February 2010
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Teacher Dispositions

In our discussions, one of the issues we have raised is that of dispositions and what that might mean/should mean to a teacher operating in a professional culture.  Below is a list of dispositions from Charlotte Danielson’s text:  Danielson, C.  (2006).  Teacher leadership that strengthens professional practice. Alexandria,
VA:  ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development).

It is a lengthy list of dispositions that Danielson highlights in the chapter titled “What Do Teacher Leaders Do.”


-dispositions largely define an individual’s approach to situations; when we thing about a person, we recall less about that person’s skills or even interests than we do about their traits such as optimism and energy; teacher leaders possess certain dispositions that influence their work with both students and colleagues

-teacher leaders are can do people; they do not adopt a defeatist attitude when things go poorly; when the going gets tough, they get busy; but they don’t forge ahead blindly; they weigh options, consider alternatives and assemble colleagues to help solve problems

-deep commitment to student learning

^teacher leaders have an essential focus on the core mission of enhancing student learning

^teacher leaders recognize that the scale by which the school and the efforts of the educators within it is measured is the extent to which it is able to promote high-level learning on       the part of all students

-optimism and enthusiasm

^the actions of a teacher leader are driven by optimism and the belief that any situation can be improved

^teacher leaders tend to look on the bright side of things

^ teacher leaders hold high expectations for themselves and expect the best of others

^ teacher leaders, by taking an optimistic view of life, tend to steer events in a positive direction

^enthusiasm represents energy to pursue a project with vigor and commitment

-open-mindedness and humility

^ teacher leaders are careful not to become stuck in their own ideas; they actively solicit the thoughts of others and ensure that those ideas receive careful consideration

^as a disposition open-mindedness conveys a willingness to consider alternatives rather than approaching colleagues with a full-fledged program t hat they are trying to convince        colleagues to adopt

^open-mindedness is accompanied by humility; teacher leaders don’t assume that their own idea is the best one or indeed that a proposed course of action will turn out o be the best       approach; they are quite wiling to admit that they don’t know everything and that information may surface that would cause a shift in their plan

-courage and willingness to take risks

^at times teacher leaders must go out on a limb; success is not always guaranteed

-confidence and decisiveness

^ teacher leaders are individuals who have experienced success in their lives, frequently through their own hard work; thus they are reasonably confident of success in the future,      provided they don’t make avoidable mistakes

^confidence contributes to both courage and risk taking

^an underlying confidence is essential for teacher leaders

^accompanying confidence is decisiveness; teacher leaders know that when all is said and done, when the extensive discussions have run their course, action is necessary

-tolerance for ambiguity

^projects undertaken b y teacher leaders are rarely planned in detail in advance; instead they are undertaken in response to a need or an opportunity and area subject to multiple      midcourse corrections

^ teacher leaders, in convincing colleagues to participate in a project, are inviting people to join them on a journey

-creativity and flexibility

^ teacher leaders are able to think creatively and flexibly and can encourage their colleagues to do the same

^ teacher leaders don’t become trapped b y t heir idea, sticking with it even in the face of evidence that it should be modified; they are flexible, able to stay true to the goal but willing       to adjust the approach as needed


^although flexibility is important, so is perseverance; a lot of success in implementing a  new approach consists of holding firm even in the face of initial difficulty or resistance

-willingness to work hard

^ teacher leaders know that projects don’t take care of themselves; they must be planned and implemented; good ideas without the hard work of planning and implementation                  remain just good ideas

^ teacher leaders are not only willing to work hard, but they also devise ways to work smart

*the dispositions constitute a cluster of traits and ways of looking at the world that tend to reinforce one another; teacher leaders are confident, open-minded, enthusiastic, optimistic and flexible; they persevere and are willing to work both hard and smart

*the dispositions of teacher leaders as described also contribute to exemplary teaching; in their work with students, excellent teachers are also optimistic, confident, flexible and creative; the dispositions are the same; teacher leaders simply exhibit them in the context of leadership activities with their colleagues

2 comments to Teacher Dispositions

  • James

    Thanks for posting this excerpt, Lorne. I can absolutely see these dispositions at play in many of the excellent teacher-leader colleagues that I know and have had the pleasure to meet.

    I wonder, as we talked before, how well dispositions lend themselves to standards however. And perhaps that idea raised before how dispositions relate to personality, attitude and ‘ways of being’ in a way that don’t clearly lend themselves for prescription.

    Just some thinking…

  • Jae

    This was so timely and interesting to read, Lorne. Yesterday I returned from Texas meeting with all the other state teachers of the year and I could certainly see all these dispositions in play! This list of positives makes me think of what a professional culture made up of teacher leaders with these dispositions would be like and I long to work in that place! I agree with James that the list probably does not lend itself to standards but rather what it would look and feel like.

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