What Teachers Should Know and Be Able to Do
National Board for Professional Teaching Standards®
What Teachers Should Know and Be Able to Do
In this policy, the National Board presents its view of what teachers should know and be able to do--
its convictions about what it values and believes should be honored in teaching. This expression of
ideals guides all of the National Board's standards and assessment processes.
The fundamental requirements for proficient teaching are relatively clear: a broad grounding in the liberal
arts and sciences; knowledge of the subjects to be taught, of the skills to be developed, and of
the curricular arrangements and materials that organize and embody that content; knowledge of general
and subject-specific methods for teaching and for evaluating student learning; knowledge of students
and human development; skills in effectively teaching students from racially, ethnically, and
socioeconomically diverse backgrounds; and the skills, capacities and dispositions to employ such
knowledge wisely in the interest of students.
This enumeration suggests the broad base for expertise in teaching but conceals the complexities,
uncertainties and dilemmas of the work. The formal knowledge teachers rely on accumulates steadily,
yet provides insufficient guidance in many situations. Teaching ultimately requires judgment, improvisation,
and conversation about means and ends. Human qualities, expert knowledge and skill, and professional
commitment together compose excellence in this craft.
The National Board has led the vanguard effort to develop professional standards for elementary and
secondary school teaching. The National Board Certified Teachers® stand for professionalism in the
schools. The National Board's responsibility is not only to ensure that teachers who become National
Board Certified meet its professional standards of commitment and competence, but also to maintain
standards and assessments that are so well regarded that America's accomplished teachers will
decide to seek National Board Certification.
Policy Position (Five Core Propositions)
The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards seeks to identify and recognize teachers
who effectively enhance student learning and demonstrate the high level of knowledge, skills,
abilities and commitments reflected in the following five core propositions.
1. Teachers are committed to students and their learning.
Accomplished teachers are dedicated to making knowledge accessible to all students. They act
on the belief that all students can learn. They treat students equitably, recognizing the individual
differences that distinguish one student from another and taking account of these differences in
their practice. They adjust their practice based on observation and knowledge of their students'
interests, abilities, skills, knowledge, family circumstances and peer relationships.
Accomplished teachers understand how students develop and learn. They incorporate the prevailing
theories of cognition and intelligence in their practice. They are aware of the influence of
context and culture on behavior. They develop students' cognitive capacity and their respect for
learning. Equally important, they foster students' self-esteem, motivation, character, civic responsibility
and their respect for individual, cultural, religious and racial differences.
2. Teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students.
Accomplished teachers have a rich understanding of the subject(s) they teach and appreciate
how knowledge in their subject is created, organized, linked to other disciplines and applied to
real-world settings. While faithfully representing the collective wisdom of our culture and upholding
the value of disciplinary knowledge, they also develop the critical and analytical capacities
of their students.
Accomplished teachers command specialized knowledge of how to convey and reveal subject
matter to students. They are aware of the preconceptions and background knowledge that students
typically bring to each subject and of strategies and instructional materials that can be of
assistance. They understand where difficulties are likely to arise and modify their practice accordingly.
Their instructional repertoire allows them to create multiple paths to the subjects they teach,
and they are adept at teaching students how to pose and solve their own problems.
3. Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning.
Accomplished teachers create, enrich, maintain and alter instructional settings to capture and sustain
the interest of their students and to make the most effective use of time. They also are adept
at engaging students and adults to assist their teaching and at enlisting their colleagues' knowledge
and expertise to complement their own. Accomplished teachers command a range of
generic instructional techniques, know when each is appropriate and can implement them as
needed. They are as aware of ineffectual or damaging practice as they are devoted to elegant
They know how to engage groups of students to ensure a disciplined learning environment, and
how to organize instruction to allow the schools' goals for students to be met. They are adept at
setting norms for social interaction among students and between students and teachers. They
understand how to motivate students to learn and how to maintain their interest even in the face
of temporary failure.
Accomplished teachers can assess the progress of individual students as well as that of the class as a
whole. They employ multiple methods for measuring student growth and understanding and can clearly
explain student performance to parents.
4. Teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from experience.
Accomplished teachers are models of educated persons, exemplifying the virtues they seek to inspire
in students -- curiosity, tolerance, honesty, fairness, respect for diversity and appreciation of cultural differences
-- and the capacities that are prerequisites for intellectual growth: the ability to reason and
take multiple perspectives to be creative and take risks, and to adopt an experimental and problemsolving
Accomplished teachers draw on their knowledge of human development, subject matter and instruction,
and their understanding of their students to make principled judgments about sound practice.
Their decisions are not only grounded in the literature, but also in their experience. They engage in
lifelong learning which they seek to encourage in their students.
Striving to strengthen their teaching, accomplished teachers critically examine their practice, seek to
expand their repertoire, deepen their knowledge, sharpen their judgment and adapt their teaching to
new findings, ideas and theories.
5. Teachers are members of learning communities.
Accomplished teachers contribute to the effectiveness of the school by working collaboratively with
other professionals on instructional policy, curriculum development and staff development. They can
evaluate school progress and the allocation of school resources in light of their understanding of state
and local educational objectives. They are knowledgeable about specialized school and community
resources that can be engaged for their students' benefit, and are skilled at employing such resources
Accomplished teachers find ways to work collaboratively and creatively with parents, engaging them
productively in the work of the school.
We each remember the great teachers who touched our lives, kindled our interest and pressed us
to do our best. We hold powerful images of such teachers. They exhibited a deep caring and
love for children. They conveyed a passion for the subjects they taught, captivating their students
with that passion. They approached their work with creativity and imagination, striving constantly
to improve. As committed professionals, they were proud to be teachers.
The images of teaching that we share are deceptive as well as compelling. They emphasize
teaching's external aspects, not its inner workings. If we fondly recall the great teachers of our
past, we also typically see teaching as a humble undertaking. It concerns itself with the least
powerful age group in society. It involves such seemingly routine activities as arranging seatwork,
lecturing, reviewing and responding to students' efforts, and disciplining their behavior.
Historically, there is an enduring constancy in the organization of schools, of classrooms and of
teaching itself. Self-contained classrooms, whole-group, textbook-centered instruction, teaching as
telling, learning as the passive acquisition of facts, standardized testing -- these patterns of
schooling are as familiar as chalk dust. They constitute an unintended national curriculum that, as
an unrelieved diet, does not adequately serve the educational needs of a diverse and dynamic
society. Good teachers, of course, depart in many ways from these routines.
These pervasive images underestimate teaching's complexities and freeze the enterprise into
forms that overlook its non-routine nature and the importance of independent professional judgment
in the life of the accomplished teacher. But teaching is work of the most demanding sort, for
teachers must make dozens of decisions daily, command a wide body of knowledge and skill,
learn to react instantly, and be disposed to act wisely in difficult situations. And while there are
principles and precepts, skills and techniques, to guide the work, teaching is also an activity with
artistic aspects, a craft calling for reflection and judgment.
Although complicated, teaching nonetheless evokes simple, reductionist analysis. Much of the discourse
on teaching and learning pulls apart what must be joined in practice. Chroniclers of
teaching, for example, often assign the teacher's primary loyalty to the student or to the subject,
with elementary teachers often characterized as "student-centered" and secondary teachers seen
as "subject-centered." This dichotomy is false. Sound teaching merges commitment to students
with allegiance to knowledge at all grade levels. All teachers must uphold the claims of knowledge,
yet strive to build spacious avenues from such knowledge to students' understanding.
There is likewise a tendency to frame teaching either in terms of imparting valuable knowledge
or as encouraging the acquisition of skills. But knowledge and skill are not disjoint. Knowledge --
in the form of specific facts and organizing principles -- is necessary to the exercise of most skills,
just as a range of skills is necessary to the acquisition and construction of knowledge.
Knowledge and skill cannot be pulled apart, nor can one assume pride of place over the other.
Another commonplace fallacy is to distinguish "basic" from "higher-order" skills, and to regard
mastery of the basics as a precondition to advanced forms of reasoning and functioning.
Accomplished teachers realize that higher-order thinking is the hallmark of successful learning at
all levels. Students, for example, cannot become good writers without engaging in complex problem-
solving processes, nor can they effectively learn basic mathematics simply by memorizing
rules for manipulating numbers. There can be no neat division of teaching labor along a basic-to-
advanced skills continuum. All teachers must concern themselves with higher-order skills, with the
executive functions of reasoning, and with students' capacities to monitor their own learning.
To unify these dichotomies in practice however, requires skill, wisdom and judgment.
Accomplished teachers constantly assess and adjust their practice to maintain fidelity to students
and to subjects, to knowledge and to skills, and to basic and advanced functions.
Professionalism in teaching entails the ongoing pursuit of these unities. Hence, teachers regularly
find themselves confronting hard choices -- sometimes sacrificing one goal for another, sometimes
While teaching demands crisp reasoning and few settings yield to only a single approach,
teachers do not have free rein to select any approach that strikes them as felicitous. Rather, their
choices are anchored in their own experience and in the settled ground of the knowledge base
that defines both efficacious and flawed practice. Being able to apply steady, disciplined judgment
and reflective scrutiny within the bounds set by this constantly expanding body of knowledge
is the hallmark of professionalism in teaching. As such, these values will be found at the
heart of the standards the National Board will promulgate.
On the Commitment to Professionalism in Teaching
As its title indicates, the National Board is committed to professional standards for teaching. The
term "professional" is an honorific in our society, and denotes occupations characterized by certain
attributes. Chief among these are a body of specialized, expert knowledge together with a
code of ethics emphasizing service to clients. The knowledge base typically provides substantial,
but not complete, guidance for professional practice. Professionals possess expert knowledge,
but often confront unique, problematic situations that do not lend themselves to formulaic solutions.
Professionals must cultivate the ability to cope with the unexpected and act wisely in the
face of uncertainty.
Professionals deal with urgent human problems: matters of life and death, justice, hope and
opportunity. Essential to their work is the trust of clients. What warrants such trust is the obligation,
upheld within the community of professionals, to pursue an ethic of service and to employ
special knowledge and expertise in the interests of their clients.
These general observations apply to teaching, but with important distinctions. While teachers
employ their knowledge and skill on students, they also strive to empower students to continue
the quest for understanding, so that one day the pupil may surpass the instructor. In this regard,
teaching is the most democratic of professions. It aims to place within the hands, head and
hearts of students the means for them to teach themselves.
The ethical dimensions of teaching also distinguish it from other professions. Unique demands
arise because the client's attendance is compulsory and, more importantly, because the clients
are children. Thus, elementary, middle and high school teachers are obligated to meet a stringent
ethical standard. Other ethical demands derive from the teacher's role as a model of an
educated person. Teaching is a public activity; a teacher works daily in the gaze of his or her
students, and the extended nature of their lives together in schools places special obligations on
the teacher's behavior. Students learn early to read and draw lessons from their teachers' characters.
Teachers, consequently, must conduct themselves in a manner students might emulate. Their
failure to practice what they preach does not long elude students, parents or peers. Practicing
with this additional dimension in mind calls for a special alertness to the consequences of manner
and behavior. Standards for professional teaching ought, therefore, to emphasize its ethical
What the National Board Will Value in Teaching
The rich amalgam of knowledge, skills, dispositions and beliefs that will characterize National
Board Certified teachers are clustered under the five core propositions presented above. What
follows is an elaboration of these principles that go to the heart of the National Board's perspective
on accomplished teaching.
Proposition #1: Teachers are Committed to Students and Their Learning
Fundamental to the teacher's credo is the belief that all students can learn. Furthermore, they act
on that belief. Accomplished teachers like young people and are dedicated to and skilled at
making knowledge accessible to all students, even as they acknowledge their distinctive traits
and talents. Success depends on teachers' belief in the dignity and worth of all human beings
and in the potential that exists within each child. Teachers typically do not work one-on-one with
students for extended periods of time because they are responsible for groups. But within this
constraint, they are attentive to human variability and its influence on learning.
Teachers Recognize Individual Differences in
Their Students and Adjust Their Practice Accordingly
To respond effectively to individual differences, teachers must know many things about the particular
students they teach: Alex has a stutter, Maria loves science fiction, Toby is anxious about
mathematics, Marcus is captivated by jazz. But accomplished teachers know much more -- whom
their students go home to at night, how they have previously performed on standardized tests,
what sparks their interest. This kind of specific understanding is not trivial, for teachers use it constantly
to decide how best to tailor instruction.
As diagnosticians of students' interests, abilities and prior knowledge, skillful teachers learn to
"read" their students. When planning a unit on aging, for example, they will anticipate what
concepts and activities certain students may find problematic. Watching a student work on a
computer, they will look for signs of progress. By keeping a finger on the pulse of the class,
teachers decide when to alter plans, work with individual students, or enrich instruction with
additional examples, explanations or activities.
Proficient teachers learn from their experiences. They learn from listening to their students, from
watching them interact with peers, and from reading what they write. The information they
acquire about students in the course of instruction subsequently becomes part of their general
knowledge of education. Such monitoring and learning is no easy feat. What teachers are able
to see, hear and learn is colored by their own prior knowledge and experience. Thus teachers
must, in their efforts to work with children different than themselves, monitor both what they see
and hear, and what is not so close to the surface. They must strive to acquire a deep understanding
of their students and the communities from which they come that shape students' outlooks,
values and orientations toward schooling.
Teachers Have an Understanding of How Students Develop and Learn
In addition to particular knowledge of their students, teachers use their understanding of individual
and social learning theory, and of child and adolescent development theory, to form their
decisions about how to teach. They are familiar with the concepts generated by social and cognitive
scientists that apply to teaching and learning. Moreover, they integrate such knowledge
with their personal theories of learning and development generated from their own practice. For
example, accomplished teachers know that old theories of a monolithic intelligence have given
way to more complex theories of multiple intelligences. Current thinking no longer casts "intelligence"
as a context-free, one-dimensional trait. Instead, it recognizes different kinds of intelligence
-- linguistic, musical, mathematical, spatial, kinesthetic, personal. This perspective also
holds that there are variations in the sources of intelligence (e.g., practical experience versus formal
study) and the forms of intelligence (e.g., procedural skills versus propositional knowledge).
Both their knowledge of these theories and their experiences in classrooms have taught teachers
that each student has different strengths, perhaps even gifts. Teachers think about how to capitalize
on these assets as they consider how best to nurture additional abilities and aptitudes.
Moreover, teachers recognize that behavior always takes place within a particular setting that, to
some extent, defines the behavior. They know, for instance, that students who cannot flawlessly
recite multiplication tables may still be able to multiply in other contexts (e.g., in calculating
whether they have enough money for items at the grocery store). Accomplished teachers are
aware that school settings sometimes obscure a clear vision of students' aptitudes and intelligences.
Therefore, they strive to provide multiple contexts in which to promote and evaluate
They also recognize the ways in which intelligence is culturally defined. That is, what is considered
intelligent behavior is largely determined by the values and beliefs of the culture in which
that behavior is being judged. Accomplished teachers recognize that in a multicultural nation students
bring to the schools a plethora of abilities and aptitudes that are valued differently by the
community, the school and the family. The knowledge, skills, abilities and dispositions that are
nurtured in a Native American community in the state of Washington will differ from those valued
in an Hispanic community in Florida. Likewise, those cultivated by a suburban community in Utah
will differ from those developed in urban New York. Thus, teachers are attuned to the diversity
that is found among students and develop an array of strategies for working with it. This includes
providing educational experiences which capitalize on and enlarge the repertoires of learning
and thinking that students bring to school.
Teachers Treat Students Equitably
As stewards for the interests of students, accomplished teachers are vigilant in ensuring that all
pupils receive their fair share of attention, and that biases based on real or perceived ability differences,
handicaps or disabilities, social or cultural background, language, race, religion, or
gender do not distort relationships between themselves and their students. This, however, is not a
simple proposition. Accomplished teachers do not treat all students alike, for similar treatment is
not necessarily equivalent to equitable education. In responding to differences among students,
teachers are careful to counter potential inequities and avoid favoritism. This requires a welltuned
alertness to such matters and is difficult, as we have only modest knowledge of human differences
and how best to respond to them. Hence, accomplished teachers employ what is known
about ineffectual and effective practice with diverse groups of students, while striving to learn
more about how best to accommodate those differences.
Teachers' Mission Extends Beyond
Developing the Cognitive Capacity of Their Students
Teachers are concerned with their students' self-concept, with their motivation, with the effects of
learning on peer relationships, and with the development of character, aspiration and civic
virtues. These aspects of the student -- important as they are in their own right -- are also essential
to intellectual development. Proficient teachers consider students' potential in this broader sense
when making decisions about what and how to teach.
Proposition #2: Teachers Know the Subjects They Teach and How to Teach
Those Subjects to Students
If one cardinal precept of teaching is a commitment to the welfare and education of young people,
the other is a commitment to subject matter. Accomplished teachers are dedicated to exposing
students to the social, cultural, ethical and physical worlds in which they live, and they use
the subjects they teach as entrees into those worlds. Thus, elementary teachers know about geography
and its relationship to commerce and history. Foreign language teachers know how language
and culture interact and fuse. But, it is not sufficient that teachers know the facts that fall
into these different content domains. Understanding subject matter entails more than being able
to recite lists of dates, multiplication tables, or rules of grammar.
Teachers Appreciate How Knowledge in Their
Subjects is Created, Organized and Linked to Other Disciplines
Teachers in command of their subject understand its substance -- factual information as well as its
central organizing concepts -- and the ways in which new knowledge is created, including the
forms of creative investigation that characterize the work of scholars and artists.
Physics teachers know about the roles played by hypothesis generation and experimentation in
physics; mathematics teachers know the modes of justification for substantiating mathematical
claims; art teachers understand how visual ideas are generated and communicated; history
teachers know how historians use evidence to interpret past events; and English teachers understand
the relationships among reading, writing and oral language. Many special education
teachers have a slightly different orientation -- focusing on skill development as they work to help
moderately and profoundly handicapped students achieve maximum independence in managing
Understanding the ways of knowing within a subject is crucial to the National Board Certified
teacher's ability to teach students to think analytically. Critical thinking does not occur in the
abstract, for the thinker is always reasoning about something. Proficient teachers appreciate the
fundamental role played by disciplinary thinking in developing rich, conceptual subject-matter
understandings. They are dedicated to exposing their students to different modes of critical thinking
and to teaching students to think analytically about content.
Teachers represent the collective wisdom of our culture and insist on maintaining the integrity of
the methods, substance and structures of disciplinary knowledge. In the face of pressures to portray
knowledge in weak and diluted forms, they remain firm. Their role, however, is not just to
reinforce the status quo. Rather, appreciative of the fact that there are multiple perspectives and
interpretations in each discipline, accomplished teachers encourage students to question prevailing
canons and assumptions to help them think for themselves.
It is sometimes assumed that elementary school teachers need not be equipped to approach their
subjects critically. But all accomplished teachers, regardless of the ages of their students, are
charged with teaching students about something, and in order to do so, they must appreciate its
complexity and richness. Teachers must possess such knowledge if they are to help their students
develop higher-order thinking skills -- the hallmark of accomplished teaching at any level. Being
able to engage elementary school children in the broad array of subjects they can profitably
come to appreciate makes elementary school practice especially challenging. This does not imply
that fourth-grade teachers should have the same command of biology as high school biology
teachers. However, it does mean that they have an understanding of science that allows them to
present basic precepts to their students and introduce them to the joy of discovering -- and thinking
about -- the natural world of which they are a part.
Teachers Command Specialized Knowledge of How to Convey a Subject to Students
Knowledge of subject matter is not synonymous with knowledge of how to reveal content to students
so they might build it into their systems of thinking. Accomplished teachers possess what is
sometimes called "pedagogical content knowledge." Such understanding is the joint product of
wisdom about teaching, learning, students and content. It includes knowledge of the most appropriate
ways to present the subject matter to students through analogies, metaphors, experiments,
demonstrations and illustrations. Subject-specific knowledge also includes an awareness of the
most common misconceptions held by students, the aspects that they will find most difficult, and
the kinds of prior knowledge, experience and skills that students of different ages typically bring
to the learning of particular topics. Proficient science teachers, for example, know that some students
have misconceptions about gravity that can influence their learning, while proficient art
and music teachers know that young children arrive at school at various stages of maturity with
respect to eye-hand coordination. Teachers use this knowledge of their students to structure
instruction that facilitates further development.
Thus, subject-specific pedagogical knowledge is not a bag of tricks, but a repertoire of representations
that combines instructional techniques with subject matter in ways that take into account
the mix of students and school contexts that confront the teacher. Such subject-specific teaching
knowledge embodies a way of reasoning through and solving the problems that arise in the
daily work of teachers -- decisions ranging from what aspects of the subject matter to emphasize
to decisions about how to pace instruction. In making these choices, teachers bring to bear their
knowledge of students and learning and teaching and subject matter.
Professional teachers' instructional repertoires also include knowledge of available curricular
resources such as primary sources, models, reproductions, textbook series, teachers' guides,
videotapes, computer software and musical recordings. Their commitment to learning about new
materials includes keeping abreast of technological developments that have implications for
teaching; for example, how to engage students in the rapidly expanding field of computer technology,
as well as how to use the computer to enhance their own teaching. Thus, able teachers
keep current with the growing body of curricular materials -- including literature available through
their professional organizations -- and constantly evaluate the usefulness of those materials based
on their understanding of curriculum theory, of students, of subject matter, and of the school's
and their own educational aims.
Teachers Generate Multiple Paths to Knowledge
Knowledgeable teachers are aware there is value in both structured and inductive learning. That
is, while it is useful to teach students about the concepts and principles that scholars have generated
in the various disciplines, it is also valuable to engage students in learning by discovery,
where they themselves search for problems, patterns and solutions. Proficient teachers help students
learn to pose problems and work through alternative solutions, in addition to teaching them
about the answers that others have found to similar problems.
The posing and solving of problems on their own is central to the development of true understanding
by students -- moving far beyond the rote memorization of facts, the easy manipulation
of formulas or the facile playing of a musical scale. Teaching for understanding requires students
to integrate aspects of knowledge into their habits of thinking, rather than simply store fragmented
knowledge bits. It also means learning to think in a nonlinear way, approaching issues from
different angles, weighing multiple criteria and considering multiple solutions. Thus, in the eyes of
the proficient teacher, "knowledge" is not conceived narrowly as a lower-level form of understanding.
Rather, knowledge is cast in the richest light -- as a combination of skills, dispositions,
propositions and beliefs -- integrated and flexible, elaborate and deep. Furthermore, understanding
involves the ability to apply such knowledge to problems never before encountered by
teacher or student. Accomplished teachers appreciate that this is the kind of knowledge and
understanding that counts, and that this type of learning cannot be rushed.
Proposition #3: Teachers are Responsible for Managing and Monitoring
Professional teachers hold high expectations for all students and see themselves as facilitators of
student learning. To fulfill these responsibilities, teachers must create, enrich and alter the organizational
structures in which they work with young people. They also find ways to capture and
sustain the interest of their students. Because time is a precious commodity in schools, teachers
attempt to make the most efficient use of it. To accomplish these tasks, teachers seek to master the
body of generic pedagogical knowledge.
Teachers Call on Multiple Methods to Meet Their Goals
Accomplished teachers know and can employ a variety of generic instructional skills -- how to
conduct Socratic dialogues, how to lecture, how to oversee small cooperative learning groups.
Although much of instruction is determined by the content to be taught, there are some commonalities
about teaching methods that guide their practice. They are aware of what can reasonably
be covered in a 45-minute roundtable discussion, when to hold back and let students figure out
their own solutions, and what types of questions provoke the most thoughtful conversation. But it
is not sufficient that teachers know about different modes of instruction; they must also know how
to implement those strategies. Traditional distinctions between knowing and doing have obscured
the fact that thought and action interpenetrate in teaching -- knowing about something and knowing
how to do something are both forms of understanding central to teaching.
Because students vary in learning styles and because different settings afford differing learning
opportunities, accomplished teachers know when and how to alter the social and physical organizational
structure of the learning environment. It is not enough to be a master lecturer, for there
are many times when lecturing is not an effective way to teach. An outdoor experiment, a mock
trial or an economic simulation, for example, may be more appropriate. Alternatively, a playlet
or a debate might be a more effective way to engage students in thinking and learning. Teachers
know about the breadth of options available to them, such as innovative instructional formats that
involve discovery learning, conceptual mapping, brainstorming, working with computers, as well
as more traditional tried-and-true methods.
Teachers not only have the opportunity to vary instructional settings and to employ a range of
instructional materials, they also have the opportunity to call on various human resources to custom-
tailor the working environment for students. Accomplished teachers know how to mobilize
students to tutor their peers and how to engage aides and volunteers as teaching assistants. In
schools where staffing arrangements are not fixed and inflexible, teachers also have a good
appreciation of their colleagues' skills and the circumstances in which their colleagues' talents
can best complement their own. Professional teachers wisely enlist the knowledge and expertise
of their fellow faculty members in a variety of ways as they seek to provide their students with as
rewarding a learning experience as possible.
Accomplished teachers also know the strengths and weaknesses of these options, and their suitability
or incompatibility for certain students and groups. The settings that a teacher chooses are
not just matters of personal preference, but are grounded in the literature of teaching. Teaching,
to the accomplished teacher, is an elegant web of alternative activities in which students are
engaged with the content; sometimes with the teacher, sometimes with each other, sometimes
Teachers Orchestrate Learning in Group Settings
Teachers know how to manage groups of students. They are responsible for setting forth the
social norms by which students and teachers act and interact, helping students learn to adopt
appropriate roles and responsibilities for their own learning and that of their peers. This includes
teaching students to work independently without constant direct supervision by a teacher.
Accomplished teachers have developed systems for overseeing their classrooms so that students
and teacher alike can focus on learning, not on controlling disruptive behavior. Discipline and
management techniques vary, and no one system has been proven most effective. Hence, proficient
teachers consider the desired learning results, their knowledge of their students and the
social context, and their own prior experience in selecting management strategies.
Teachers also know that different instructional formats often require different norms of social interaction.
Accomplished teachers can alternate among organizational arrangements and understand
how different structures cast students and teachers in different roles. Applying their knowledge
of the relative strengths and weaknesses of different structures, they weigh these considerations
when deciding which instructional strategy and organizational structure will best enhance
student learning. They also continually search for new forms of organization that may expand
their repertoire and prove effective.
Teachers Place a Premium on Student Engagement
Facilitating student learning is not simply a matter of placing young people in educative environments,
for teachers must also motivate them, capturing their minds and hearts and engaging
them actively in learning. Thus, the National Board Certified teacher understands the ways in
which students can be motivated and has strategies to monitor student engagement. The
teacher's role in building upon student interests and in sparking new passions is central to building
bridges between what students know and can do and what they are capable of learning.
Proficient teachers also know that motivating students is not always equivalent to making learning
fun, for learning can be difficult work. Developing an acute sense of one's body in dance, for
example, requires intense intellectual and physical concentration. Writing a short story requires
drafting and re-drafting, editing and re-editing, occasionally submitting oneself to the critiques of
peers and teachers. To practice effectively, teachers need to know how to encourage students
even in the face of temporary failure and the inevitable doubts that students meet as they push
themselves to new affective, intellectual and physical planes. With such learning comes the real
joy in education, the satisfaction of accomplishment.
Teachers Regularly Assess Student Progress
While teachers are not always the central actors in their students' educational experiences, they
are ultimately responsible for the creation and maintenance of those experiences and bear a considerable
responsibility for what students learn at school. Proficient teachers, therefore, can judge
the relative success of the activities they design. They can track what students are learning (or not
learning), as well as what they, as teachers, are learning.
Assessment in teaching is not a simple task; teachers must monitor the successes and failures of
individual students and evaluate their classes as collectives of learners. Additionally, they make
judgments about themselves as teachers in relation to those students and classes. Although these
judgments are interdependent of one another, they are not necessarily synonymous. One of the
essential tensions of teaching is that teachers teach individual students, while managing groups.
Accomplished teachers do not treat a class as a monolith. They know that a class does not learn;
individual students do. But individuals neither learn the same things, nor learn at the same pace.
Accomplished teachers use information about how the students in their classes are doing "on
average" as a guide to making judgments about the relative success or failure of an instructional
strategy. But they do not forget that there are few average students. They know that some students
have moved far beyond that "average" evaluation, while others trail. And while they have
to make decisions about what to do with the class as a whole, proficient teachers find ways to
accommodate what they know about individual students and what they are learning in their
plans for the whole group.
Accomplished teachers understand that the purposes, timing and focus of an evaluation affect its
form. They are astute observers of students -- their movements, their words and their minds.
Teachers track student progress with a variety of evaluation methods, each with its own set of
purposes, strengths and weaknesses. Their knowledge extends to creating their own, sometimes
innovative, tools for evaluation, including portfolios, videotapes, demonstrations and exhibitions.
In addition, they may use more traditional measures such as quizzes or exams. Sometimes teachers
ask questions in the middle of a group discussion in order to assess how well students are following
the presentation of information; or they may talk individually with students while they are
engaged in independent work. At other times they watch their students' behavior as they read to
each other or work in the laboratory.
Teachers frequently do not assign grades, for evaluation is not always for the purpose of recording
grades; rather, it allows students and teachers to assess where they stand. Teachers also
assess students to determine how much they have learned from a unit of instruction, be it a week
on seeds, a semester of photography, or a year of athletic training. Student responses then contribute
to teachers' decisions about whether to reteach, review or move on. By continually adding
to their repertoire of methods for assessing what students have learned, as well as constantly
monitoring student progress, accomplished teachers are able to provide constructive feedback to
students, parents and themselves. Finally, such teachers help their students to engage in selfassessment,
instilling in them a sense of responsibility for monitoring their own learning.
Teachers Are Mindful of Their Principal Objectives
Teachers also know about planning instruction -- identifying and elaborating educational objectives,
developing activities to help them meet their goals and drawing upon resources that will
serve their purposes. Experienced teachers do not all plan alike. Some do not write elaborate
plans prior to teaching, having automated their planning through years of experience in classrooms.
Other teachers plan in detail (e.g., creating individual educational plans for special education
students). No matter what form their final plans take -- scribbles on a scrap of paper or
lengthy and detailed outlines accomplished teachers can clearly articulate their goals for students.
Proposition #4: Teachers Think Systematically About Their Practice and
Learn from Experience
As with most professions, teaching requires an open-ended capacity that is not acquired once
and for all. Because they work in a field marked by many unsolved puzzles and an expanding
research base, teachers have a professional obligation to be lifelong students of their craft, seeking
to expand their repertoire, deepen their knowledge and skill, and become wiser in rendering
judgments. Accomplished teachers are inventive in their teaching and, recognizing the need to
admit new findings and continue learning, stand ready to incorporate ideas and methods developed
by others that fit their aims and their students. What exemplifies excellence, then, is a reverence
for the craft, a recognition of its complexities, and a commitment to lifelong professional
Teachers Are Continually Making Difficult Choices That Test Their Judgment
The demands of teaching often present stiff challenges that do not lend themselves to simple solutions.
Conflicting objectives regularly require teachers to fashion compromises that will satisfy
multiple parties. A Western Civilization teacher, for example, attempting to reconcile demands
for coverage with demands for indepth understanding, will do what is necessary to race from
Plato to NATO, yet set aside time to develop in students the understanding that history is evolutionary
rather than a series of events strung together chronologically. Likewise, a third-grade
teacher will find a way to introduce students to the idea that writing is a thinking process, while
ensuring that students are learning the basics of spelling and grammar.
Teachers also face choices that force them to sacrifice one goal for another. For instance, teachers
who are committed to teaching mathematics for conceptual understanding want to teach students
to see number relationships in the real world, to represent them with appropriate symbols,
and to use their knowledge of mathematical formulas and computational skills to manipulate
those numbers. Such teaching requires giving students time to frame their own problems, find
their own solutions, and compare those solutions with alternatives posed by their classmates.
Students who have learned through experience that math class involves filling out worksheets and
doing problem sets may dislike the uncertainty inherent in problems with multiple or no solutions;
they may be troubled that their teacher now wants them to discuss the reasons why a particular
solution makes sense. Abandoning speed and accuracy as the criterion of success may temporarily
jeopardize students' performance on standardized tests, even as the teacher fosters growth in
the depth of students' mathematical competence. In deciding to teach in this way, a teacher risks
alienating students, parents and administrators who have their own strong ideas of what math
class is supposed to look like and the kind of competence it is supposed to yield.
Such circumstances call on teachers to employ their professional knowledge of what makes for
sound practice, with the interest of their students given paramount consideration. While more
than one satisfactory path may be derived to balance non-complementary objectives, the
teacher's decision will be grounded in established theory and reasoned judgment.
Teachers Seek the Advice of Others and Draw on
Education Research and Scholarship to Improve Their Practice
Aware that experience is not always a good teacher, proficient teachers search out other opportunities
that will serve to cultivate their own learning. As savvy students of their own teaching,
they know the value of asking others to observe and offer a critique of their teaching. They also
know the value of writing about their work and of soliciting reactions from parents and students.
Thus, masterful teachers develop specialized ways to listen to their students, colleagues and
administrators, and reflect on their teaching in order that they might improve their practice.
Able teachers are also students of education scholarship and are cognizant of the settled and
unsettled territory in their field. They stay abreast of current research and, when appropriate,
incorporate new findings into their practice. They take advantage of teacher centers and special
conferences and workshops. They might conduct and publish their own research, if so inclined,
for testing of new approaches and hypotheses is a commonplace habit among adept teachers,
even if a normally overlooked and undocumented one.
Wise teachers understand the legitimacy and limitations of the diverse sources that inform teaching
and they continuously draw upon them to enrich their teaching. Their enthusiasm for, and
commitment to, continued professional development exemplifies a disposition they hope to nurture
in students. Hence, the thinking, reasoning and learning that characterize first-rate teaching
are doubly valuable: not only are thoughtful teachers able to teach more efficiently and effectively,
they are also models for the critical, analytic thinking that they strive to develop in our youth.
Teachers who are themselves exemplars of careful reasoning -- considering purposes, marshaling
evidence and balancing outcomes -- are more likely to communicate to students the value and
manner of such reasoning. Moreover, they model other dispositions and traits as well, such as a
commitment to creativity in their work and the disposition to take risks in exploring new intellectual,
emotional, physical or artistic territories.
Proficient teachers, then, are models of educated persons. Character and competence contribute
equally to their educative manner. They exemplify the virtues they seek to impart to students:
curiosity and a love of learning; tolerance and open-mindedness; fairness and justice; appreciation
for our cultural and intellectual heritages; respect for human diversity and dignity; and such
intellectual capacities as careful reasoning, the ability to take multiple perspectives, to question
received wisdom, to be creative, to take risks, and to adopt an experimental and problem-solving
Proposition #5: Teachers are Members of Learning Communities
Teaching most commonly is regarded as the daily conduct of lessons and the provision of learning
experiences. But the work of teaching reaches beyond the boundaries of individual classrooms
to wider communities of learning. In order to take advantage of the broad range of professional
knowledge and expertise that resides within the school, accomplished teachers have a
range of duties and tasks outside the direct instruction of students that contribute importantly to
the quality of the school and to student learning.
There are two broad areas of responsibility. One involves participation in collaborative efforts to
improve the effectiveness of the school. The second entails engaging parents and others in the
community in the education of young people.
Teachers Contribute to School
Effectiveness by Collaborating with Other Professionals
Teaching is often portrayed as the implementation of policy and curriculum developed by others -
- as following orders. The National Board advocates a more proactive and creative role for
teachers: engaging them in the analysis and construction of curriculum, in the coordination of
instruction, in the professional development of staff and in many other school-site policy decisions
fundamental to the creation of highly productive learning communities.
While state authorities and local school district leadership establish broad goals, objectives and
priorities for the schools, professional teachers share responsibility with colleagues and administrators
for decisions about what constitutes valuable learning for students. This includes their participation
in critically analyzing the school curriculum, identifying new priorities and communicating
necessary changes to the school community. Teachers' knowledge of curriculum and their students
are essential to discharging these responsibilities effectively. But a readiness to work collaboratively
on such matters and not blindly accept curricular conventions is also necessary.
Accomplished teachers attend to issues of continuity and equity of learning experiences for students
that require school-wide collaboration across the boundaries of academic tracks, grade levels,
special and regular instruction and disciplines. Such boundaries, constructed as much out of
traditional patterns of school organization as out of instructional rationales, are often dysfunctional
and damaging to student learning. National Board Certified teachers cultivate a critical spirit
in appraising such schooling commonplaces, together with a willingness to work with administrators
toward school-wide improvements that can include revision of organizational as well as
instructional features of schooling.
The development of curriculum and the coordination of instruction are particularly important functions
shared among teachers and administrators. Proficient teachers collaborate in planning the
instructional program of the school to assure continuity of learning experiences for students. They
possess the interpersonal skills needed to work on teams and a willingness to work together in
the interest of the school community. Their understanding of the technical requirements of a wellcoordinated
curriculum enables them to participate in planning and decision-making within
teams, departments or other educational units outside the classroom, laboratory or studio.
Consonant with their role in curriculum planning and coordination, teachers are aware of the
learning goals and objectives established by state and local authorities. Professional practice
requires that teachers be knowledgeable about their legal obligation to carry out public policy as
represented by state statute and regulation, school board directives, court decisions and other
Accomplished teachers also participate in the coordination of services to students. Today's
schools include a wide variety of educational specialists, and with increasing specialization has
come the need for coordination, lest pupils' educational experiences become fragmented. The
increased practice of "mainstreaming" special-needs students to assure that they are being educated
in the least restrictive environment has meant that general and special education teachers
need to work with one another. Compensatory education programs typically involve teaching
pupils outside regular school settings. The various forms of English as a second language, bilingual
and English-immersion programs often require cooperation among teachers of non- and limited-
English-speaking youth. National Board Certified teachers are adept at identifying students
who might benefit from such special attention and at working in tandem with specialists.
In addition to working on the improvement of school-wide curricula and the coordination of
instruction, teachers work together to strengthen their teaching. Sometimes they observe each
other teach; at other times they engage in discussions about teaching; and occasionally they collaborate
in trying out new instructional strategies. While the particulars of how teachers choose
to improve their instruction will vary according to the structure of opportunity and a teacher's dispositions
and interests, the principle underlying such engagement is the continuous pursuit of
teaching excellence in the company of peers.
Strong schools emphasize a process of continuous improvement. They are organized to find and
solve problems and to locate, invent and experiment with different methods of instruction and
school organization. Teachers within such schools work not only on professional development,
but also on school-wide improvements. This expectation is part of what constitutes a professional
orientation to teaching and part of what distinguishes the professional teacher.
The conventional image of the accomplished teacher as solo performer working independently
with students is narrow and outdated. Committed career teachers assume responsibility in cooperation
with their administrators for the character of the school's instructional program. They are
team players willing to share their knowledge and skill with others and participate in the ongoing
development of strong school programs. This participation may take many forms, such as
mentoring novices, serving on school and district policy councils, demonstrating new methodologies,
engaging in various forms of scholarly inquiry and artistic activity, or forming study groups
Teachers Work Collaboratively with Parents
Teachers share with parents the education of the young. They communicate regularly with parents
and guardians, listening to their concerns and respecting their perspective, enlisting their support
in fostering learning and good habits, informing them of their child's accomplishments and successes,
and educating them about school programs. Kindergarten teachers, for example, can
help parents understand that reading stories to their children is more important to literacy development
than completing worksheets on letters.
In the best of all worlds, teachers and parents are mutually reinforcing partners in the education
of young people. But three circumstances complicate this partnership. First, the interests of parents
and schools sometimes diverge, requiring teachers to make difficult judgments about how
best to fulfill their joint obligations to their students and to parents. Second, students vary in the
degree and kind of support they receive at home for their school work. The effects of
culture, language, and parental education, income and aspirations influence each learner.
Teachers are alert to these effects and tailor their practice accordingly to enhance student
achievement. However, when faced with an unavoidable conflict, the teacher must hold the interest
of the student and the purposes of schooling paramount. Third, the behavior and mind-set of
schools and families can be adversarial. Some parents are distrustful of the school's values, and
the schools sometimes underestimate the family's potential to contribute to their children's intellectual
growth. Students get caught in the middle, their allegiance to and affection for each party
challenged by the other. Accomplished teachers develop skills and understandings to avoid these
traditional pitfalls and work to foster collaborative relationships between school and family.
The changing family structure in our society creates new challenges as well, for there are now
more youth with single parents, working parents and parents with inadequate income. Thus, creating
home-school partnerships has become more difficult for teachers and parents in many communities.
In attempting to work creatively and energetically with families in the interest of students'
development, able teachers acquire knowledge and understanding of individual students'
lives outside school. A teacher's foremost responsibility is to the intellectual development of our
youth, but they are mindful of the broad range of children's needs, including the need for guidance
and the strong presence of caring and nurturing adults. This is a difficult set of obligations
to fulfill. On the one hand, teachers are prepared neither by training nor by role to serve as parent
surrogates or social workers. The distinctive mission of teaching is to promote learning, a
complex undertaking in itself. On the other hand, education's broad and humane purposes do
not admit any narrow specialization. Students' physical, emotional, and social well-being cannot
be separated from their intellectual growth.
Teachers Take Advantage of Community Resources
Professional teachers cultivate knowledge of their school's community as a powerful resource for
learning. The opportunities are many for enriching projects, lessons, and study: observing the
city council in action; collecting oral histories from senior citizens; studying the ecology of the
local environment; visiting a nearby planetarium; drawing the local architecture; or exploring
career options on-site. Any community -- urban or rural, wealthy or poor -- can be a laboratory
for learning under the guidance of an effective teacher. Moreover, within all communities there
are valuable resources such as other teachers and students, senior citizens, parents, business
people, and local organizations that teachers can engage to assist, enhance and supplement
their work with students. Teachers need not teach alone.
Teachers also cultivate knowledge about the character of the community and its effects on the
school and students. They develop an appreciation of ethnic and linguistic differences, of cultural
influences on students' aspirations and expectations, and of the effects of poverty and affluence.
Cultural and other discontinuities between home and school frequently can confound teachers'
efforts to promote learning. Conversely, the cultural diversity represented in many communities
can serve as a powerful resource in teaching about other cultures, in encouraging tolerance and
understanding of human differences, and in promoting civic ideals. Accomplished teachers seek
to capitalize on these opportunities and to respond productively to students' diverse backgrounds.
There is a balance here. Schools and teachers cannot alleviate all the social problems that they
encounter. Yet teachers confront the human condition daily in all its variety, splendor and misery.
They must be humane, caring and responsive to students and their problems, while they maintain
a focus on their distinctive professional responsibilities.
Accomplished teaching involves making difficult and principled choices, exercising careful judgment
and honoring the complex nature of the educational mission. Teachers employ technical
knowledge and skill, yet must be ever mindful of teaching's ethical dimensions. The primary mission
is to foster the development of skills, dispositions and understanding, while responding
thoughtfully to a wide range of human needs and conditions. Teachers owe joint allegiance to
the forms and standards of knowledge within and across disciplines and to the students they
They must acquire and employ a repertoire of instructional methods and strategies, yet remain
critical and reflective about their practice, drawing lessons from experience. Teachers' professional
responsibilities focus on instructing the students in their immediate care, while they participate
as well in wider activities within the school and in partnership with parents and the community.
Teaching is often portrayed as an activity that conserves valued knowledge and skills by transmitting
them to succeeding generations. It is that and more. Teachers also have the responsibility to
question settled structures, practices, and definitions of knowledge; to invent and test new
approaches; and, where necessary, to pursue change of organizational arrangements that support
instruction. As agents of the public interest in a democracy, teachers through their work contribute
to the dialogue about preserving and improving society, and they initiate future citizens
into this ongoing public discourse. In the development of its assessment procedures and certification
standards, the National Board has sought to represent these ideals faithfully and comprehensively.
Assertations about what teachers should know sometimes conceal inadequacies in the current
state of knowledge. In this respect, teaching is not unlike other professions where practitioners
confront unavoidable uncertainty in their work. However, the knowledge base for teaching is
growing steadily. Professional consensus and research findings have begun to provide authoritative
support for knowledge related to many of the tasks, responsibilities and results of teaching.
But much remains to be learned.
The National Board draws on existing knowledge in developing its standards but also relies on
the professional judgment of accomplished teachers and scholars in designing its assessment procedures.
Recognizing that new knowledge about teaching is continually being formulated, the
National Board continually reviews its work to reflect new findings and to update its standards
and assessments as appropriate.
The National Board also considers the effects of school context on standards for teaching. The
very existence of a National Board suggests common standards that prevail across teaching's
many settings. However, teaching in an Alaskan village exacts demands different from teaching
in Chicago. Teachers in both settings, though, blend and adapt their knowledge of teaching with
their knowledge of the community in which they work to ensure effective student learning. For
accomplished teachers, the wisdom of practice that they accrue depends on the settings in which
they work, the communities they serve, and the students they encounter.
The assessment procedures developed by the National Board take context into account in a variety
of ways. This is achieved by the use of assessment formats such as essays, videotaping and
reflective commentaries. The National Board offers National Board Certification to all qualified
teachers irrespective of the teaching environments in which they work. But the opportunities available
to teachers to acquire and exercise many of the professional capacities and responsibilities
endorsed by the National Board vary markedly from community to community. Some schools feature
strong professional cultures whose norms support collaboration, innovative teaching, a high
degree of collegiality, and participation in a broad array of professional activities. Other schools
provide few such opportunities, and some even discourage such activity. To address this tension,
the National Board's assessments acknowledge that there are multiple paths to meeting the standards,
which take into account the diversity of teaching contexts.
These are the touchstones that guide the development of the National Board's certification standards
and assessments. Our view of the responsibilities of the National Board Certified Teacher
is deliberately complex and demanding, for this is how we see the work of American professional
teachers, who are challenged to create excellence in education for all our nation's youth.
This publication is supported in part by a grant from the DeWitt Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund.
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