Teachers Teaching Teachers in Mathematics
This month we highlight PDCE’s partnership with William Penn High School in the Colonial School District. Using a professional development (PD) model called “Teachers Teaching Teachers,” PDCE collaborated with their mathematics department to provide in-class and departmental support for teachers in regular and special education classrooms.
At the start of the school year, Crystal Lancour, supervisor of curriculum and instruction, K-12 mathematics, met with Faith Muirhead, associate director for mathematics at PDCE, to discuss the teaching and learning needs at the high school.
Based on Lancour’s goals and vision for the department, Muirhead helped her create observable classroom practices to improve outcomes for both teachers and students.
Lancour also aspired to fostering a more collaborative culture among the mathematics faculty. She wanted her teachers to move beyond the practice of teaching in isolation, and develop a community of practice in which teachers shared ideas, successes and struggles. She felt that building a strong sense of community and fostering a sense of belonging between novice and veteran teachers was essential for their professional growth.
Having set this construct, Muirhead and Lancour met with the math department to identify the most pressing issues and obstacles to student learning. As a group, they built a shared vision of what mathematics teaching and learning could look like at WPHS. Once they agreed upon the changes they believed would make the greatest impact on student learning, the department decided on three major foci for their professional learning:
- enhancing classroom discussions and working to ensure students maintained ownership of their ideas;
- strengthening students’ perseverance and problem-solving;
- building procedural fluency by developing secondary math talks and routines.
Next Muirhead and Lancour began working one-on-one with the math teachers in their classroom. Through interactive coaching they would:
- Work with teachers to create plans
- observe and debrief
- provide on-the-spot coaching as new strategies were introduced
- implement a co-teaching model followed by immediate debrief
To measure effectiveness, classroom practices were videotaped, students’ work was analyzed and classroom activities evaluated.
Teachers were then invited to present aspects of their practice during the department and PD meetings. The cornerstone of Teacher Teaching Teachers model is encouraging teachers to bring their own successes and challenges to the sessions and present their classroom practice for discussion and feedback.
Lancour found this this model to provide appreciable results: “All our teachers are growing professionally—whether in their first or 20th year of teaching. Teachers Teaching Teachers is relevant and real for our mathematics department because we can share our progress, struggles, and successes around the goals we set. Our teachers encourage one other to try different strategies, purposefully building different learning strategies into their lessons. We have redesigned our department meetings to structure time for teachers’ to present and share, PLC time to plan for implementation, and then time for new learning.”
Feedback from the teachers has also been very positive Following one of the PD sessions a teacher wrote, “Hearing what other teachers do in their classrooms, what they get from students, and their reactions to both is a VERY refreshing and educating experience. ”
PDCE held a full-day professional development program, open to teachers from other Colonial School District schools. The PD, in large part, was presented by and for teachers. One attendee wrote, “I particularly enjoy how they [teachers] have shared their plans, their lessons, and their reactions. I find it refreshing that they are open to feedback from other teachers.”
The presenters also reported the experience as positive, “As a new teacher, I feel like the rest of the department has so much more experience that I do, so I love hearing their perspectives and feedback about my work. It helps me know that I am on the right track and gives me the push I need to keep working to improve.”
One teacher who has been a fixture at WPHS for many years said, “These are some of the most powerful conversations I have had as a math teacher!”
Muirhead presented this related webinar Teachers Teaching Teachers with teachers of grades 3-11 from across Delaware (6 different school districts!) sharing ideas and strategies about how to engage students, keep students engaged, and how they handle situations when students disengage in the classroom!