A Successful Professional Development Model in Mathematics- A System-Wide New Zealand Case

Jun. 02, 2009

Source: Journal of Teacher Education, Volume 60 Number 3. p. 231-242. (May/June 2009)
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The article illustrates the aspects of powerful professional learning through three pedagogical tools that emerged from a content analysis of a large data set of the Numeracy Development Project. The design and implementation of the professional development model of the New Zealand Numeracy Development Project has been successful in improving teacher knowledge and practice as well as raising student outcomes.

Scale of the Project

Since 2000, more than 25,000 teachers (including approximately 750 Māori medium teachers) and 690,000 students in English-medium and Māori-medium (indigenous) settings have been involved in the project. The initial phase in elementary schools has been operating for 8 years and is near completion. About 95% of elementary schools have participated or are currently involved in this phase. University Colleges of Education preservice teacher educators have also taken part in the project through incorporating ideas and materials from the project into their teacher preparation mathematics education courses.

A content analysis across a large data set from evaluations conducted during the first four years of the project, identified three pedagogical tools that participants describe as improving their mathematics knowledge and practice. The first pedagogical tool is number framework which describes part-whole thinking as the splitting and joining of numbers in increasingly sophisticated ways. The second pedagogical tool is the diagnostic interview, which has been designed to support teachers’ development in identifying students’ knowledge and strategies. This tool has also been designed to use the evidence as the basis for planning students’ next learning sequence. The third pedagogical tool is the strategy teaching model designed to promote the explicit teaching of problem-solving strategies alongside the knowledge base as described in the number framework.

Evaluating the Effectiveness of the Project

The approach adopted to the gathering of evidence has been multimethodological and iterative with a focus on (a) student achievement, (b) the professional practice of teachers and in-service teacher educators (facilitators), and (c) sustainability.

Quantitative evidence of student achievement is gathered by individual teachers using the diagnostic interview at the beginning and end of their participation in the professional development program.
Qualitative methods have involved the use of unstructured questionnaires and interviews with teachers, principals, and facilitators; case studies of classroom, school, and facilitation practice; and observation of, and interviews with, students.

The article argues that the power of the professional development model lies in the integration of the three pedagogical tools ensuring that professional learning focuses on the core ideas of the project within the context of the teacher's classroom. This focus has enabled teachers to deepen their professional knowledge, change their instructional practice and improve their responsiveness to students' diverse learning needs.

Updated: Sep. 16, 2009