What does continuous improvement in math instruction look like? BFA High School teachers are perennially collaborating to find the “best practice” answers to this question. Last week, they began the first leg of a two-year learning journey with Teachers Development Group. Jensen Welch, Mark Ladue, Joe McSoley, Kelsey Fink, Natalie Coughlin, Principal John Tague, and BFA Middle School math teacher, Lisa Young were in high engagement mode for the first two days of the seminar Best Practices in Teaching Mathematics: How Teaching Matters with trainer Fred Rectanus.
Teachers Development Group, based in Oregon, has provided this training in many Vermont schools as all teachers endeavor to engage in teaching practices that will yield deeper learning in the rigorous Common Core State Standards for Math. The mission of the TDG is to “increase all students’ mathematical understanding and achievement through meaningful, effective professional development.”
During the first two day-long sessions of the seminar, the teachers and administrators examined research about effective mathematics classrooms, used teacher and student tools for reflection, were introduced to the Habits of Mind and Interaction, analyzed student discourse, and examined specific classroom learning routines. Math teacher Jensen Welch reflected on the professional content presented at the seminar, “It made me think about how different structures in my classroom, for example, how students talk about their work or how as a class we process new learning, can be more engaging and support all learners.”
Participants were also introduced to two evidence-based characteristics of effective mathematics classrooms: sense making and reasoning by students, and cultivating a classroom culture of effort and growth.
After the two days, and digging deeper into these evidence-based practices, BFA High School Math Interventionist, Mark Ladue commented, “So many of the problems that my students encounter with mathematics stem from their non-understanding or misunderstanding of basic concepts in math such as addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. By having students always explain the “why” of mathematics I believe that we can change this. Having students act like discovering mathematicians, paying attention to the why, connections, and discourse will leave them better positioned to discover and understand much more complex math concepts well after high school.”
The participants have readings and assignments to complete, and practices to “try-on” in their classrooms before the final three days of the seminar, which are scheduled for June. Next year, the teachers will participate in Teachers’ Development Group Math Studio, which will move their new learning into their classroom daily practices using a collaborative lesson-study ad teacher feedback model. Mark shared, “I’m looking forward to the Studio portion of the class. Getting our math teachers in a mode of always checking each other and ourselves on what we are doing and where we are going will produce much better students.”
Target 1 – Proficiency-Based Personalized Learning
FWSU students and staff design and engage in proficiency-based personalized learning that integrates collaborative inquiry, problem solving, and creativity.
Action Step: Design, model, and highlight innovative, personalized social and academic proficiency-based learning opportunities that promote collaborative inquiry, problem solving, and creativity for students and staff
Indicators of Success for this Target:
Teachers customize their instructional strategies using a range of information about individual learners so that learning opportunities are matched to learner needs, strengths, and interests. Teachers provide learners with multiple pathways for meeting standards so that students achieve proficiency in essential areas of learning.