- Year 2022
- NSF Noyce Award # 1950064
- First Name Susan
- Last Name Swars Auslander
- Discipline Mathematics
Susan Swars Auslander & Kayla Myers, Georgia State University; Lilly Houston & Johanna Disney, Gwinnett County Public Schools
Given the notable variability of EMS preparation programs across the USA (EMS and Teacher Leader Project, 2022), there has been a call for “developing a knowledge base for the preparation of EMSs”, including how “elements of an EMS program are necessary for productive outcomes” (Reyes et al., 2017, p. 231). Further, EMSs’ ways of working are highly varied, driven by context and need, providing a warrant for studying the differing roles and responsibilities they assume. In particular, teacher leadership, including coaching and associated practices, have not been widely studied (Yopp et al., 2019). Accordingly, this inquiry focused on how EMSs in a preparation program are engaging in and navigating teacher leadership, including coaching. Across the 5 years of the project, the participants’ primary responsibility is teaching students, thus they are a distinctive population as informal teacher leaders. Further, they are largely teachers of color, working in urban schools that serve students historically marginalized in mathematics. At the time of this study, they had completed Year 1 of the project and were developing their understandings and capabilities as teacher leaders.
These research questions/sub-questions guided the inquiry: (1) How are the EMSs providing teacher leadership, including self-reported coaching practices?; (a) In what ways has participation in the project influenced the emphases of these efforts?; and (b) How are they navigating constraints related to these efforts?
This study used mixed methods, specifically a convergent parallel design, meaning that quantitative and qualitative data were collected concurrently, given equal priority, and integrated during the interpretation phase (Creswell, 2014). The inquiry occurred during the COVID-19 health pandemic, and the researchers were mindful of this throughout. Data were collected at the end of Year 1 via: a survey of coaching practices (Coaching Practices Survey [CPS], Yopp et al., 2019); a Teacher Leader Record (TLR) documenting the content, duration, frequency, and outcome of their teacher leader activities across the year; and individual and focus group interviews.
Findings illuminate the ways in which the EMSs are engaging and practicing agency in teacher leadership, especially coaching, and how the project influenced the content and practices of these efforts. The analysis of the TLR shows all EMSs provided teacher leadership in a number of ways, with each participant reporting 3-6 distinct teacher leader activities, dependent upon the scope and scale of each activity. For example, each participant coached a teacher candidate, serving as a classroom mentor teacher and/or university coach, with a total of 27 teacher candidates impacted. The analysis of the TLR also shows that over one-third (n=10) of the EMSs supported a non-profit’s after-school tutoring program, largely focusing on curriculum revisions and supplements. Ten formally mentored new teachers at their schools, in addition to coaching a teacher candidate. Other teacher leader activities focused on outreach to parents and families. Based on these findings from the TLR, the participants were engaged in coaching in several ways, and a descriptive analysis of data from the CPS provides insights into their mathematics coaching practices. They practiced agency in this work as teacher leaders by navigating constraints through: focusing on incremental changes; developing collegial, trusting relationships with peers; and leaning into the network of teacher support in the project.
Given the notable variability of EMS preparation programs and of the roles and responsibilities these professionals assume, more research is needed on differing program models and EMSs highly varied ways of working. These findings will provide important data for program improvement and replication that are essential in scaling-up the use of these professionals. Our project provides an example of an EMS preparation program guided by standards and research (AMTE 2013; 2017). It aims to take up powerful vehicles for supporting EMSs’ agency through meaningful, intentional, and sustained professional learning experiences (NCTM, 2020) and a community of support through a teacher network (Bartell et al., 2019), where they can explore, grapple with, and seek to address tensions in their work (Reagan et al., 2016). This study’s findings illuminate the important outcome of teacher leadership. The CPS data show mathematics coaching practices that they were and were not using, providing considerations for how they can better communicate and collaborate in their coaching with school administration. The findings of the TLR provide insights into their teacher leader efforts, as they are serving as a more knowledgeable other through their support of various stakeholders, including fellow teachers, novice teachers, teacher candidates, students, parents and families, and community partners.