- Year 2023
- NSF Noyce Award # 1950064
- First Name Susan
- Last Name Swars Auslander
- Discipline Mathematics
Carla Tanguay, Alexandra Smirnova
Susan Swars Auslander, Georgia State University; Trina Ashadele and Stephanie Aseltine, Gwinnett County Public Schools
While there has been much interest in Elementary Mathematics Specialists (EMSs) and establishment of preparation programs, the extant literature offers relatively limited research on their preparation. Further, while standards and recommendations for EMS preparation programs exist, the actualization of these programs across states yields differing models of implementation that have variable goals. Understanding how these models reflect exemplary elements, while being responsive to local context and need, is critical. There is a need for study of rigorous EMS preparation programs, so the field can develop a professional knowledge base on what makes a difference in EMSs’ preparation in order to guide program development, improvement, and scale-up. This project provides an example of a preparation program guided by standards and research, with findings illuminating how the experiences supported participants’ development as EMSs in urban school contexts, contributing to the knowledge base on EMS preparation and confirming and extending the extant research literature. It is also important to note that this project intentionally supports EMSs who are from underrepresented populations and working in schools that serve students who have been historically marginalized and underserved in mathematics education. The school sites serve 91% students of color and selection criteria for the project ensured the EMSs are a diverse group, with 70% identifying as non-White. This is significant as increasing research shows students of color benefit from having teachers of color (Carver-Thomas, 2018; Egalite & Kisida, 2018; Yarnell & Bohrnstedt, 2018). Equity and access within mathematics education are through-threads of this project. Within this context, continued research across the 5 years of the project provides a unique and exciting opportunity to follow the trajectory of the EMSs in their development as agentic advocates for effective and equitable mathematics instruction.
This poster will share data collected and analyzed from the first 2 years of a 5-year professional development project aimed at developing Elementary Mathematics Specialists (EMSs). These research questions guided the inquiry: (1) To what extent did the project support changes in the EMSs’ mathematics coaching effectiveness beliefs, coaching practices, specialized content knowledge, and instructional practices?, and (2) What are the teacher leader responsibilities of the EMSs and the associated navigations and opportunities in this work?
This study used mixed methods, specifically an explanatory sequential design, meaning that quantitative data were collected followed by qualitative data, with both types of data given equal priority and integrated during the interpretation phase (Creswell, 2014).Across the first 2 years of the project, quantitative data were collected from all participants via surveys of mathematics coaching effectiveness beliefs (Coaching Skills Inventory [CSI]) and coaching practices (Coaching Practices Survey [CPS]), an assessment of specialized content knowledge (Learning Mathematics for Teaching [LMT]), and an observation protocol of classroom instruction (Standards-Based Learning Environment Observation Protocol [SBLEOP]). Baseline CSI, LMT, and SBLEOP data were collected at the beginning of the project. Post data were gathered via the: CSI at the end of Year 1 and of Year 2; LMT by subscale at the conclusion of the related content course; and SBLEOP at the end of Year 2. The CPS was administered at the end of Year 1 and of Year 2. All participants also completed a Teacher Leader Record (TLR) at the end of Year 1 and of Year 2, documenting various aspects of their teacher leader activities across that year. Qualitative data were gathered through individual interviews of eight randomly selected participants at the end of Year 2, as well as three focus group interviews of those who did not participate in the individual interviews. The survey and assessment data were analyzed using descriptive and inferential statistics, and the interview data were analyzed using constant comparative analysis.
Beliefs about Coaching Effectiveness: The Coaching Skills Inventory (CSI) (Yopp et al., 2019) measures MTFs’ beliefs about their own level of effectiveness with various coaching responsibilities. Findings from this survey indicate positive changes in beliefs across the first 2 years of the program. A repeated measures ANOVA determined that mean CSI scores differ significantly across Pre- and Post-Year 1 and Year 2 data (F(1.642, 42.687) = 63.88, p < 0.001) with a large effect size (d = 0.711). Coaching Practices: The Coaching Practices Survey (CPS) (Yopp et al., 2019) provides insights into MTFs’ use of certain mathematics coaching practices drawn from coaching models in the extant literature. Analyses of these data suggest positive shifts in practices from the end of the first year to the end of the second year (Pre-data were not collected). A paired sample t-test reveals a significant difference between Post-Year 1 and Post-Year 2 data t25 = 4.53, p <.001 with a large effect size (d = 0.89). Content Knowledge: The Learning Mathematics for Teaching Instrument (LMT) (Hill et al., 2004) assesses MTFs’ specialized content knowledge for teaching elementary mathematics. A paired sample t-test reveals a statistically significant increase between Pre- and Post-scores for all subscales: (a) algebra with t25 = -4.04, p < 0.001; (b) geometry with t25 = -3.01, p = 0.01; and (c) numbers and operations subscale, t25 = -2.47, p = 0.02. The algebra subscale had a large effect size (d = -.79), while geometry (d = -0.59) and numbers & operations (d = -0.48) had medium effect sizes. Likewise, a paired sample t-test of overall scores demonstrates a significant increase in the number of correct items between Pre and Post administrations, t25 = -4.62, p < 0.001. Overall, MTFs demonstrated significant, positive gains in their specialized content knowledge during the first 2 years of the program. Instructional Practices: The Standards-based Learning Environment Observation Protocol (SBLEOP) documents the degree to which the MTF facilitates, and the students experience, a SBLE (Tarr, et al., 2008). At Post-Year 2, 92% of MTFs implemented SBLEs at a high level with 8% doing so at a medium level. This is in comparison to performance at the inception of the project, when 7% implemented SLBEs at a high level, 30% did so at a medium level, and 63% did so at a low level. A comparison between Pre and Post instructional practices using a paired sample t-test reveals a statistically significant increase in scores (t25 = -13.596, p < 0.001). Teacher Leadership: Analysis of the Teacher Leader Record (TLR) shows all MTFs provided teacher leadership in a number of ways, with each reporting 3-6 distinct teacher leader activities, dependent upon the scope and scale of each activity. Each MTF coached a teacher candidate, serving as a classroom mentor teacher and/or university coach, with a total of 26 teacher candidates impacted during Year 2. The most frequent activities reported across Year 2 (with percentage reporting) include: leading mathematics-focused professional development for teachers (35%), supporting the non-profit’s after-school tutoring program largely with mathematics curriculum revisions (35%), mentoring novice teachers at their school sites (31%), facilitating Math or STEM community events for students and families/caregivers (31%), and creating mathematics-focused resources for parents, students, and/or teachers (31%). While the fore-mentioned categories were the most frequently reported, MTFs engaged in a number of other mathematics-focused activities such as co-presenting at national conferences and serving on leadership teams within the school district.
Twenty-six Master Teaching Fellows (MTFs) are being supported as Elementary Mathematics Specialists (EMSs) in high-need, urban schools that serve underrepresented student populations. Seventy percent of MTFs are teachers of color. Across the 5 years of the project, these MTFs should positively influence their approximately 7,500 elementary students’ learning of mathematics and also lead instructional change and support systemic improvements in mathematics education. Further, this project and associated research findings add to the knowledge base about EMS preparation, particularly for those in urban contexts serving diverse student populations. While there has been much interest in EMSs and establishment of preparation programs, the extant literature offers relatively limited research on their preparation. And, while standards and recommendations for EMS preparation programs exist, the actualization of these programs across states yields differing models of implementation that have variable goals. Understanding how these models reflect exemplary elements, while being responsive to local context and need, is critical. There is a need for study of rigorous EMS preparation programs, so the field can develop a professional knowledge base on what makes a difference in EMSs’ preparation in order to guide program development, improvement, and scale-up. This project provides an example of a preparation program guided by standards and research, with findings illuminating how the experiences supported participants’ development as EMSs in urban school contexts as well as confirming and extending the extant research literature.