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A closer look at teaching quality: Knowledge, skills,
and dispositions

When we think back on our own P-12 experiences, many of us can immediately recall a teacher who had great impact on us — the hallmark of an effective teacher.  Characteristics of these teachers typically include a passion for content, the ability to motivate students, high expectations for student achievement, and the ability to convey care and compassion for individual students.

To make these subjective characteristics of individual people more tangible for teacher preparation and evaluation, teaching quality is defined by Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) in terms of knowledge, skills, and dispositions for teaching through the Interstate Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (InTASC) Model Core Teaching Standards (Council of Chief State School Officers, 2011).  Standards delineate performance of a particular element of classroom practice without specifying the teacher behaviors that lead to that performance.  For example, InTASC established ten professional standards. Three of these standards are associated with teachers’ knowledge of learners and their ability to create learning environments for students; two define teachers’ content knowledge and how it is applied during instruction; three establish the core instructional tasks of teaching as planning, using a variety of instructional strategies, and assessment; and two describe teachers’ professional, ethical, and collegial responsibilities.

These standards are developed by drawing on a research literature of effective teaching (Youngs, 2011) and by engaging expert panels of educators to define and describe the professional practices that are both currently in place in schools and that are desired to advance the profession (Council of Chief State School Officers, 2011).  By combining both the normative expectations of what teaching “should” look like based on the views of current educators and the empirical research base on effective teaching, the InTASC standards represent a widely accepted description of the practice or performance of teaching.

Knowledge includes both specific content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge and is often measured through standardized tests.  Evaluating teaching skills typically

requires an observation protocol or video-based  performance assessment.  Dispositions are perhaps the most challenging to externally determine, yet arguably, they are one of the key elements of quality teaching (Villegas, 2007; Villegas & Lucas, 2002).  InTASC defines dispositions as the “habits of professional action and moral commitments that underlie an educator’s performance” (Council of Chief State School Officers, 2011, p. 6).  We acknowledge that although these three features of effective teaching are delineated in order to examine the complexity of a teacher’s practice, they are intricately interdependent and cannot be truly evaluated in isolation from one another.

A closer look at impact on
P-12 students

The overarching purpose for P-12 education is engaging students so they learn concepts, skills, processes, strategies, and behaviors that enable them to be career and college ready as they mature into active and engaged citizens. Beyond intuition and grades, educators need to determine whether their students meet the learning targets for a given concept, skill, lesson, unit, or course.

NExT has conceived of “impact on students” in three ways:

  • General impact on students: One commonly intended impact is student learning, but others might relate to student comfort in the learning environment, positive self-esteem, and positive relationships with adults and peers.


  • Student engagement: This can be expressed by students themselves, or it can be observed by teachers or supervisors once they have identified indicators of engagement.  The intent is to identify the relationship between the quality of student engagement and actions of the teacher.


  • Student learning growth: This focuses on the amount and quality of change in a student’s learning as a result of the teacher’s efforts.  It includes consideration of how student learning represents progress over time and how that growth is related to the teacher’s efforts. In this work, we will primarily focus on student learning growth within the classroom environment.  We will sometimes refer to this as the “local level,” to contrast it with state or national standardized tests as a measure of student learning.

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