Learning from Teaching Cases Summary

Monday - Friday, July 10 - 14, 2006

Monday July 10, 2006
SSTP Participants: Nicole, Connie, Shenaz, Anastasia, Maribel, Amy, Carole, Megan
Visitors: Carlos Cabana
Summary: (by Amy TerEick)

We started today's sessions with a discussion of agenda items. Following this, we introduced ourselves to Carlos.

We began by describing what our product is going to be, what we talked about last Friday, what we worked on and what our plan is. As of right now, our plan is to create a picture book of about 3 - 4 parts, to address classifying tasks, questioning, teacher moves, and status. Carole shared the cover she designed.

What we still need to decide is what is our rationale for our project. Maybe our product will be a set of glasses that we are offering to use to look at things and talk about video productively? One important idea to keep in mind is how do we bring the product together? What are we thinking right now?

Carlos shared his story of the collaborative culture that they've been working on in his school for about the last 20 years. He still feels that there is a lot to talk about and learn about in his school. The learning process is continuous. It started b/c they used to be highly tracked, and the assumptions about kids inherent in the tracking showed up in the school and what students were saying. The change in his school also coincided with the beginnings of math reform. Complex instruction was the way out of what was occurring in their school.

Complex instruction is meaningful to him. It's what fascinates him as a teacher, and he still learns more about the structures of complex instruction. His school has been able to hire towards a vision...something most schools do not realize they have the right to do or are given the right to do so. His school is able to sustain conversations about it mainly because of three factors: they make their own decisions about curriculum, they have complete control over the master schedule with the needs of new teachers in mind so that they can observe veteran teacher in the same course (this is also an effective vehicle for hiring), and everyone teaches algebra and discuss once a week after school.

Algebra became a common project for everyone because they felt it was the best vehicle for conversation for everyone, it is the default class for all 9th graders, and there are no courses below algebra.

Heterogeneous classes are more equitable. We are used to being asked to think about kids as to where they need to be in order to be successful. Instead we should break apart what it means to be prepared and smart and think about smartness across many different dimension: what does it mean to be smart in mathematics? Everyone deserves to learn something.

In his school, the curriculum is structured around group work. Virtually everything that goes into a kid's grade is individual. He grades one problem on everyone's test so that everyone's paper contributes to the group's grade. Kids are choosing to take harder math and stay with math longer.

In addition, Carlos shared his ideas on: How do you talk about kids???? He does not use labels like slow or lazy. Rather, he would say a child is struggling. By saying that they are struggling, this still gives the teachers responsibility. We should think about our own agency, otherwise we're giving up on them. An issue he gave us to consider is: Why is it that we think about a student's ability as a constant when the topic can vary widely? Drill in math has its place. He doesn't personally find that a lot of drill concentrated in one short time period is effective. Spiraling topics is the way they choose to reinforce topics.

One final concept to think about is: Is the goal learning to know how to do a particular procedure over and over again, or is it to make connections to the bigger piece? What does it mean to be smart in math? Who has access to math? After our discussion with Carlos, we discussed our product and brainstormed the following goals for the product: to help teachers learn to notice, to offer a language/tools to talk about teaching, create a product to take back to our schools, and to critically analyze our own practice.

Tuesday July 11, 2006
SSTP Participants: Nicole, Connie, Shenaz, Anastasia, Maribel, Amy, Carole, Megan
Visitors: n/a
Summary: (by Nicole)

Today was a working day! We discussed how what we wanted our booklet to look like and divided up the different tasks necessary to complete it.

Thursday July 12, 2006
SSTP Participants: Nicole, Connie, Shenaz, Anastasia, Maribel, Amy, Carole
Visitors: n/a
Summary: (by Nicole)

We presented our "Conversations Starters" booklet to the SSTP participants today. An electronic version is accessible from our working group page. We are hopeful that this booklet will be a helpful resource for catalyzing collegial conversations among teachers.

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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under DMS-0940733 and DMS-1441467. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.