This project studies mathematics professional development leaders' understandings and practices associated with developing mathematically rich learning environments. It investigates this issue by considering: How can leaders cultivate professional development environments in which teachers have a greater opportunity to grapple with and deeply understand mathematics? The project studies how explicit attention to the cultivation of sociomathematical norms influences leaders' understanding of the process of creating mathematically rich environments and the impacts on their practices.
Researching Mathematics Leader Learning
Our research and development work focuses on one aspect of mathematics professional development, when teachers are engaged in solving, discussing, and sharing mathematical work. Although mathematics professional development may include other activities, we specifically focus on how leaders learn to attend to doing mathematics with teachers because it is a primary time during PD that teachers may be developing deeper understandings of mathematics. To support their learning about cultivating rich teacher learning environments, leaders explored two frameworks: sociomathematical norms (norms for mathematical reasoning) and a set of practices for orchestrating productive mathematical discussions. The staff of RMLL created and facilitated seminars as learning opportunities for leaders, studied what and how leaders learned about facilitation, and investigated how leaders facilitated PD in their schools and districts.
As our research project has evolved, we have revised our frameworks for supporting leader development to include a focus on identifying the purposes for doing mathematics with teachers. We have used Deborah Ball and her colleagues' work at the University of Michigan to draw a distinction between common content knowledge that teachers hold in common with other professional using mathematics and specialized content knowledge that teachers need to know because of their unique role in We engage in mathematics with teachers in professional development to help them develop not just common content knowledge but specialized knowledge as well. To develop specialized mathematical knowledge, teachers need to engage in explanations that make taken-for-granted ideas in mathematics explicit. Norms for explanation and representational use are vital. These norms are fostered through the orchestration of discussions. In redesigning seminars according to these ideas, we aim to have leaders select and design tasks that engage teachers more comprehensively with the mathematical knowledge they need to teach. Leaders need to know how to specify purposes for doing mathematics in ways that develop teachers’ SCK and identify tasks and discussion prompts that immerse teachers in SCK. They need to know how to pursue this purpose when orchestrating discussions and support the development of sociomathematical norms in ways that unpack teachers’ highly symbolic or incomplete reasoning. In short, we augmented our initial emphasis on sociomathematical norms with this new emphasis on SCK. supporting learners in the classroom.
We are completing analyses of the experiences of leaders in our revised seminars to understand what they gained from our revised frameworks in planning for and enacting professional development.