According to the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics, “A single mathematics education leader can have an incredible impact on the development and effectiveness of others. Leaders in mathematics education at all levels of the school or district organization are crucial for ensuring attainment of high-quality school mathematics programs”. In support of this vision, MSERC provides a monthly forum for math specialists to reflect on their work, their successes, and their challenges and to talk as a professional community about research based efforts to improve the teaching and learning of mathematics. In discussing their work math specialists often express the concern that, despite their best efforts, classroom teachers are still unsure or unable to implement the changes that benefit student learners. For example one of the math specialists observed that, “even though teachers are teaching from the same curriculum, attending the same professional development, and looking at data with their colleagues in the same PLCs, when it comes to teaching the lesson there is a wide variety in the quality of the lesson that is actually taught”.
During this school year MSERC is taking steps to address this concern. Our group of approximately 35 specialists from school districts throughout the state has been dubbed the Mathematics Instructional Specialists Team (MIST). Each of our monthly meetings is organized around learning the process skills and habits of mind of “collaborative coaching” as a means for inspiring and moving teaching and learning conversations forward. Our meetings focus on: a) helping teachers design and implement lessons from which students will learn, and b) encouraging teachers and specialists to communicate with each other in a focused and professional manner.
In November each of the MIST participants shared their observations from effective classrooms. Then, using written and video resources, we practiced strategies for recording and interpreting the progress of a lesson using clear and descriptive language. We discussed ways in which our language and our use of questioning can be used to open doors for honest communication with teachers. Between now and the next meeting, each participant will do another observation and will write a draft set of notes to form the basis for further conversation. We also watched video from Content-Focused Coaching: Transforming Mathematics Lessons (West & Staub, 2003), paying careful attention to the ways in which Lucy West, master coach, questioned teachers’ understanding of the mathematical goals of the lesson, and addressed teachers’ underlying beliefs about learning expectations for their students.
The next meeting of MIST is scheduled for Friday, December 7th, 8:30 AM- 3:30 PM at Wilmington University.