Cotsen Welcome

The Cotsen Foundation is dedicated to the development of gifted teachers through our program, the ART of TEACHING.  We have observed over 400 teachers throughout California to identify those we think have the potential to become great.  On this Web site we will share some of what we have learned—both about teaching and about observing teaching.

Click on these links to learn more about:

The Importance of Excellent Teaching

Teaching matters.  Most of us can name one or two teachers who had a profound impact on us, perhaps providing the inspiration to pursue a particular career or academic goal.  Teaching, done well, changes lives.

Despite this intuitive knowledge about teaching’s importance, debates about school reform often overlook how much teaching matters.  In fact, the quality of teaching is the most significant factor in student achievement.  Effective teachers produce high levels of student achievement, and their impact can persist for years. Conversely, students who suffer years of poor instruction may never recover the knowledge lost during that time. Probably the most important thing for a journalist to note when visiting a school, therefore, is the quality of the teaching because good teaching matters.

For more information on the importance of teaching, please see the Resources & Research page.

Our Beliefs About Excellent Teaching

At the Cotsen Foundation we believe that gifted teaching is an art. Artful teaching is the process of engaging students in creating knowledge. This engagement derives from the interaction between teacher, student, and challenging material, leading to excitement, wonder, and curiosity for learning. In other words, artful teachers help students transform into active learners who constantly explore, discover, and grow. The legacy of artful teaching is self-directed learning that continues long after formal schooling has ended.

There is no one recipe for gifted teaching, no one model.  In fact, what constitutes excellent teaching varies depending on the educational context and the needs of the students. Given the variety of instructional approaches and the complexity of the art of teaching, observing teaching can be difficult.  As with any art, however, if you know how to look you will be better able to understand what you are seeing. To this end, we have developed this Web site to help you better observe teaching in the classroom.

For the essential elements of teaching and videos of excellent teaching in action, click here.

Our Goals for this Web Site

The purpose of this Web site is to help education journalists become better observers of teaching, understand the need for excellence in teaching, and know what it takes to help teachers become excellent. Our goal is not to help journalists become experts in teaching. It is to help journalists write or broadcast more, better, and clearer stories on teaching.

We offer you a framework for your observations in classrooms to help you identify effective, high-quality teaching when you see it. We developed this framework based on our experience observing teachers in classrooms and on research on quality teaching.

For more on the framework for observation, including videos of excellent teaching, click here.  For more on education research on quality teaching, see the Resources & Research page.