Note.  Printed with permission from National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, (Early Childhood/Generalist Standards, 1998), All rights reserved.

Effective teaching necessitates making difficult and principled choices, exercising careful judgment, and honoring the complex nature of the educational mission. In addition to the technical knowledge and skills teachers have to use in their daily practice, they must also be aware of the ethical dimensions of their profession. In this light, the primary mission is to foster the development of skills, dispositions, and understanding, while acknowledging thoughtfully and responsibly a wide range of human needs and conditions. Thus, teachers must master a repertoire of instructional methods and strategies, yet remain critical and reflective about their practice. Their professional responsibilities focus on educating students, in addition to participating in wider activities within the school and in partnership with parents and the community.

Based on the latest developments in pedagogy, teaching has become more than an activity that conserves valued knowledge and skills by transmitting them to succeeding generations. Therefore, teachers also have the responsibility to challenge existing structures, practices, and definitions of knowledge; to invent and test new approaches; and, where necessary, to pursue organizational change in a constant attempt to improve the school. 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.

The professional teaching standards represent the teaching profession’s consensus on the critical aspects of the art and science of teaching (pedagogy) that characterize accomplished teachers in various fields. Cast in terms of actions that teachers take to advance student outcomes, these standards also incorporate the essential pedagogical knowledge, skills, dispositions, and commitments that allow teachers to practice at a high level. These standards rest on a fundamental philosophical foundation comprised of five core propositions:

  • Teachers are committed to students and their learning.

  • Teachers know the subjects they teach and have the necessary pedagogical knowledge.

  • Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning.

  • Teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from experience.

  • Teachers are members of learning communities.

Effective teachers display skills at creating curricula designed to build on students' present knowledge and understanding and move them to more sophisticated and in-depth abilities, knowledge, concepts, and performances. They calibrate their responses to the interests and ability level of students, designing activities to the latter's "proximal zone" for learning and development. In addition, these educators employ a range of instructional strategies and resources to match the variety of student skills and to provide each student several ways of exploring important ideas, skills, and concepts. They understand how to work as facilitators, coaches, models, evaluators, managers, and advocates. Moreover, teachers know how to utilize various forms of play, different strategies for grouping learners, and different types of media and materials.

Teachers observe and assess students in the context of ongoing classroom life. They are skilled in collecting and interpreting a variety of types of evidence to evaluate where each student is in a sequence or continuum of learning and development. They know how to move from assessment to decisions about curriculum, social support, and teaching strategies, to increase the prospects for successful learning.

Teachers understand and respect the diverse cultures, values, languages, and family backgrounds of their students, use community people and settings as resources for learning, and involve parents and families as active partners in the students' total development.

Each moment presents the opportunity for teachers to respond creatively to the unique challenges of classroom life. They are highly sophisticated analysts who apply observations of individual students and the overall environment to guide their judgments and responses. They reflect on their own performance in light of student progress, seek the views of colleagues and parents, and think about trends, options, and the consequences of their options.  

The Five Propositions of Accomplished Teaching

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.

Teachers are committed to students and their learning

Effective teachers are dedicated to making knowledge accessible to all students based on their belief that all students can learn. Thus, they treat their learners equitably by acknowledging individual differences among students. Moreover, they adjust their practice according to these individual differences 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. Therefore, these educators incorporate the prevailing theories of cognition and intelligence in their practice. In addition, they are aware of the influence of context and culture on behavior. Under these general circumstances, teachers 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.

Teachers know the subjects they teach and have the necessary pedagogical knowledge

Accomplished teachers have a thorough 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.

Effective teachers master pedagogical knowledge used 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. In addition, they understand and solve the possible difficulties likely to arise in the classroom and modify their practice accordingly. Their instructional repertoire allows them to create multiple paths to knowledge, in general, and to the subjects they teach, in particular.

Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning

Accomplished teachers create, enrich, maintain, and alter instructional settings, materials, and strategies to capture and sustain the interest of their students and to make the most effective use of time. They also strive to engage students and adults in assisting their teaching as well as to enhance their practice with their colleagues' knowledge and expertise.

Effective teachers command a wide range of generic instructional techniques and use them appropriately. They manage efficiently both the students and the learning environment. Thus, instruction is organized and implemented to allow the schools' goals for students to be met. Educators are able to set the norms for social interaction among students and between students and teachers. Moreover, they understand how to motivate students to learn and how to maintain their interest even when facing 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.

Teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from experience

Effective 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.  They also exemplify 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 problem-solving orientation.

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 grounded not only in the literature, but also in their experience. They engage in lifelong learning that they seek to encourage in their students.

Striving to strengthen their teaching, quality 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.

Teachers are members of learning communities

Exemplary 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 as needed.

Accomplished teachers find ways to work collaboratively and creatively with parents, engaging them productively in the proper functioning of the school.


           National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.  (1998).  Washington, DC:  Author.  Available: