Monday / April 22

The Importance of Will and Judgment in Teacher Professional Development 

There has been much debate in recent years on what constitutes teacher professionalization and how to develop and foster it. Zierer, Lachner, Tögel, and Weckend, in their paper “Teacher Mindframes from an Educational Science Perspective,” propose that the effectiveness of teachers should not be based on a professional’s knowledge and ability alone.  

More than Just Subject Matter Knowledge 

Just because a teacher may know a lot about his or her subject does not mean he or she is effective in passing on that understanding to learners. As Hattie’s meta-analysis (2009) pointed out, teacher subject matter knowledge has a very small effect size of 0.10. (A high effect size is considered to be in the range of 0.4 to 1.0.) 

So, teachers need more than just subject matter knowledge. John Hattie (2009), for example, recognizes the role passion and enthusiasm play in learning. Subject matter knowledge by itself does not lead to an increase in academic achievement. According to the authors, subject knowledge needs to be accompanied by 

  • Didactic competence: the ability to illustrate content and explain things well, to point out the most important aspects, and to arrange information in ways that are accessible and helpful for the learner; and 
  • Pedagogical competence: the ability to form relationships with students and to create an atmosphere of security, confidence, and trust with and for the learner.  

The authors argue that pedagogical and didactic competence should be linked, and that subject matter knowledge, although important, needs to operate in combination with pedagogical and didactic competence. 

More than Just Competence 

Zierer, Lachner, Tögel and Weckend also believe that it is not just the triad of competence (subject matter knowledge, pedagogical and didactic competence) that makes teachers effective. It is the interdependence between knowledge and will. This appears to be forgotten in teacher education, the authors argue. Educational professionalism should include, in addition to ability and knowledge (competence), will and judgment (attitudes). As such, the authors propose a way to consider educational expertise through the ACAC model: attitude, competence, action, context. Attitude, competence, action, and context are all essential to educational expertise. 

Re-conceptualizing Educational Expertise 

The authors point out that simply viewing knowledge and ability as the necessary components of educational expertise reduces what it fully means to be a teacher. Focusing only on knowledge and ability do not account for what Hattie emphasizes in recognizing the importance of passion and enthusiasm and their place in the 10 Mindframes. What the 10 Mindframes highlight is that “it is oftentimes not so important what (knowledge and ability) teachers do in pedagogical contexts, but rather how (will) and why (judgment) they do something” (2018).  

The 10 Mindframes (Hattie & Zierer, 2018) 

  1. I focus on learning and the language of learning; 
  2. I strive for challenge and not merely “doing your best”; 
  3. I recognize that learning is hard work; 
  4. I built relationships and trust so that learning can occur in a place where it is safe to make mistakes and learn from others; 
  5. I engage as much in dialogue as monologue; 
  6. I inform all about the language of learning; 
  7. I am a change agent and believe that all students can improve; 
  8. I give and help students to understand feedback and I interpret and act on feedback given to me; 
  9. I see assessment as informing my impact and next steps; 
  10. I collaborate with other teachers. 

Zierer, Lachner, Tögel and Weckend arrive at the importance of will and judgment by applying Ken Wilber’s quadrant model. (Wilber is currently recognized as being one of the world’s most frequently translated thinkers.) Wilber states that complex phenomena may be observed from different perspectives, and each and every perspective is important on its own. “In considering a complex phenomenon with reference to the quadrant model, it becomes evident that one must differentiate between at least four different perspectives,” with each perspective being important (2018). The corollary: arguing from a single perspective is problematic – to focus on one perspective (as earlier studies that show the correlation between teacher content knowledge and student achievement have done) is to oversimplify the phenomenon and “necessarily leads to incorrect assumptions and fallacies” (2018). 

Taking teacher professionalism then as a complex phenomenon, and using Wilber’s quadrant model to conceptualize it, the authors understand educational expertise as comprised of teacher’s ability (intersubjective), knowledge (objective), will (subjective) and judgment (intersubjective). All four of these modes interact with each other and form a basis for looking at educational expertise. 

Figure 1: Wilber quadrant model applied to educational expertise.

This further directs the researchers to examine the concept of attitudes (or more specifically, pedagogical attitudes) itself as a complex phenomenon, and therefore see the different forms of will and judgment, which also include the subjective and objective, the individual and the collective, and the interior and exterior. “Each of these forms of will and judgment can have an impact on people’s thoughts and actions, and thus, also on particular attitudes on which people think and do in certain contexts. These attitudes and competences are always interdependent, together making up educational expertise in the form of mindframes” (2018). 

The authors acknowledge that, while the research on competences (knowledge and ability) is extensive, much more research is needed on attitudes and the relationships between competencies and attitudes. In addition, teacher education should not be limited just to fostering knowledge and ability, but also focus on will and judgment. 

Note: This blog is based on a summary of Zierer, Lachner, Tögel, and Weckend’s paper “Teacher Mindframes from an Educational Science Perspective” which was first published in Education Science, 2018, 8, 209. The complete article can be found at  


Hattie, J. (2009). Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement. Routledge, New York, NY. 

Hattie, J.; Zierer, K. (2018). 10 Mindframes for Visible Learning. Teaching for Success. Routledge: New York. 

Zierer, K.; Lachner, C.; Tögel, J.; Weckend, D. (2018). Teacher Mindframes from an Educational Science Perspective. Educ. Sci. 8, 209. 

Visible Learning books

Written by

Brian Weishar, Sue Bryen, and Jenni Donohoo are co-authors of “Implementing High-Leverage Influences from the Visible Learning Synthesis: Six Supporting Conditions.”

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