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Strategy Developing content knowledge through professional development grounded in the practice of teaching

Summary

Professional development is at the heart of improving mathematics education. Research suggests that a set of general principles should guide professional development if it is to work. Key is that teacher growth is enhanced when professional development is grounded in specific classroom practices. Since many K-8 teachers’ own knowledge of mathematics is fragile, they need to engage in the study and doing of mathematics they are expected to teach, to deepen their own content knowledge, and to see how mathematical ideas develop and connect within and outside mathematics. This can be done effectively through content-based professional development that integrates the enhancement of teachers’ knowledge of the content they teach with pedagogy of effective instruction.

The strategy
  • focuses on an area of mathematics that teachers self-identify or recognize as a weakness in their preparation to teach (buy in)
  • uses mathematical tasks that teachers can try in their own classroom (relevance)
  • uses tasks that have the potential to deepen teachers’ subject matter knowledge through extensions or investigations beyond what students would be expected to do (more on the mathematics)
  • uses a range of tasks that collectively provide balance over mathematical processes
  • involves teachers working independently and together, discussing ways of reasoning about and approaches to solving a problem, justifying approaches and solutions (mathematics learning community)
  • uses carefully chosen student work on rich tasks to push at teachers’ subject matter knowledge

The download extended report has a full description of this strategy.

Applicable tools

Challenges addressed