Mathematics keys

Keys to Effective Mathematics Leadership: Activating your Vision for Math Teaching and Learning (Part 1)

Ok…so you have work with your teachers, leaders, and community members to establish a clearly defined vision for exemplary mathematics teacher and learning. Now what? How can you be sure that your vision is enacted?

Recently, we have been working diligently with our school principals to refine district expectations for exemplary mathematics teaching and learning. The goal is to build the mathematics leadership capacity of site-based leaders (Principals and Assistant Principals) so that they can support the vision for exemplary mathematics teacher and learning. Specifically, we want to work collaboratively to ensure that the intended curriculum is, in fact, the taught and assessed curriculum. Twice per semester, district math leaders (and other curriculum leaders) meet with elementary, middle, and high school principals for 3-hour professional learning sessions titled Principal’s Curriculum and Instruction Meetings (PCI).

The PCI professional learning sessions are designed to initiative measurable improvement in mathematics teaching and learning by focusing on the following three pursuits:

  • Improving the quality of instructional conversations that occur prior to the lesson,
  • Improving the quality of evidence collected during classroom instruction, and
  • Improving the quality of formative feedback provided to teachers after

For each event, the site-based leader engage in a variety of professional learning experiences designed to a) build their knowledge about each pursuit and b) provide them with the tools and resources to sustain the intended vision.

In this blog, I will briefly describe how we are working to achieve the first pursuit, improving the quality of instructional conversations that occur prior to the lesson. In subsequent blogs, I will share strategies to achieve the 2nd and 3rd pursuits.

Improving the Quality of Instructional Conversations Prior to Instruction

To support this pursuit, the district mathematics leaders developed a set of questions to be used to guide every pre-observation conference, collaborative planning session, coach/mentor planning conference, and individual teacher planning session. Principals, central office staff, math coaches, and instructional team leaders (dept. chair) agree to use these questions consistently. The questions focus the instructional conversations on exactly how teachers will leverage NCTM Teaching Practices to engage students in the Standards for Mathematical Practices. (Special thanks to Juli Dixon for inspiring these questions)

The questions are,

  • What should students know (knowledge of content) and be able to do (show they understand content through engagement in Student Practices) in this lesson?
  • For this lesson, which 1-2 Student Practices are you planning to feature? Why (based on the learning target) are you electing to focus on these Student Practices?
  • Which NCTM Teaching Practices will you leverage to achieve your instructional goals for this lesson?

Professional Learning Activities to Support this Pursuit

During PCI sessions, site-based leaders engage in the following activities to strengthen their capacity with this pursuit,

  • Standards for Mathematical Practice (Student Behaviors) and NCTM Teaching Practices (Teaching Behaviors) Crosswalk: Site-based leaders explore each set of practices to build cause/effect concept maps to strengthen their understanding of the vision for exemplary mathematics teaching and learning.
  • Video Case Study: Site-based leaders engage in focused video case study looking for evidence of student and teachers engaged in the desired practices.
  • Focused Coaching Visits: District math leaders visit schools and, with site-base leaders, engage in pre-observation or instructional planning conversations focused on the use of these three questions. District leaders provide formative feedback to site-based leaders to improve the quality of instructional conversations.

Resource to Support Implementation

  • The Howard County Public School System Offices of Mathematics designed a common resource to support site-based leaders in this pursuit. It can be downloaded here.

In the next blog, we will explore strategies and resources to support Improving the quality of evidence collected during classroom instruction, and Improving the quality of formative feedback provided to teachers after instruction. In the meantime, if you have successful strategies that you would like to share, please do so by twitter using #MTBoS or direct tweet me @billjbarnes.

Special thanks to Ebony Langford-Brown and Frank Eastham for modeling solutions-oriented collaboration and providing a forum for professional learning with curriculum and administrative staff. #inspirationalleadership

Bill Barnes

Bill Barnes is chief academic officer for the Howard County Public School System in Maryland. He is also director of Eastern Region 2 for the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics and an adjunct professor.

 

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