IBNN in collaboration with Our Black News provides this very important article with the permission of Dr. Andrew Johnson. Originally published on March 13, 2019 via Linkedin. The most important question: “Why are schools and teacher preparation programs still using the Danielson Framework?

By Dr, Andrew Johnson – Posted with permission

Andrew Johnson (photo: Linkedin Fair Use)

The Danielson Framework (1996) has been around for over 20 years. It is still being used in various forms in many schools and teacher preparation programs. Charlotte Danielson attempted to deconstruct what she perceived as professional teaching practice by breaking it down into four domains: (a) planning and preparation, (b) classroom environment, (c) instruction, and (d) professional responsibilities. These four domains were broken into 22 components and then into 76 tiny elements. Danielson also included a rubric for each of the 76 tiny elements that described four levels of teacher performance: unsatisfactory, basic, proficient, and distinguished levels. 

In designing this framework, Danielson selected the elements that she decided were important for being and becoming a professional educator. She purported to offer educators a platform to create conversations about the elements of good teaching. In reviewing the 76 tiny elements, there are indeed many that can contribute to important educational conversations. (There are also some that are highly subjective with supporting research that is, at best, peripheral.) However, conversation implies a two-way flow of ideas. When rubrics are created and levels of performance are described, there is little, if any, room for conversation.  What is created instead is an evaluation tool, variations of which are being used today in teacher preparation programs and public schools to create a certain type of teacher with a set of values and teaching philosophy that somebody other than the teacher being evaluated has determined to be appropriate.

A Subjective Display of Objectivity

Although the framework might be perceived by some to be an objective examination and application of empirical research, Danielson’s description of professional practice is highly subjective and parochial in terms of the elements that were selected for consideration as well as the limited depth and breadth of research that was examined. It represents a fairly narrow, reductionist theoretical perspective. If a more expansive set of data were examined from a wider variety of fields related to human learning, and if a more inclusive lens were used to interpret this data, a much different set of domains and components would certainly be included. If this perspective was used, it is highly doubtful that the state of being and becoming an effective educator would be reduced to 76 tiny elements. It is doubtful as well that each of these 76 tiny elements would be put on a four-point scale and used to evaluate teachers.


Danielson claims that her framework is research-based (Danielson, 2007); however, this is a bit misleading. While research can be found to support many (but not all) of Danielson’s 76 tiny elements, putting these 76 tiny elements together in a single framework does not mean the framework itself is supported by research. It just means that it is a list of 76 tiny elements, some of which are supported by research. There is no comparative research suggesting that the Danielson framework is more effective for enhancing the professional practice of pre-service and practicing teachers than other frameworks, checklists, rubrics, models, sets of dispositions, standards, assessment devices, professional development strategies, or reflective practices. 

Unstated Purpose

As well, there should be no doubt that the current unstated purpose of the Danielson Framework is to enable the educational industrial complex to generate greater profits (Brightman & Gutmore, 2002). If instead the purpose of the framework was to actually improve education, a set of domains and components would be also be included for principals and administrators, schoolboard members, legislators, professors at teacher preparation institutions, scholars, and anybody else making decisions or recommendations about schools and classrooms. Such domains, uniformly applied, would invite all to begin to explore a wider range of research and ideas related to education and human learning. This type of application would have the potential to evolve our current educational system and be of benefit to those other than a few financial stakeholders. However, this is not the case. Since the framework was introduced in 1996, additional domains have not been included.

A Solution in Search of a Problem

• The framework has been accepted as being the answer to a problem that was never defined. Effective problem solving of any kind is dependent on first defining the problem. What was the problem for which the Danielson Framework was thought to be the solution? 

• Effective problem solving also involves generating a number of ideas before selecting a solution.  If there was a problem, was the Danielson framework the only solution that was considered for this undefined problem? Was it the best solution to this mysterious problem?  

• Use of the Danielson framework is another example of a solution in search of a problem. The only problem it really solves it this: How can the educational industrial complex continue to generate profit?


Brightman, H.J., & Gutmore, G. (2002) The Educational-Industrial Complex. The Educational Forum, 66 (4), 302-308, DOI: 10.1080/00131720208984848

Danielson, C. (1996). Enhancing professional practice: A framework for teaching. Alexandra, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Danielson, C. (2007). Enhancing professional practice: A framework for teaching. Alexandria, Va: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.


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