Professional Development, Instructional Coaching, and Discourse in the Secondary Mathematics Classroom
Worthington, Stephanie Anne
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Background: This study focused on the need for understanding effective, ongoing professional development for teachers as they learn the skill of facilitating discourse into their classrooms. Teachers should engage in ongoing professional development and have support as they implement current best teaching practices. Supplementing professional development, the utilization of an instructional coach can assist teachers in implementing the strategies learned in professional development into their classes. This study focused on supporting teachers as they began to implement the strategy of discourse in the secondary mathematics classrooms. Teachers who work with an instructional coach extend their learning from the initial professional development and have an increased likelihood of using the strategy learned. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine the impact professional development has on teachers who are including discourse as a practice within their classrooms and to assess how teachers perceive the usefulness of instructional coaching in the secondary mathematics classroom. Methods: Utilizing a case study approach, this study began with a three hour professional development on discourse in the mathematics classroom. Fifteen participants attended the initial professional development. Four were selected to participate in the research study and to work with an instructional coach to specifically plan activities and questioning strategies for use in their classroom. The research questions for this study were 1. How does professional development on discourse impact secondary mathematics teachers’ perceptions of classroom discourse practices? 2. In what ways does the secondary math teacher perceive mathematics coaching as impactful on their discourse practices? Within the case study, data analysis followed a convergent approach. Both qualitative and quantitative data was collected simultaneously and analyzed separately, then the data was merged to show trends in each case. The study used surveys that include qualitative and quantitative questions and semi-structured interviews to measure teacher perceptions of how their practices shifted from the initial professional development to the time spent working with an instructional coach. Findings: Participants viewed instructional coaching as an extension of professional development and coaching allowed for participants to implement the learning from professional development into their classrooms. Specific to instructional coaching, generalized findings from the four cases include the participants feeling that the coaching conversations allowed them to plan for student discourse in their lessons, discuss teaching strategies to engage students into the conversations, and reflect on their practices when implementing discourse. Conclusion: Each participant engaged in the coaching cycles by setting a goal and worked to facilitate discourse in their classrooms. Participants used the coaching cycles to plan where to facilitate discourse, learn new methods of engaging students, discuss possible student responses, and how to address those responses to further the conversation. The participants felt that coaching allowed for them to engage in discussions about their lessons and reflect on how the discussions were beneficial to students. The increased engagement of their students led the participants to increase the number of times they facilitated discourse in their classrooms.