Anchor Competencies Framework

CRTWC’s Anchor Competencies Framework provides the first ever framework to combine a focus on adult social-emotional competencies and culturally responsive and sustaining competencies and teaching practices. The goals of the Framework are to:

    • bring together social and emotional competencies with culturally responsive teaching practices;
    • provide a safe and brave environment for educators to examine their own assumptions, beliefs, and biases and how those can influence the student information they choose to look at, and how they interpret and respond to student behavior;
    • impact the way TK-12 children are educated by changing the way teachers learn to teach;
    • develop teachers who are agents of change; and
    • establish a common language and roadmap for significant educational change.

The Framework provides a systemic approach to adult and student SEL, addressing the contexts in which we live, the assumptions and beliefs both students and educators bring to the classroom, and how these multiple contexts impact teaching and learning. Rather than providing another add-on program, the Framework highlights competencies that are foundational to academic achievement and one’s ability to thrive – shaping how educators see and understand what unfolds in their classrooms.

We have identified seven anchor competencies that are foundational to an equitable education that enables all students to achieve and educators and students to flourish. The Anchor Competencies reflect attention to both social-emotional and culturally responsive/sustaining teaching practices. These competencies are guided by our goals and are influenced by contextual considerations. These competencies are then enacted through a series of implementation processes, teacher moves, and specific teacher strategies. Together, these pieces of the framework can guide the development of a new ‘lens’ for teaching the whole child.

Click on the different elements of the Framework below to learn more.

Our Framework
Goals Context Developing the Lens Anchor Competencies Examples of Teacher Moves **Build trusting relationships Foster self-reflection Foster growth mindset Cultivate perseverance Create community Promote collaborative learning Respond constructively across differences


The framework serves as a roadmap toward meeting the goals listed at its center. The goal of equity in teaching and learning supports diverse students by reducing the opportunity gap so all students can achieve and thrive. This exploration includes continuous reflection on how teacher assumptions and beliefs impact the teaching and learning process. The use of a social, emotional, and cultural lens is also intended to support all learners in building resilience and a sense of optimism, as well as achieving academic success by building their intellectual capacity to become independent learners. The goal of taking responsibility for the greater good encourages student agency and voice to see beyond the classroom in order to recognize and actively respond to the needs of the community.

The CRTWC Anchor Competencies Framework is grounded in SEL research and the work of culturally responsive and sustaining theorists and practitioners. It weaves together the knowledge base for these two areas to meet the needs of diverse groups of learners and their educators. The Framework places context at the center and calls for teachers to understand how race, ethnicity, class, gender, and language influence classroom interactions and student learning, and to comprehend the ways in which these variables affect student aspirations and academic engagement.


The “Context” circle focuses on the importance of systemic factors in developing and using the social, emotional, and cultural lens. This ring, near the center of the framework, draws attention to context as core to providing opportunities for students so that they can achieve and thrive. In keeping with our focus on bringing culturally responsive teaching practices into social and emotional skill development, we specify the contexts that must be taken into account in very explicit ways - individual/family, community, cultural, and socio-political. And importantly, we must attend to the contexts that both teachers and students bring to the school setting.

Developing the Lens

Developing the Social, Emotional, and Cultural Lens is best thought of as an iterative process that needs to be embedded into teacher preparation and new teacher support. Educators both in teacher preparation and in the K-12 school setting need to explore assumptions and beliefs they have about  students’ ability to engage and achieve, as well as their own ability to grow and evolve in their teaching. Therefore, teachers must engage in the hard work of recognizing their own values and implicit/explicit biases, and the ways in which these may affect instructional decision-making and responses to student behavior. This work is essential to guiding a positive, supportive response to students. Identifying these assumptions allows both the teacher and students to move beyond previous expectations to achieve academic success and to promote their ability to thrive.

To integrate the Anchor Competencies Framework into teacher preparation, we encourage programs to examine their courses and fieldwork, identifying where instructors attend to each of the anchor competencies and where gaps exist. Teacher educators need to make sure that the competencies are addressed by attending to assumptions and beliefs, providing modeling, and engaging candidates in many opportunities for practice and reflection. Furthermore, when it comes to new teacher supports, school and district leaders, mentor and cooperating teachers, and teacher coaches can begin to examine their approaches to mentoring and coaching early career teachers, paying greater attention to the social, emotional, and cultural competencies that they are developing in the transition to teaching.

Anchor Competencies

The seven anchor competencies bring together social-emotional learning and culturally responsive and sustaining teaching practices. Introduction to the anchors should start at the beginning of the teacher education program, and then continue to be integrated into the overarching teacher credentialing curriculum and various learning environments throughout the program. None of the seven anchors is intended to stand alone. For example, we would expect to see a teacher building trusting relationships and fostering self-reflection at the same time that they are teaching collaborative learning skills. This need for attention to more than one anchor at a given moment or in any particular lesson is the very reason we focus on cultivating a social, emotional, and cultural lens rather than offering a discrete program.

Examples of Teacher Moves

In the Framework we intentionally provide examples of Teacher Moves that bring together SEL and culturally responsive and sustaining practices in the implementation of the anchor competencies. Please note that we chose the particular teacher moves to illustrate the integration of the SEL skills with culturally responsive and sustaining practices.

**Build trusting relationships

Teachers need to give explicit and ongoing attention to building teacher-student, student-student, teacher -parent relationships, as this is foundational to all other social and cognitive interactions. They need to look for, and be open to opportunities to engage with students, getting to know them as people, both in and outside of their classrooms. It is imperative to learn about student cultural backgrounds for both short-term and long-term instructional planning purposes, and to understand the origin of behaviors that may impact classroom learning. Understanding the context that both students and teachers bring to school, and the consequent assumptions and beliefs they all have, is essential to developing trusting relationships between the teacher and students, and among the students.

From a social, emotional, and cultural perspective, sample teacher moves for this anchor include: develop rapport, engage families, practice reciprocal vulnerability and employ trauma informed practices. For example, Instead of seeing trauma-informed practices as yet another set of strategies a teacher must attend to, we include them within the larger goal of building trusting relationships.

Foster self-reflection

Self-reflection is an essential step in building teacher and student resilience, and greater teacher and student competence. Research shows that toxic stress in students impairs attention, emotion and mood regulation, sleep, and learning readiness. In educators, toxic stress starts as decreased productivity and creativity, escalates into more serious symptoms such as frequent anxiety, dissociation, frustration, and eventually results in burnout.

Teachers who promote reflective classrooms also ensure that students are fully engaged in the process of making meaning. They organize instruction so that students are producers, not just consumers of knowledge. The teacher helps each student monitor individual progress, construct meaning from the content learned and from the process of learning it, and apply the learnings to other contexts and settings (Costa & Kallick, 2008).

Self-reflection includes teachers and students being able to take a step back, identify when they are in their zone of proximal development and when new learning needs to be broken down into more manageable steps. Thus, both teachers and students need strategies (such as mindfulness practices) to become more self-reflective, enabling them to recognize symptoms of stress and learn how to respond healthfully (Mindful Schools).

Foster growth mindset

Students who embrace growth mindsets—the belief that they can learn more and become smarter if they work hard and persevere - will view challenges and failures as opportunities to improve their learning. A growth mindset isn’t just about effort. Students need to try new strategies and seek input from others when they’re stuck. They need this repertoire of approaches—not just sheer effort—to learn and improve (Dweck, 2015).

It has become common to focus on helping students assume that if they try hard enough to learn something, they will succeed. What is often not taken into account is the context that students bring to school -  the messages they hear at home, in the community and in the society at large. The teacher needs to understand the narratives or beliefs that students have about themselves that may arise from dominant narratives, and be able to articulate affirming counter-narratives that provide students with a different and more positive internal message (an example of “Shifting to positive self-talk”). With this revised internal narrative, students are much more likely to persevere with difficult tasks.

Cultivate perseverance

Perseverance is defined as “continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition”  (Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 2019). This mental activity takes place when students are in their zone of proximal development (ZPD).  Perseverance is developed when teachers make the connection between effort (sticking with it) and achievement (Fani & Ghaemi, 2011).

Student agency refers to the level of autonomy, efficacy and empowerment a student experiences in an educational situation.  Empowered students want to learn and believe that they can. They take responsibility for their learning by setting goals, monitoring progress, working to overcome challenges, and developing competence and confidence. When students act on their sense of agency, they are more likely to engage as active learners in the classroom and in their daily lives. Explicit attention to agency is particularly important for students of color who are often more likely to feel disenfranchised from school and who may have received messages that they do not belong or have what it takes to succeed in an academic environment (Sulkowski, Demaray, & Lazarus, 2012).  It is important for teachers to remember that their students have the psychological need to be competent (Watson, 2018).

Create community

Creating community requires a multifaceted approach that involves developing many of the other anchor competencies, as well as addressing the teacher moves identified for this anchor. According to Marilyn Watson (2018), who has written extensively on attachment theory, a supportive classroom community builds students’ sense of belonging, promotes shared goals and values, and fosters learning. And to do this requires, first and foremost, the building of mutual trust.

Additionally, diversity experts emphasize the importance of creating classroom communities where the teacher focuses attention on the group as a support for learning, and cooperation over competition. They also note the importance of establishing classroom rituals and ceremonies as well as group processing structures that promote all students being heard.

Promote collaborative learning

Collaborative learning refers to instructional strategies that require students to work together toward a collective goal as well as demonstrate individual accountability. Students actively work with their peers on skills development and content in meaningful ways. This focus on group interdependence, harmony, group leadership as well as individual accountability helps students learn to work together and support one another’s academic success and ability to thrive.

Respond constructively across differences

The Anchor Competencies Framework serves as a guide, supporting the teacher to shift from punitive, confrontational discipline to understanding the need to build students’ ability to make amends and learn how to be sensitive to, and respond to micro-agressions that can disrupt the learning process and sense of safety in the classroom.

Attending to each of the six other anchor competencies supports the ability of both teachers and students to respond constructively across differences, especially when the teacher and students bring different cultural frames of reference and communication styles to their interactions.

Watch the video below to take a deeper dive into the Framework:

Play Video

Practice: Examples of Integrating the Framework Throughout Teacher Preparation


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