Source: Journal of Teacher Education, Volume 60 Number 1, January/February 2009. p. 38-51
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
The paper describes the theoretical framework, research base, structure, and content of a video-based professional development program. This program was implemented during 2 consecutive years with sixth-grade mathematics teachers from five low-performing schools.
Specifically, this article reports on challenges that particular groups of teachers, such as those working in low-performing schools, may face.
Sixth-grade teachers from five low-performing Title 1 (i.e., having a poverty rate of 50% or higher), inner-city middle schools participated in the professional development program.
Two of the schools followed a regular September to June calendar. The remaining schools followed a year-round calendar, with three or four groups of students rotating throughout the calendar year. All five schools were very large in size, accommodating on average 2,270 students in grades 6 through 8. Each school included approximately 20 sixth-grade classes, and most sixth-grade teachers taught mathematics and another subject matter (usually science) to three groups of students. The student population was predominantly Hispanic (from 62% to 95%) and Black (from 18% to 38%). Between 30% and 47% of the students at each school were English-language learners. Student mathematics achievement at these schools, as measured by standardized tests, was among the lowest in the state, with only 6.2% of students on average reaching a proficient level.
The program was implemented for 2 consecutive years and was made mandatory by the district. During the 1st year, a randomly selected half of all sixth-grade teachers at these five schools attended the professional development. The remaining teachers were included in a
no-treatment control group. During the second year, all teachers participated in the program.
The data presented in this article are based on the experience of 33 teachers who participated during the 1st year.
First, difficulties teachers encountered in responding to video-based prompts during the 1st year are summarized. Problematic questions deal with teachers’ (a) basic understanding of target mathematics topics, (b) knowledge of their students’ understanding, and (c) ability to analyze students’ work and reasoning beyond classification into right and wrong answers. Changes that were made to the program to address teachers’ needs in the 2nd year are then described. These are structured around three principles for designing video-based professional development: (a) attending to content-specific understanding, (b) scaffolding analysis of student thinking, and (c) modeling a discourse of inquiry and reflection on the teaching and learning process.