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John Adams' Promise:

How to Have Good Schools for All Our Children

Not Just for Some

by Jon Saphier

Six Areas of Teaching Expertise

Teaching expertise means having a repertoire of ways at one's disposal for handling the task of teaching, and then knowing how to choose and apply what is appropriate from one's repertoire. I have grouped the tasks into six categories: (1) Management, (2) Motivation, (3) Instruction, (4) Planning, (5) Applying Craft Knowledge, and (6) Understanding the Conenctions between Concepts in the Content and How Student Learn Them.

Management expertise means arranging the environment to maximize attention and engagement with the learning experiences. This is teacher as evnironmental engineer. Teachers need to know how to get students' attention and hold it, supported by "planfully" engineered rules, routines, procedures, and arrangements of time and space. If the classroom is not well managed, no one pays attention to the instruction no matter how good it is. There is no right way to get students' attention and get rules and procedures in place, but there is an extensive repertoire of strategies. Research confirms our common sense that, the more teachers explicitly handle these situations, the better is the student learning. But if management of classroom procedures is not practiced to some degree, learning does not take place at all.

Motivational expertise pertains to the teachers' ability to mobilize students' desire to learn, build their confidence and belief in themselves, and teach them how to exert effective effort. This is teacher as spiritual leader and psychologist. When students feel psychologically safe, able and motivated to do well, they will do better work. The more teachers explicitly build these conditions into students' classroom lives, they more they learn. With firm management and wonderful instruction, learning still may not take place if the students do not want to learn, believe it is not worth their while, or spends all their energy consumed with feeling hostile, stupid or fearful of their peers.

Instructional expertise includes all the teacher dispositions and skills associated with getting inside the learners' head; finding out what they know and do not know; surfacing their thinking; assessing and redesigning instruction based on how well the learners are learning. This is teacher as applied cognitive scientist and diagnostician. It includes skillful application of thinking aloud, periodic summarizing, application of classical learning principles, and frequent detailed feedback that students can use for improvement. It also includes a repertoire of powerful framing strategies to make new learning take and stick. Some are highly technical in nature and take extended practice and theoretical understanding to use well.

Planning expertisemeans applying highly developed skills of logic and design to daily lesson plans. This is teacher as architect of students' intellectual experience. Successful teachers plan bcakwards from the outcomes they want; thus, they create daily lessons that are tight designs of learning experiences precisely aligned with worthwhile, high leverage activities like knowing how to make and read a graph and that are assessed frequently. The learning expereinces are both engaging and effectively crafted vehicles of learning because they make the content accessible to the learners. Skillful planning orginates in knowledge of one's curriculum and in one's knowledge of how students as a group are doing, plus detailed knowledge of where one's students are as individuals in relation to intended learnings.

Craft knowledge for teaching specific concepts and skills was described two decades by Lee Shulman as Pedagogical Content Knowledge. The term described the knowledge that allows teachers to teach their particular content. This meant content-specific repertoires of activities, examples, stories, equipment, readings, analogies that make the concepts and skills accessible to the students. Such knowledge is craft knowledge. It is accumulated slowly over year of experience, of experimentation, of trading ideas with colleagues, and from good professional development. Like the other domains of professional knowledge we have profiled above, pedagogical content knowledge consist of repertoires, not right or best ways.

Understanding the Connections between Concepts in the Content is another kind of knowledge related to the teaching of content that is different from the accumlated treasury of examples and instructional approaches we call pedagogical content knowledge. It is knowledge of how the concepts and skills one is teaching are connected to one another and how to bring these relationships to the attention of one's students. This specific concept to be taught and how that network is connected to the [content] in the yearlong curriculum as well as the curricula of the previous and following years.

Common Core of Profesional Knowledge

Standard 1 - Foundations Knowledge:

  • Models, theories, and philosophies that form the basis for education practice.
  • Laws, policies, and ethical principles regarding behavior management planning and implementation.
  • Relationship of special education to the organization and function of educational agencies.
  • Rights and responsibilities of students, parents, teachers, and other professionals, and schools.
  • Issues in definition and identification of individuals from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
  • Issues, assurances and due process rights related to assessment, eligibility, and placement within a continuum of services.
  • Family systems and the role of families in the educational process.
  • Historical points of view and contribution of culturally diverse groups.
  • Impact of the dominant culture on shaping schools and the individuals who study and work in them.
  • Potential impact of differences in values, languages, and customs that can exist between the home and school.
  • Personal philosophy of public education.

Standard 2 - Development and Characteristics of Learners Knowledge:

  • Typical and atypical human growth and development.
  • Educational implications of characteristics of various exceptionalities.
  • Characteristics and effects of the cultural and environmental milieu of the individual with exceptional learning needs and the family. Family systems and the role of families in supporting development.
  • Similarities and differences of individuals with and without exceptional learning needs.
  • Similarities and differences among individuals with exceptional learning needs.
  • Effects of various medications on individuals with exceptional learning needs.

Standard 3 - Individual Learning Differences Knowledge:

  • Effects a condition(s) can have on an individual's life.
  • Impact of learners' academic and social abilities, attitudes, interests, and values on instruction and career development.
  • Variations in beliefs, traditions, and values across and within cultures and their effects on relationships among individuals with exceptional learning needs, family, and schooling.
  • Cultural perspectives influencing the relationships among families, schools, and communities as related to instruction.
  • Differing ways of learning of individuals with exceptional learning needs including those from culturally diverse backgrounds and strategies for addressing these differences.

Standard 4 - Instructional Strategies Skills:

  • Use strategies to facilitate integration into various settings.
  • Teach individuals to use self-assessment, problem solving, and other cognitive strategies to meet their needs.
  • Select, adapt, and use instructional strategies and materials according to characteristics of the individual with exceptional learning needs.
  • Use strategies to facilitate maintenance and generalization of skills across learning environments.
  • Use procedures to increase the individual's self-awareness, self-management, self-control, self-reliance, and self-esteem.
  • Use strategies that promote successful transitions for individuals with exceptional learning needs.

Standard 5 - Learning Environments and Social Interactions Knowledge:

  • Demands of learning environments.
  • Basic classroom management theories and strategies.
  • Effective management of teaching and learning.
  • Teacher attitudes and behaviors that influence behavior of individuals.
  • Social skills needed for educational and other environments.
  • Strategies for crisis prevention and intervention.
  • Strategies for preparing individuals to live harmoniously and productively in a culturally diverse world.
  • Ways to create learning environments that allow individuals to retain and appreciate their own and each others' respective language and cultural heritage.
  • Ways specific cultures are negatively stereotyped.
  • Strategies used by diverse populations to cope with a legacy of former and continuing racism.


  • Create a safe, equitable, positive, and supportive learning environment in which diversities are valued.
  • Identify realistic expectations for personal and social behavior in various settings.
  • Identify supports needed for integration into various program placements.
  • Design learning environments that encourage active participation in individual and group activities.
  • Modify the learning environment to manage behaviors.
  • Use performance data and information from all stakeholders to make or suggest modifications in learning environments.
  • Establish and maintain rapport with individuals with and without exceptional learning needs.
  • Teach self-advocacy.
  • Create an environment that encourages self-advocacy and increased independence.
  • Use effective and varied behavior management strategies.
  • se the least intensive behavior management strategy consistent with the needs of the individual with exceptional learning needs.
  • Design and manage daily routines.
  • Organize, develop, and sustain learning environments that support positive intracultural and intercultural experiences.
  • Mediate controversial intercultural issues among students within the learning environment in ways that enhance any culture, group, or person.
  • Structure, direct, and support the activities of paraeducators, volunteers, and tutors. Use universal precautions.

Standard 6 - Language Knowledge:

  • Effects of cultural and linguistic differences on growth and development. Characteristics of one's own culture and use of language and the ways in which these can differ from other cultures and uses of languages.
  • Ways of behaving and communicating among cultures that can lead to misinterpretation and misunderstanding.
  • Augmentative, alternative, and assistive communication strategies.


  • Use strategies to support and enhance communication skills of individuals.
  • Use communication strategies and resources to facilitate understanding of subject matter for students whose primary language is not the dominant language.

Standard 7 - Instructional Planning Knowledge:

  • Theories and research that form the basis of curriculum development and instructional practice.
  • Scope and sequences of general and special curricula.
  • National, state or provincial, and local curricula standards.
  • Technology for planning and managing the teaching and learning environment.
  • Roles and responsibilities of the paraeducator related to instruction, intervention, and direct service.


  • Identify and prioritize areas of the general curriculum and accommodations.
  • Develop and implement comprehensive, longitudinal individualized programs in collaboration with team members.
  • Involve the individual and family in setting instructional goals and monitoring progress.
  • Use functional assessments to develop intervention plans.
  • Use task analysis.
  • Sequence, implement, and evaluate individualized learning objectives.
  • Integrate affective, social, and life skills with academic curricula.
  • Develop and select instructional content, resources, and strategies that respond to cultural, linguistic, and gender differences.
  • Incorporate and implement instructional and assistive technology into the educational program.
  • Prepare lesson plans.
  • Prepare and organize materials to implement daily lesson plans.
  • Use instructional time effectively.
  • Make responsive adjustments to instruction based on continual observations.
  • Prepare individuals to exhibit self-enhancing behavior in response to societal attitudes and actions.

Standard 8 - Assessment Knowledge:

  • Basic terminology used in assessment.
  • Legal provisions and ethical principles regarding assessment of individuals.
  • Screening, prereferral, referral, and classification procedures.
  • Use and limitations of assessment instruments.
  • National, state or provincial, and local accommodations and modifications.


  • Gather relevant background information.
  • Administer nonbiased formal and informal assessments.
  • Use technology to conduct assessments.
  • Develop or modify individualized assessment strategies.
  • Interpret information from formal and informal assessments.
  • Use assessment information in making eligibility, program, and placement decisions for individuals with exceptional learning needs, including those from culturally and/or linguistically diverse backgrounds.
  • Report assessment results to all stakeholders using effective communication skills.
  • Evaluate instruction and monitor progress of individuals.
  • Develop or modify individualized assessment strategies.
  • Create and maintain records.

Standard 9 - Professional and Ethical Practice Knowledge:

  • Personal cultural biases and differences that affect one's teaching.
  • Importance of the teacher serving as a model for individuals with
  • exceptional learning needs.
  • Continuum of lifelong professional development.
  • Methods to remain current regarding research-validated practice.


  • Practice within the CEC Code of Ethics and other standards of the profession.
  • Uphold high standards of competence and integrity and exercise sound judgment in the practice of the profession.
  • Act ethically in advocating for appropriate services.
  • Conduct professional activities in compliance with applicable laws and policies.
  • Demonstrate commitment to developing the highest education and quality-of-life potential of individuals.
  • Demonstrate sensitivity for the culture, language, religion, gender, disability, socio-economic status, and sexual orientation of individuals.
  • Practice within one's skill limit and obtain assistance as needed.
  • Use verbal, nonverbal, and written language effectively.
  • Conduct self-evaluation of instruction.
  • Access information on exceptionalities.
  • Reflect on one's practice to improve instruction and guide professional growth.
  • Engage in professional activities that benefit individuals with learning needs, their families, and one's colleagues.

Standard 10 - Collaboration Knowledge:

  • Models and strategies of consultation and collaboration.
  • Roles of individuals with learning needs, families, and school and community personnel in planning of an individualized program.
  • Concerns of families of individuals with learning needs and strategies to help address these concerns.
  • Culturally responsive factors that promote effective communication and collaboration with individuals with learning needs, families, school personnel, and community members.


  • Maintain confidential communication about individuals.
  • Collaborate with families and others in assessment of individuals.
  • Foster respectful and beneficial relationships between families and professionals.
  • Assist individuals and their families in becoming active participants in the educational team.
  • Plan and conduct collaborative conferences with individuals and their families.
  • Collaborate with school personnel and community members into various settings.
  • Use group problem solving skills to develop, implement and evaluate collaborative activities.
  • Model techniques and coach others in the use of instructional methods and accommodations.
  • Communicate with school personnel about the characteristics and needs of individuals.
  • Communicate effectively with families of individuals from diverse backgrounds.
  • Observe, evaluate and provide feedback to paraeducators.


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Last modified: March, 2007

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