It’s November, and that means, depending on where you live, parent-teacher interviews are fast approaching (if they haven’t happened already!). And while we’ll leave assessing your young learner’s progress in the very capable hands of their instructor, we thought you might be curious about how your child(ren)’s teachers themselves are evaluated.

Though individual schools and districts vary in their evaluation methods, one methodology has gained a significant amount of traction in American schools: the Danielson framework. Created by internationally-recognized education expert Charlotte Danielson, the framework both enables administrators to assess their teaching staff using robust, research-backed criteria and teachers to engage in self-reflection and self-assessment as part of their ongoing professional development. These two facets of the framework are important because, much like student evaluation, teacher assessment is most effective when it is a collaborative process between teacher and administrator.

Teacher assessment is most effective when it is a collaborative process between teacher and administrator.

So what exactly does the Danielson framework measure? Let’s break it down.

Overview

The Danielson framework identifies four key domains intended to outline the main components of what Danielson calls “good teaching, in all its complexity.” These domains are:

Domain 1: Planning and Preparation
Domain 2: Classroom Environment
Domain 3: Instruction
Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities

These four domains are further subdivided into 22 components and 76 smaller elements. Each component describes a certain aspect of a domain and each element describes a feature of a component. To illustrate, let’s look at Domain 1: Planning and Preparation, which has six subcomponents:

1a: Demonstrating Knowledge of Content and Pedagogy
1b: Demonstrating Knowledge of Students
1c: Setting Instructional Outcomes
1d: Demonstrating Knowledge of Resources
1e: Designing Coherent Instruction
1f: Designing Student Assessments

Before we delve into the details of how the framework plays out in practice, it’s important to understand that the framework is NOT a checklist of specific attributes that all successful teachers possess. The components and their corresponding elements are intentionally broad to account for the wide range of approaches that can make for excellent teachers. Take component 1f, for example. There is no one correct way to design a student assessment; in fact, there are a multitude of ways that a teacher could create an effective student assessment for their class. A good teacher will use their knowledge of their own classroom context—what the subject matter is, who the learners are, even the teacher’s own personality and teaching style—to design the best possible method of evaluating their students’ learning.

The Danielson Framework in Practice

Now that we’ve gotten an overview of what the Danielson Framework measures, let’s look at how teacher evaluation with this methodology works.

The evaluation process can be quite extensive; it may involve one or more of: one-on-one meeting(s) between the teacher and evaluating administrator, classroom sit-ins, and/or review of samples of work with students—all on top of their regular workload. (Phew! Teachers and administrators sure go through a lot to ensure that teachers can provide the best possible learning experience for their students, don’t they?)

You might still be wondering, however, how do you quantify a teacher’s success using the Danielson framework? The answer is, you use the favorite tool of educators everywhere—the rubric! (What else?)

How do you quantify a teacher’s success using the Danielson framework?

You’re probably already familiar with rubrics from your child(ren)’s assignments: guidelines that outline certain levels of achievement and the specific criteria for attaining each level. To no one’s surprise, administrators love using rubrics with teachers just as much as teachers love using them with students. They offer a clear template for administrator feedback as well as serving as a useful tool for teacher self-reflection; they allow teachers to pinpoint their strengths while also prompting continuous, lifelong learning.

Here’s an example of a rubric from the New York Department of Education that might be used during a teacher evaluation, either by an administrator “grading” a teacher’s work or by a teacher for individual self-reflection:

The different categories give teachers a clear picture of their particular skill-set, all while highlighting any areas of improvement and the criteria they need to achieve to take their teaching to the next level.

Conclusion

We hope that this has been a useful and interesting introduction to some of the practices of modern teacher evaluation. There’s definitely a lot that goes on behind the scenes at your child’s school! What other teacher or administrator workflows can we help shed some light on before the next round of parent-teacher interviews? Let us know!

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