Conceptualizing the Work of Leading Mathematical Tasks in Professional Development

Oct. 02, 2009

Source: Journal of Teacher Education, Volume 60 No. 4, 364-379 (September/October 2009).
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

Filling the knowledge gap in the limited research on professional development leaders is an urgent issue if teacher learning is to be improved. The purpose of this article is studying how leaders learn to cultivate mathematically rich professional development environments.
The authors adapted two frameworks from classroom-based research to support leaders’ understanding of facilitation of mathematics professional development (PD): sociomathematical norms and practices for orchestrating productive discussion. In this article, they describe the use of these frameworks in their work and argue for a third framework—the mathematical knowledge for teaching.


Research Questions

The research questions investigated are as follows:
1. How did Researching Mathematics Leader Learning (RMLL )frameworks help leaders make sense of the work of facilitation related to mathematical reasoning in professional development?
2. How did leaders use these frameworks to support the negotiation of mathematical reasoning in professional development?


Seminars developed by the authors were held in two geographically distinct sites: NW and SW. All leaders were volunteers from preexisting groups charged with leading math PD in various contexts with teachers. 24 leaders were from NW and 12 leaders were from SW. The majority of leaders also worked with K-12 students in some capacity during the day. NW leaders were from 10 suburban to rural districts working with teachers across the K-126 spectrum. Two thirds of the leaders had 1 to 3 years of facilitation experience and one third had more than 4 years’ experience as PD leaders. NW leaders concurrently participated in a larger initiative developing participants’ content knowledge and instructional leadership. The SW leaders were from one large urban district. They were mostly elementary focused with more limited experience— ranging from just starting to 5 years of experience facilitating mathematics PD. SW leaders were supporting teachers to enact new curricula and pedagogy.

The authors report here two central findings associated with their research questions. First, leaders responded positively to using the frameworks as tools for learning to lead mathematically rich discussions. Second, leaders recognized the importance of having a purpose when facilitating mathematical tasks and were challenged to specify and realize the implications of such purposes in professional development.

Based on the analysis of their work, the authors believe that mathematics professional development leaders need to cultivate particular sociomathematical norms for teacher explanation and employ practices for orchestrating discussions to achieve the purposeful development of teachers’ specialized knowledge of mathematics for teaching.

Updated: Nov. 04, 2009