institutions.

At its best and at its core, teaching is an act of service and moral leadership rooted in an ethic of care and focused on the success of each and every student.

Domain 4 Components

The ability to engage in reflective practice that leads to professional growth and student success is an essential aspect of teaching. Although teachers often reflect on and analyze a single learning experience (or series of them), they also engage in more general self-assessment and reflection about their practice. Reflection is a process of thinking about actions, reviewing evidence, identifying strengths and opportunities, and seeking new knowledge and new perspectives that can enhance practice.

Teachers who engage successfully in reflection focus on their impact on student learning. This includes attention not only to the specific events or activities that occur during learning but also to their own beliefs, mindsets, and aspects of their own identities that may influence the experience of students. By analyzing results of student assessments, examining a lesson they record, receiving feedback from colleagues, or by a variety of other means, teachers work to determine where to focus their efforts in making adjustments, learn from their challenges, and build on their successes. Reflection may occur in conversation with colleagues, by keeping a journal or written record of reflections, and by engaging in the process of thinking about – and acting on – what they observe and are able to learn on their own.

Reflection is a habit and mindset that teachers use in a variety of contexts, including their personal lives. It’s a disposition that they also work to encourage and build in students. That said, reflection on teaching is a process that teachers acquire and develop over time. Reflecting with accuracy and specificity, and being able to apply new learning to future interactions, is a skill that should be supported by mentors, coaches, instructional leaders, and colleagues. Over time, reflective practice becomes a habit of mind, a way of thinking critically about and analyzing teaching through the lens of student success leading to improvements in teaching and better outcomes for students.

Elements Of Success

Self-Assessment of Teaching

Teachers use evidence from activities and assessments to identify the impact of different elements of practice on student learning and evaluate the success of learning experiences.

Analysis and Discovery

Based on their self-assessment, teachers consider alternative approaches or perspectives, question their own ideas or beliefs, and learn new ways to further advance student learning.

Application and Continuous Improvement

Teachers demonstrate commitment to the success of all students by planning, practicing, and trying new approaches to enhance their teaching based on their assessment and analysis.


How do teachers utilize multiple sources of evidence to analyze their practice and the effectiveness of their instruction?

What evidence indicates that teachers utilize the results of self-assessment to guide the purposeful acquisition of new knowledge and skills?

In what ways do teachers utilize self-reflection and new ideas to demonstrate a personal commitment to continuous improvement?

While effective teachers keep detailed records of completion of assignments, grades on assessments, or even daily participation or notes about the wellbeing of students, they also focus their documentation of student progress on just that–where students are in relation to their goals, which may or may not be readily apparent from their grades. Importantly, this information about where each student “is” in their learning trajectory must be accessible to and understood by students themselves and those who support them: their families, caregivers, and other educators.

Simply giving access to an online grading system or sending home progress reports is not sufficient to build shared ownership of student progress. Successful teachers engage students themselves and their families in setting goals, tracking progress toward them, and celebrating their attainment. In many cases, teachers do important work to ensure that students and their families fully understand what different grades, scores, or designations mean. For instance, designations such as “below grade level” or more specific ways of documenting reading level may be generally understood by students, but it’s essential that teachers share more than just this basic information and do so in a way that affirms students rather than operating from a deficit mindset.

True success in this component occurs when students are fully able to describe their own progress in detail–not just to the teacher but to their families as well. They take ownership of and demonstrate pride in their accomplishments. They also recognize and learn from their failures or challenges. Ultimately, they assume responsibility for their progress with the teacher serving as their guide.

Elements Of Success

Student Progress Toward Mastery

The teacher documents student progress toward learning and developmental goals and shares information with students, parents, and educational collaborators.

Shared Ownership

With support from teachers, students utilize resources to monitor their progress toward learning and developmental goals and regularly analyze and discuss their progress with teachers and caregivers.

Maintaining Reliable Records

The teacher consistently gathers, updates, and shares data that is accurate, accessible, and clear to students and families.


What evidence indicates that there is a clear system used by students and teachers to track mastery of learning goals?

How do teachers, students, and those that support them share responsibility and ownership of student progress?

In what ways do teachers ensure that records are created and maintained in a reliable, accurate, and accessible fashion?

Successful teachers recognize that their success, which comes from their students’ success, requires the engagement of families and the communities in which they work. Schools have too often, though certainly not always, been seen as separate from the families and communities they serve. Deficit notions of families and communities have too often done harm to students and hindered their success. Certainly, students’ families rely on the school and teachers in it to meet their students’ needs and help them achieve their individual goals and purposes, and their levels of engagement may vary for a host of different reasons. However, it is essential that teachers operate with a mindset that views families and other members of the community as co-teachers, partners, and resources.

Understanding the cultural backgrounds and values of students and their families is essential, especially when there is a difference between those values or cultures and a teacher’s own. When families feel unwelcome or excluded from the learning community, when their students do not receive the support they need, or when their cultures and identities are viewed as deficits rather than assets, success for each student is not possible. Teachers who respectfully and fully engage families and the community in ways that value and honor their humanity and create a shared commitment to student success are engaging in efforts that can have lasting effects and far-reaching influence.

There are many ways to engage families and various purposes for that engagement. Effective teachers partner with families in creating learning environments and building a community of learners. They ensure that families know about and understand the instructional program. They invite parents to engage in learning experiences. Ultimately, they make families part of the learning community and view their partnership as essential to meeting the needs of their students.

Elements Of Success

Respect and Cultural Competence

Teachers interact with families and the community in ways that respect their values and cultural backgrounds.

Community Values

Learning experiences and environments are extensions of the community and uphold its values, creating a shared vision of student success.

Instructional Program

Established structures and processes keep families informed about the instructional program and provide opportunities for input and feedback.

Engagement in Learning Experiences

Teachers connect students’ out-of-school learning and lives to their efforts in school and take the lead in forming partnerships and relationships to strengthen those connections.


In what ways do teacher interactions demonstrate their respect for the values of students’ families and local community?

How is the vision for student success shaped and informed by the values of the community?

What evidence indicates that structures are in place and consistently utilized to keep families informed and collect their input and feedback?

How do teachers connect to students’ lived experiences to tailor and deepen engagement in learning experiences?

Schools are, first and foremost, environments to promote the learning and development of students. In order for a school’s vision of success for students to be achieved, teachers must work collaboratively and engage together in inquiry regarding effective practice. Their efficacy as a community is essential for the success of the school as a whole and that of individual students. The full potential of a school community is realized only when teachers regard themselves as members of and leaders in a learning organization. This type of community is characterized by mutual support and respect, as well as by the recognition that all teachers have the responsibility to seek ways to improve their practice and contribute to the life and values of the school.

A key component of the intellectual life of the school is collaborative inquiry. By identifying problems of practice, student needs, and areas of investigation, teachers are able to support one another, develop solutions, and engage in innovation that leads to student success. Through an ongoing process focused on improvement, teachers observe one another and provide feedback, participate in professional learning communities, study curricular materials together, and analyze student outcomes and assessment data across the school. When collaborative inquiry is implemented successfully, teachers solve problems and grow collectively in their pursuit of excellence.

Inevitably, teachers’ involvement in and contributions to the community and culture of the school also extend beyond what might typically be considered their instructional practice. These contributions have an important impact on the life of the school and include activities such as parent-teacher organizations, school or district committees, and school social or cultural events. While each teacher’s contributions may differ (as may school or district expectations), successful educators are committed to enhancing the culture of the entire school.

Elements Of Success

Relational Trust and Collaborative Spirit

Teachers develop strong relationships with students and colleagues that support professional learning, collaboration, mutual trust, and student success.

Culture of Inquiry and Innovation

Teachers contribute to the culture of the school by modeling school values, helping to identify underlying problems, and taking positive action toward their solution.

Service to the School

Teachers extend their influence beyond their classrooms by leading and contributing to school events, projects, and initiatives.


What evidence indicates that teachers have developed strong relationships that build relational trust with students and colleagues?

In what ways do teachers model a culture of thoughtful, generative professional inquiry?

What are some ways that teachers lead in developing and implementing school events, projects, and initiatives for students and colleagues?

As is the case in other professions, the complexity of teaching requires continuous growth and development. By continuing to stay informed, enhancing their skills, and further developing their cultural competence, teachers become ever more effective and grow as leaders in their schools. Successful teachers approach growth and development with a spirit of curiosity–seeking to learn more about their disciplines as knowledge evolves, refining their skills around student engagement, and learning the newest strategies and technology, among other things. They also continuously seek to develop their understanding of the students and communities they serve.

Engaging in collaborative inquiry with colleagues is one key practice that supports growth and development. This engagement may occur through department or team meetings, study groups, lesson study, or other structures. In addition, educators increase their effectiveness in the classroom by participating in opportunities for learning through professional organizations, online courses, educational conferences, or formally continuing their education through university coursework.

Those who have experienced its power recognize that instructional coaching and mentoring are fundamental components of professional growth and development. When teachers seek and act on advice and feedback, they are able to refine their own knowledge and skills, become more adept at reflecting on their own practice, and ultimately are better able to meet the needs of their students. Feedback, whether formal or informal, is essential in understanding and analyzing classroom success and opportunities for improvement. As they gain more experience and expertise through practices such as collaborative inquiry and instructional coaching, successful teachers find additional ways to contribute to the success of their colleagues by taking on leadership roles.

Elements Of Success

Curiosity and Autonomy

Teachers identify personal and professional growth areas and independently seek opportunities to develop and refine their knowledge.

Developing Cultural Competence

Teachers seek knowledge regarding the students and community they serve and apply findings to their practice and development of the school culture.

Enhancing Knowledge and Skills

Teachers work to deepen content and pedagogical knowledge and exchange new learning with colleagues.

Seeking and Acting on Feedback

Teachers seek opportunities to receive and provide feedback and work collaboratively and constructively to utilize feedback effectively.


What evidence indicates that teachers respect cultural differences and work to develop and demonstrate cultural competence?

How do teachers identify opportunities for growth to help them better meet the needs of students?

In what ways do teachers demonstrate initiative toward refining their skills and content knowledge?

What are some ways that teachers show a commitment to seeking and utilizing high-quality feedback?

Accomplished teachers demonstrate a commitment to the success of all students by acting ethically and taking deliberate action on their behalf. They have a strong moral compass and are guided by the best interest of each student. They display this commitment in a number of ways. For example, they conduct interactions with colleagues in a manner notable for honesty and integrity. Furthermore, they know their students’ needs and can readily access resources that may extend beyond the classroom. Seeking greater flexibility in how school rules and policies are applied, expert teachers advocate for their students in ways that might challenge traditional views and the educational establishment when current policies or procedures are out of line with community values or have not served students equitably.

Promoting excellence means not only that teachers focus on best practices and their ongoing learning and development, it also means that they recognize and call attention to practices that are not supportive of learning and development for any student. When even one student feels unsafe or excluded from the learning community, does not have the support they need to meet the outcomes, feels their self-confidence shaken or their love of learning stifled, excellent teachers work to address these issues and make excellence possible for each student. They view the cultures and identities of students as assets rather than deficits and hold high expectations for them all. They act out of a firm commitment to the idea that excellence only for some is not excellence at all. 

In many ways, distinguished practice in all of the previous components of the Framework for Teaching is the best evidence of distinguished practice in this component. Ultimately, it reflects the ideal that teaching is work that matters. It requires critical thinking, curiosity, courage, autonomy, resourcefulness, gratitude, and compassion. Above all it requires the wisdom to make decisions in the best interest of students, especially in challenging situations.

Elements Of Success

Acting with Care, Honesty, and Integrity

Teachers consistently model care, honesty, and integrity in interactions with students, families, and colleagues.

Ethical Decision-Making

Teachers make wise decisions, especially under challenging circumstances, that are in the best interest of students and their families.


Teachers are active advocates for students, their families, and colleagues and lead in taking action on their behalf.


What evidence indicates that teachers model care, honesty, and integrity and take the lead in developing and encouraging others to develop these qualities?

In what ways do teachers ensure that the decisions they make are in the best interest of students, families, and colleagues?

How do teachers model and take the lead in advocating for students, families, and colleagues?