- Year 2019
- NSF Noyce Award # 1136392
- First Name Sandra
- Last Name Madden
- Discipline Math
Paula Rees, Umass Amherst, firstname.lastname@example.org; Stephen Schneider, Umass Amherst, email@example.com
Sandra Madden, Umass Amherst, firstname.lastname@example.org
Supporting STEM Teaching and Learning through Communities (S2TLC) is a Master Teaching Fellow (MTF)/Teaching Fellow (TF) eight year project working with high need schools in western Massachusetts designed to: 1) provide in-service secondary mathematics and science teachers (MTFs) with professional development in effective inquiry-, place-based, and culturally responsive instructional practices and leadership and mentoring skills; 2) revise and implement an initial licensure teacher program for secondary STEM teachers to support retention in the profession and successful instruction; 3) develop virtual and face-to-face communities of practice to overcome isolation of classroom teachers; 4) develop content courses that integrate the use of cognitive technological tools to facilitate learning. Studying characteristics of lessons in MTF and TFs classrooms has provided data about the extent to which various professional practices are being implemented in classrooms.
Over the eight years of S2TLC, we have been using lesson observations to examine the characteristics of lessons in MTF and TF classrooms and have been noticing what may be limiting behavior related to the enactment of highly ambitious practices by TFs as a function of the MTF’s classroom in which they are placed. During 2017-2018, with a small new cohort of mathematics MTFs and Tfs, we wanted to systematically study characteristics of lessons as they emerged over the course of the intensive placement year. We wondered about the extent to which TFs lesson characteristics would match or possibly exceed those of their MTF.
Throughout the S2TLC project, we have been investigating characteristics of lessons-as-enacted in fellows’ STEM classrooms and will present findings from the evaluation conducted during the 2017-2018 school year. Four closely matched MTF/TF pairs (n=8) classrooms were observed four times during the academic year (32 lesson observations). The study utilized a modified lesson observation protocol from Western Michigan University’s Science and Mathematics Program Improvement (SAMPI, 2003) group to collect data. Trained observers conducted all observations and completed debriefing instruments. Likert scales (1 low – 7 high) were recorded for each of the indicators on the observation instrument. Data were examined by teacher-type, MTF/TF pair, and individually over time.
Several noteworthy findings: Every teacher (100%, n = 8) taught a lesson that scored at least 5 for the Summary Rating: Seven of eight teachers (87.5%) taught at least one lesson that scored a 6, signaling that those teachers were implementing lessons with strong characteristics – an existence proof that they could implement a strong lesson. On average, MTF summary ratings were greater than or equal to TF summary ratings. For non-equal ratings, the difference was no more than – a point, suggesting that TFs’ lessons rated very similarly to those of their MTF. The two relatively highly scoring pairs were classrooms where NSF-funded curricula were being implemented (Connected Mathematics (CMP) and Interactive Mathematics (IMP)). Ratings in these environments tended to be higher and less variable than in classrooms with largely teacher-constructed materials. The highest summary rating for TF observations never exceeded the highest summary rating for MTF ratings in the pair.
These data suggest that TFs lesson characteristics do not exceed average summary ratings of their MTF, thus the quality of lessons of MTFs is exceptionally important to consider. Additionally, high quality instructional materials, like CMP or IMP may be especially important in support of teachers implementing high quality lessons with students. Of course this data set is small, but it seemed to succinctly capture what we have been seeing in our work with pre-service and in-service teachers. Though this result aligns with what we might expect, we were encouraged by the fact that the SAMPI lesson observation instrument could detect this difference. Technology use remains a weakness in mathematics classrooms. Findings from this work are impacting teacher education at Umass Amherst to the extent that lesson observations are influencing intern teacher placements and continued efforts are ongoing to support teachers’ use of technology for teaching and learning mathematics.