Thursday, January 10, 2013

Danielson, Hard Work, and a Little Love

1. The Charlotte Danielson Model is flawed. 
Recently school districts around Illinois and around the country have turned to Charlotte Danielson's "Framework for Teaching" ( to evaluate the effectiveness of their educators. While many districts will ultimately determine how to implement and make sense of the model, the framework has many flaws. If you read all 54 pages of her dissertation, you will find many contradictions like this one below---

Under component 2C "Managing the Classroom" Danielson lays out requirements to achieve a "distinguished" rating for classroom management. She says, "A smoothly functioning classroom is a prerequisite to good instruction and high levels of student engagement. Teachers establish and monitor routines and procedures for the smooth operation of the classroom and the efficient use of time. Hallmarks of a well-managed classroom are that instructional groups are used effectively, non-instructional tasks are completed efficiently, and transitions between activities and management of materials and supplies are skillfully done in order to maintain momentum and maximize instructional time. The establishment of efficient routines, and teaching students to employ them, may be inferred from the sense that the class “runs itself.”

Yet, under component 3E, where Instruction is evaluated and responsiveness to student needs is valued, distinguished teachers:

"Seize an opportunity to enhance learning, building on a spontaneous event or student interests or successfully adjusts and differentiates instruction to address individual student misunderstandings. Teacher persists in seeking effective approaches for students who need help, using an extensive repertoire of instructional strategies and soliciting additional resources from the school or community."

So what exactly am I supposed to do as a teacher when I sense inquisition among my students? According to 2C, I should maintain a smooth functioning classroom routine that maximizes instructional time and "keep moving" through my instructional goals for the day. If I truly bought into that style of teaching, and tried to grind out every minute of 180 days of instruction, my students will be bored stiff. Moreover, this contradiction in evaluation categories pits the creative and spontaneous teacher against organized and target focused teacher. Both teaching styles have their merits and places in schools. My hope is that our Illinois school districts are able to drastically adapt the wording of this model to evaluate and reward good teaching.

2. True confidence can only come from your work. 
I often think about the qualities that separate great school leaders and teachers from others. Many times, I think about the age-old question that we ask prospective job seekers in education, "What quality separates you from others?" I think the answer, "I am a really hard worker," is corny at face value. But the more I think about it, that may be the most genuine answer someone can give if they are truly being honest.

Confidence comes from many different sources. Most notably- people gain confidence from the feedback of others, from their own personal accomplishments, and from their own sense of self-identity.

But when you really tighten the sphere of who you are as a professional-- when you block out how you are evaluated or what your colleagues think of you-- when you put your accolades and accomplishments to the side- nothing speaks louder than your work. Your personal level of commitment to your job is something only you can judge, and only you can gain confidence from.

3. We all need to stay positive and look at the world a little differently. 
A special thanks to George Couros for the inspiration and the reminder- enjoy this awesome commercial!


  1. I think it is great that you are looking deeply at Danielsons work. We are looking at it in our state as well. But I didnt read the contradictions into the framework like you did...I guess I like to think that I looked at it through the glass half full lens; that being, that there are millions of classroom moments where I find myself sitting on that fence between " I practice flexibility here, or do I maintain the course and pull them back in?" Every professional in the world sits on this fence from time to time...a surgeon who opens a patient up and finds an unexpected situation that forces the question, "given what I am seeing, do I proceed, or do I stop and close him back up?" The true surgical professional will recognize clear clues in what they are seeing that will drive the decision.
    The true teaching professional also uses what they are seeing and hearing to drive the what I am seeing and hearing a step towards deeper thinking and making connections to content; or is it taking us further away? That is the mark of a truly distinguished teacher. Knowing the clues and reacting appropriately.
    I agree, it isnt a perfect tool, but we cant grow without clear targets, self reflection, peer reflection and high-quality feedback.
    If not Danielsons tool, then which tool is a better one?
    Love the dialog - this is a great topic for professional conversation!

    1. Thanks so much for your comment and for reading my blog post. I really like what you said about using the feedback from students to drive decision making either towards deeper thinking or connections to content. Does Danielson's model value that decision that a teacher has to make. As you say- its the mark of a distinguished teacher- being able to react...
      And that's just it- every model is inherently flawed. So in a greater sense we have to look at it as, "Not WHO's model we are using, but HOW are we using it to evaluate?"