12 Touchstones of Teaching

Presented here are the 12 touchstones of good teaching, based on a framework created with a book by the same name, The 12 touchstones of teaching (Goodwin & Hubbell, 2013). Below is the table of contents, selecting the appropriate link will bring the reader to the selected portion of the document.

The 12 Touchstones of Good Teaching

Imperatives Touchstones
Be Demanding Item 1. I use standards to guide every learning opportunity.

Item 2. I ensure students set personal learning objectives for each lesson.

Item 3. I peel back the curtain and make my performance expectations clear.

Item 4. I measure understanding against high expectations.

Be Supportive Item 5. I engage student interest with every lesson.

Item 6. I interact meaningfully with every student.

Item 7. I use feedback to encourage effort.

Item 8. I create an oasis of safety and respect in my classroom.

Be Intentional Item 9. I make the most of every minute.

Item 10. I help students develop deep knowledge

Item 11. I coach students to mastery.

Item 12. I help students do something with their learning.

Fig 1. Table of Contents (Goodwin & Hubbell, 2013)


Section I. Be Demanding

            Finding the optimal level of challenge in an education setting can be difficult and depends a lot upon the student population that is receiving coaching and advising as they learn the course material. Goodwin & Hubbell (2013), create a framework for successful coaching that includes the implementation of common core standards, the coaching part of the framework comes later in this work but it must first be understood and clearly demonstrated that the goal of coaching learning is for the students to achieve a standard that is clearly established. What is referred to as being demanding in the classroom is a set of practices that establish standards and gives the teacher a set of ethics to follow while authoritatively guiding learning to meet high expectations. McClelland (1985), created a hypothesis that includes both an individual’s perceived challenge, the value of a goal, and the perception of confidence in required skills that determine whether or not an individual becomes motivated to engage in the accomplishment of a goal. The goal of being demanding is to find the appropriate balance between challenge and perceived skill. To Top

1. I Use Standards to Guide Every Learning Opportunity

            Standards allow educators to understand in a common way the goals of a lesson. Standards do not necessarily refer to the common core standards which are set by state administrators, they refer to the overall learning goals of any course offered, whether it is in an adult learning setting or within the secondary education system. Constructivism is a theoretical teaching and learning framework which demonstrates that our epistemologies and learning practices are communally derived and established within social space (Merriam, Caffarella & Baumgartner, 2007). Setting clear standards allows the creation of clear learning and performance goals for students by unpacking the standards, and also allows educators and learners as a community to have a clear perception of the lessons and content that are part of a given course, in a way that clarifies differentiated perceptions of the meaning and content of a course and lesson plan (Goodwin & Hubbell, 2013). Part of setting standards is assessing whether the standards are being met, which is a subject that is addressed later in this work and in this personal evaluation of the concept To Top

2. I Ensure Students Set Personal Learning Objectives for Each Lesson.

In my experience, self-analysis had been one of the most useful instruments for me to understand my own learning. This was while attending Jefferson County Open School which is a public democratic school in Jefferson County, Colorado. As an educator, touchstone number two is a way for students to execute their own learning plan as a part of the already established standard, this is a way to help students personalize and differentiate their learning experience by establishing a personal learning goal that is related to the course rubric. In a system which is based on attribution theory or the idea that students establish a value for the accomplishment of achievements and tasks, setting personal learning goals can be a way for students to establish relevancy and meaning for the goals that are set.

Bernard Weiner (2010), writes in his 10-year capstone about achievement theory and the inner motivational workings of the value of goals and attribution of tasks, that he sought to understand how personal meaning interacts with an individual’s decision to engage in an accomplishment; even in the case of failure-avoidance or the accomplishment of high-risk achievements. Allowing students to personalize goals related to the learning objectives of a course helps to create the personal value and meaning of the accomplishment. Personal learning goals are one way to approach the transition from extrinsic expectations toward intrinsic motivation. Goodwin & Hubbell (2013), often emphasize that it is important as an educator to guide self-directed learning in order to maintain relevancy with the course standard, but to allow students to go above and beyond the standard learning objectives if the learning is meaningful and relevant to the goals of the larger learning community.  To Top

3. I Peel Back the Curtain and Make My Performance Expectations Clear

Early in my four-year university education, I was introduced to a concept from a textbook that differentiated between authoritative and authoritarian behavior. Authoritative behavior was described as those coaching behaviors which enforce rules, but explain the utility and purpose of those rules by creating a clear understanding of expectations. Authoritarian behavior was considered in those says a harmful approach that created discipline with no explanation or really sometimes a reason for the discipline. I had always since then striven to maintain authoritative practices when it came to creating expectations for the people who I am educating or in the care of. Goodwin & Hubbell (2013), create a framework for authoritative behavior by establishing that every teacher, coach, or advisor; ought to have created clear expectations for performance and achievement that are well communicated and understood by the student. Goodwin & Hubbell (2013), also establish that by setting standards-driven expectations and rubrics, classroom behavior issues can be handled outside of the learning and performance standards through positive rapport with students. Goodwin & Hubbell (2013), create a framework for changing the potential conflicts that can be present between the teacher and student and instead reframe the system of conflicting needs in the context of a dynamic between the student and the rubricized standard. The main reason for clearly established expectations is to help resolve conflicting needs in the classroom. Bernard Mayer (2012), also clearly describes conflict as being a set of dynamics which are more easily negotiated and resolved when each party has a clearly established set of needs and expectations, and the process of resolution begins first by understanding which expectations are conflicting between the two or more parties in conflict. When setting high expectations, there are bound to be conflicting needs based on resources such as time, and skill sets which need to be developed as the learning process develops. Setting clear expectations in the classroom enables the resolution of those potential conflicts and also communicates the needed skills for success in the course.  To Top

4. I Measure Understanding Against High Expectations

          Goodwin & Hubbell (2013), create a fine argument for the necessity of optimal challenge and the setting of expectations which are high in the context of the expected performance of students. Having high expectations that are clearly established can facilitate deep learning and also be motivating for students who are engaged in learning the standards set for the course, and by being challenging enough students are asked to set goals which contain some risk, but that are optimally attainable for success in the course (Goodwin & Hubbell, 2013). Holding high expectations also demonstrates to students that success is expected and possible. Albert Bandura (1989), establishes that the perceived sense of efficacy in social space creates a relationship between perceived ability to accomplish a task and the value of the task at hand. In terms of attribution theory the value placed upon the accomplishment of a goal is related to the sense of perceived risk according to an individual’s available skill set which affects choices about whether to become motivated to achieve the task (Weiner, 2010). Demonstrating high expectations of students also demonstrates a belief in the efficacy that students have in accomplishing the task, which motivates student performance. Goodwin & Hubbell (2013), emphasize that performance in class must be demonstrated according to the standards in the course and also the learning goals set for the class, but do not address whether or not students have a sense of efficacy in accomplishing the task. Likert-scale assessments are often used to measure confidence as a part of any self-report instrument designed to measure understanding or confidence (Stangor, 2011). One study was specifically designed to create an instrument for the measure of student efficacy and confidence, that was based on a scale (Silver, Smith & Greene, 2001). Goodwin & Hubbell (2013), conveniently excuse the use of scales or self-evaluation and establish that standards must be measured through either multiple choice or open-ended essay questions. In my experience, this established the need to re-examine the use of standardized instruments created to measure student performance, because they exclude student efficacy in the context of a framework that is otherwise designed to inspire student confidence. In my work I value the sense of efficacy reported on a scale designed to measure confidence as an instrument more than I would value the outcome of a content-related final exam, and this experience in postgraduate education clearly illustrated the need to better understand assessments created for education that could have better established statistical validity, if they were more closely related to other instruments created for scientific study in human motivation and psychology.  To Top

Section II. Be Supportive

Goodwin & Hubbell (2013), create a dynamic between establishing a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset. The genius about some works is that they employ a dynamic or a field by which any exception in the field can be measured from the polarity of the field. A fixed mindset is the mindset which establishes and demands that expectations be met without providing the supportive mindset for personal and intellectual growth that must occur along with academic performance. Goodwin & Hubbell use this dynamic between fixed expectations and growth expectations to illustrate differences in approaches for establishing positive rapport with students. In my experience the establishment of positive rapport is essential in any occupation that is communications intensive, and I rely heavily on this set of microskills as it was created in the mental health case management and crisis intervention contexts. I understood the similarities that the dynamic illustrated by Goodwin & Hubbell (2013), had when compared with other authors who employ dynamics in the field of psychology. Dynamics had been employed by psychologists as a matter of understanding the science since Kurt Lewin (1935), examined epistemology by comparing Aristotelian modes of thought with the approaches to science by exception more thoroughly rendered by Galileo, stating that the field of psychological study was in a similar stage of epistemic development. As an analogy the employment of dynamics for creating and understanding human motivation, growth, and learning; is one example of the professional growth of academic study, support for learning, and the facilitation of epistemic engagement in the classroom.  To Top

5. I Engage Student Interest with Every Lesson

            Shea & Bidjerano (2010), conclude with some substantial evidence that social presence is important in the classroom, not only for the students but as the teacher in order to help facilitating as a learning group, which can be described as an epistemically engaged community of inquiry. I had also written a brief blended learning framework that describes the advantages to a socially based communities of inquiry style of learning facilitation, which in sum takes advantage of group membership and group recognition as a part of the classroom environment (Hixson, 2015). Goodwin & Hubbell (2013), emphasize the need to create opportunities for differentiated student engagement as a part of every-day learning practices that involve providing student choices and hearing formative student feedback. For me, learning is also a part of a social process that involves groups in a process of gaining knowledge through social change. Positive change and social change in the larger community context involves the establishment of shared values and epistemologies through shared experience that later engages the developed resource, referred to as social capital, to motivate the process of social change (Loeb, 2010). Extending the social learning hypothesis outside of the realm of constructivism, transpersonal psychology in a system created by Abraham Maslow in his later work, establishes that self-actualization that is optimal becomes a matter of putting self achievement and accomplishment in the lens of the larger social milieu and life-context (Koltko-Rivera, 2006). While teaching the lesson plan created by the proceeding framework, one of the best ways to engage student interest was to put the learning achievements for the student in the context of the larger social community and life context. A constructivist paradigm that establishes communities of inquiry style learning can also benefit from engaging student interest by creating a sense of social relevancy and accomplishment in the larger social space.  To Top

6. I Interact Meaningfully with Every Student

            Bernard Weiner (2010), writes in his capstone of attribution theory and motivational research that the value of meaning has yet to be fully understood in the context of failure-avoidant behavior and the decisions that people make about becoming engaged in an accomplishment that has high value and high risks. Weiner (2010), hypothesizes that meaning may give an additional variable to the establishment of value for a given accomplishment. Goodwin & Hubbell (2013), present a framework for ensuring that the rapport with students is positive and engaging, again by emphasizing growth as a part of the learning process. As a part of understanding personal meaning for experience, Abraham Maslow (1974), creates a dynamic for experience that describes a field between deficiency-need cognition and being-cognition where being-cognition involves transpersonal self-reflection as a part of meaningful experience in the larger life-context. As an educator I found that meaningful interaction relies on the ability to act as a conductor between students and student groups in the classroom, and the larger community, in a way that positively encourages prosocial community relevance and creativity. Facilitating group interaction relies on positive rapport as a set of microskills that were established for crisis intervention, where when individuals are in a process of personal change a positive rapport as a coach or resource must first be well established before performing any assessment of the situation and facilitating the process of coping with change (Roberts & Yeager, 2009). Lastly, facilitating group processes and social group engagement has been explored as a process of peacemaking that are referred to as circle processes, and circle processes offer a well-grounded way of facilitating group interaction and understanding that can entirely include all group participants (Pranis, 2005).  Social recognition for achievement and group participation can facilitate positive rapport, personal meaning, mutually benevolent group learning processes, and social relevance for learning and teaching in the larger community.  To Top

7. I Use Feedback to Encourage Effort

           Goodwin & Hubbell (2013), conclude that instructor feedback encourages effort and guides learning that may be self-directed, in order to maintain relevancy with the goals of the student and course standards. In a group setting, feedback can come from other group participants. Shea & Bidjerano (2009), conclude that even in online settings facilitating social and cognitive presence is effected by the social and cognitive presence of the instructor. In a communities of inquiry based format; the cognitive presence and any epistemic engagement created by the students is motivated first by instructor presence, modelling, and feedback. To maintain the integrity of group learning environments it is important to include feedback from all stakeholders and to allow input from diverse perspectives. There are many group processing models available that have been effectively applied in circle processes, including but not limited to circles for understanding, that can facilitate optimal group feedback and participation (Pranis, 2005). Lastly, self-evaluation on the part of the students can be a part of the feedback process, in a way which is instructor guided and that can have either formative results that guide the direction of performance goals or summative results that demonstrate the overall efficacy of course instruction (Goodwin & Hubbell, 2013).  To Top

8. I Create an Oasis of Safety and Respect in my Classroom

            In order to facilitate social and cognitive presence and to facilitate an optimal learning environment that is considered safe by the participants, I chose to refer to circle processes as they are currently applied in criminal justice settings. Circle processes can be useful for understanding and resolving conflict and for processing and meeting the social and emotional needs of participants in a way that is restorative and that facilitates peacemaking (Pranis, 2005). Some conflict is inherent between the high standards and expectations set for coursework and the resources and skills which students can bring to the classroom. Dynamics of conflict can be used to describe the relationship between all stakeholders in a group, to describe any conflicting needs and expectations, and to connect stakeholders in a mutually benevolent process (Mayer, 2012). Maintaining a safe environment starts with clearly established and communally held values for respect and effective communication among participants and with the instructor, once these values are clearly established and the course rubrics have been disseminated it can become easier to manage the social challenges present in the classroom. Goodwin & Hubbell (2013), describe this part of classroom management as being outside of the academic expectations within the course, except where the instructor can reframe conflicting needs being illustrated by the students in a way that contrasts directly with the course rubric. In this way, the conflicting needs present are elaborated mostly by the students need for mastery of the goals contained in the course rubrics, and the differentiated goals set by individual students.  To Top

Section III. Be Intentional

            Teaching incorporates a balance of resources and needs present within the classroom context. The most notable resource that is processed as a part of group learning is time. Intentional planning and effective time management are prerequisites for successful teaching,  teaching rich content and teaching above a standard can also facilitate deep learning, while it is also necessary to provide choices and engage student generated ideas in each lesson by making a successful one-to-one connection with each student (Goodwin & Hubbell, 2013). Effective lesson planning starts with the establishment of a course standard and the unpacking of the different elements of the standard being taught, and concludes by establishing exactly which class materials, activities, and assessments will be relevant to a given skill described (Goodwin & Hubbell, 2013). Teaching is an intentional and well planned process that maintains a sensible dynamic within each class group and that meets the needs of each individual student.  To Top

9. I Make the Most of Every Minute

            In a communities of inquiry group learning format, much emphasis needs to be placed on the social and cognitive effectiveness of the instructor. Modelling is a process by which an instructor demonstrates needed skills to novice students through the practical demonstration of skills which are then acquired through observation and cognitive engagement from the students (Bruning, Schraw & Ronning, 1999). Effective teachers are clear and intentional about their teaching and focus on deliberately and effectively demonstrating skills for mastery by students, through the use of multiple techniques that facilitate the cognitive and epistemic engagement of individual students, and effectively establish positive rapport with students through the process of instruction (Goodwin & Hubbell, 2013). Communities of inquiry also focus on the social and cognitive engagement of students because the right combination of social and cognitive presence in a blended learning format also facilitates epistemic engagement within the learning group (Shea & Bidjerano, 2010).  To Top

10. I Help Students Develop Deep Knowledge

        Cultural values in low-context cultures are largely presented through mass media and stereotypes which are present and implied as a part of the process of intergroup differentiation in social space (Holtzman, 2000). In low-context cultures social expectations are implied through social group participation and expectations that are not overtly expressed, and this process is a part of the establishment of intergroup differentiation and group bias, which is influenced cross-culturally by biases exhibited on television and in mass media (Shiraev & Levy, 2010). Culture is a part of social space and a part of social presence in a group setting. Facilitating deep learning occurs by offering students independent choices, opportunities for self-directed mastery and learning above the standard, and offering differentiated learning that uniquely engages individual students (Goodwin & Hubbell, 2013). Reflecting positive values and demonstrating effective positive rapport and guidance are the cornerstones of effective psychoeducation programs designed for troubled youth (Brendtro & Long, 2005). Through social and cognitive engagement and cultural awareness teachers can construct learning environments that allow for additional connections with the learning material and the personal relevancy of the learning material. Deep learning can be best achieved by offering diverse and relevant additional connections with course material that are differentiated for each student (Goodwin & Hubbell, 2013). Social and cognitive presence on the part of the instructor can also help facilitate epistemic engagement as learning groups begin to construct their own epistemologies, systems for establishing relevant fact, and acquired knowledge throughout the course (Shea & Bidjerano, 2009).  To Top

11. I Coach Students to Mastery

Positive rapport is the first element that professionals would use to engage individuals who are coping with change and to help guide individuals to employ their existing skills for adaptation and growth (Roberts & Yeager, 2009). Effective coaching is based on individually set goals and expectations that are developed through a formative process during the course that relies on positive rapport, measurement of performance, and high expectations for achievement in the academic context  (Goodwin & Hubbell, 2013). Transpersonal psychology can be used to help individuals who are suffering to engage pre-existing coping strategies and skills that are motivated through prosocial community engagement in the larger life-context (Osran, Smee, Weinberger & Sreenivisan, 2010). A part of effective counseling and coaching is establishing the utility of the process in the larger life context, and by raising awareness of the relevance of the activity in the larger social milieu. Abraham Maslow (1974), likened the process of greater self actualization to that of being a part of the larger life-context and experience in a way that is benevolent mutually for the individual and the larger community. Effective instruction can rely on the establishment of social relevance for learning and the reflection of achievement in the larger social space, by acting as a conduit between individual class groups and the larger community.  To Top

12. I Help Students Do Something with Their Learning

Establishing the social relevance for skills acquired throughout learning activity helps to connect the learning activity in a meaningful way for students who want to apply the new skills in the larger life-context. Asking students to do something with their learning is a way of helping students to demonstrate mastery of the learning (Goodwin & Hubbell, 2013). Attribution theory relies on the personal value of achieved goals to describe motivation (Weiner, 2010). Transpersonal theory facilitates greater self-actualization through the social recognition of achievement and engagement in the larger social space as demonstrated in Maslow’s later works (Koltko-Rivera, 2006). Social capital is a shared group resource for effecting change in the larger social context that is developed through shared experience and learning (Loeb, 2010). Students who have completed a lot of coursework together as a community can effectively engage the larger community with social capital that is developed through shared experience. Asking students to do something with their learning can effectively demonstrate the prosocial nature of instruction as measurable by the presence of the learning community in terms of engagement with the larger surrounding community.  To Top



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