In the Classroom

The Danielson Framework and Your K-12 Observation Success

The Danielson Framework for teacher observations has become increasingly popular in school districts around the country. What sets the Danielson Framework apart from other teacher evaluation systems is the level of specificity used to construct teacher observation rubrics. By breaking down teaching into parts and providing a clear description for each, the Danielson Framework provides educators with criteria that can be applied equally to all teachers across content areas and grade levels. It focuses on the knowledge of students, the knowledge of content, and enhancing professional practice.

What is the Danielson Framework for Teacher Observation?

This framework for teacher evaluations was developed by Charlotte Danielson after an extensive review of the research on effective teaching as well as evaluation rubrics from school districts such as Washington, D.C., Chicago, and New York City. The Danielson Framework, according to the Danielson Group, is a four-level evaluation system of instructional practice that demonstrates great teaching.

As defined, Charlotte Danielson’s framework breaks down teacher performance as follows: highly effective (4), effective (3), partially effective (2), and minimally effective (1). In the first level, teachers receive a score of “1” if their teaching exhibits little or no evidence of student learning. Teachers who exhibit some but not all components of effective teaching receive a score of “2”. At the third and fourth levels (3 and 4), teachers must demonstrate excellence in instruction and provide clear evidence of student learning. Besides just lesson plans, the system also looks for teacher growth via instructional practices.

Teachers are evaluated, generally by school leaders, on four categories: planning, instruction, assessment of student learning, and professional responsibilities. For each category, the Danielson Framework provides specific criteria for teachers to meet at each level. When used properly—with consistency in the application of criteria across evaluators and subjects—the Danielson Framework provides a means to provide feedback on teaching and support professional growth.

Administrators and teacher preparation programs need to understand that even in a research-based model such as the Danielson Framework, these kinds of assessments need to be conducted with care. Teachers need to be prepared for these observations, and the process needs to be conducted in a supportive rather than a punitive fashion.

The Good and Bad of the Danielson Framework

One of the benefits of using this system is that administrators can use it with their entire staff at once, which saves time. Another benefit is that the Danielson Framework provides a clear outline for observations and template forms for administrators to collect data easily. The specific criteria outlined in the Danielson Framework give both evaluators and teachers concrete examples of what to look for during classroom observations. The framework also provides clear definitions of what each level looks like in practice, which makes it easier for evaluators and teachers to use the system consistently.

The Danielson Framework has limitations, however. Some educators have argued that by breaking down teaching into parts and providing a clear description for each, the Danielson Framework provides educators with criteria that can be applied equally to all teachers across content areas and grade levels, thus removing the context of teaching and learning. The framework also relies on a one-size-fits-all approach, which is not always appropriate given the diversity of learners in today’s classrooms.

The Danielson Framework has become a leader in helping schools and districts conduct more effective evaluations of teachers. By providing concrete examples of teaching practices, the framework offers evaluators a clear picture of what each level looks like in practice, thus making it easier for them to consistently gauge teacher performance.

How to Do Well in Your Observation

All teachers know that our classrooms ebb and flow with good and bad on any given day. However, doing well on our teacher observation is something that we all wish to do. With the Danielson Model, it’s important to tap into the specific expectations of what it means to utilize a reflective practice or implement best practices. This means that you are constantly trying to improve upon your craft as an educator by following the steps below:

Do Your Homework – It is key to get to know your students before beginning an observation with your evaluator. Take the time to look over what they worked on in class before and determine if you need to add any additional elements for this particular day, such as a homework assignment or quiz. Make sure that you make your expectations clear for your students during the introduction of the lesson.

Leave Nothing Undone – For every single task that an evaluator assigns to you, make sure that you accomplish it. This means making sure that each element is covered appropriately and completely. If your evaluator asks the class a question, make certain that every student has time to answer. You don’t want to leave any questions unanswered or give any students the impression that they are not required to participate.

Be Positive – The Danielson Framework requires evaluators to provide feedback straightforwardly, so you need to do the same when providing feedback during an observation to your teacher candidates or other educators. Don’t make excuses or try to downplay what happened. Be positive, however, in your approach to what went well and what can be improved upon.

By following these three guidelines, educators will have a better chance of doing well on their observations and showcasing their best selves during the process.

Getting Help with the Danielson Framework

If your school follows the Danielson Framework for observations, you are in luck. Helping teachers rock in the classroom is my forte.

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This article was originally published on April 14, 2021

After moving from a teacher-dominated classroom to a truly student-centered one, Jenn found herself helping colleagues who wanted to follow her lead.  In 2018 she decided to expand outside of her school walls and help those out there who were also trying to figure out this fantastic method of instruction to ignite intrinsic motivation in their students.  Read more about her journey with Student-Centered World at

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