Teachers in higher education are traditionally evaluated in three areas of activity: research, teaching, and service. Major research institutions such as the University of Pennsylvania often emphasize original scholarly contributions (research) as primary, while others, such as community colleges, will consider teaching paramount. Service is understood as contributions to the functioning of the institution, such as serving on departmental committees or managing extracurricular activities for students. These three basic areas can be considered core competencies necessary for educators, particularly in higher education.

Research

Simply put, a teacher must know about what he or she is teaching. In higher education, a professor is expected to be current with recently published research and contributing in scholarly publications. In K-12 settings, a teacher is not required to make original contributions, but must be aware of current information regarding their subject appropriate to the educational level of his or her students (for example, changes in world politics may alter world geography and as a result, a teacher's geography lessons). This typically includes ongoing training (Continuing Educational Units), often demanded by state authorities to maintain a teaching license.

Teaching

No matter the discipline, a teacher must learn basic pedagogic skills. Unfortunately, there is little relationship between brilliant scholarship and effective teaching. Instructors at all levels must develop age- and subject-appropriate teaching styles to fulfill this crucial requirement. Teaching is in many ways a performance art, and an educator must constantly refine his or her presentation style (for example, lecture, small group discussion, or field trips) in order to reach the audience of students.

Service

Educational institutions are maintained through cooperative activity in which educators participate in the organizational life of the school beyond the library, laboratory, or classroom. Educators are expected to contribute to developing academic and extracurricular student life by serving on committees, supervising athletics and other extracurricular activities, and holding other posts.