“If teachers are not engaging in academic dialogue centered on the content they teach and how people learn, then it is highly unlikely that they are engaging their students in these practices either.”(West & Cameron, 2013, p. 3)
Although coaches sometimes facilitate content-focused workshops, most opportunities to build teachers’ mathematics content knowledge occur in the context of established school routines: planning for instruction, modeling or co-teaching a lesson, and reviewing student work. Occasions to grow teachers’ understanding of the mathematics curriculum are sometimes pre-arranged, such as when a coach works with a team to plan a unit of study or when a coach talks with an individual teacher about the big mathematical ideas embedded in a lesson which will be co-taught.
The chance to help teachers gain a deeper understanding of mathematics also occurs spontaneously. Perhaps a teacher comes to the coach with a question about an upcoming lesson on stem-and-leaf plots. Or, as she discusses her students’ assessment results, a teacher recognizes that she needs to develop her own number sense for fractions. Coaches should be on the lookout for these teachable moments because they allow for just-in-time learning which is relevant to the teacher’s needs and can be immediately implemented.
Deepening teachers’ mathematical content knowledge is also achieved when coaches work with teachers across grade levels, building appreciation for how students’ mathematical knowledge and skills grow over time and how the building blocks of mathematical understandings lay a foundation for future learning. Just as student learning is strengthened when students see connections between mathematical ideas, teachers’ understanding of the mathematics curriculum is strengthened when they come to see how learning connects and builds across grade levels. Coaching vertical teams is a powerful coaching structure because it helps to create a shared vision of best practice across a school community. This work often involves school administrators and therefore offers the additional benefit of strengthening leaders’ understanding of mathematics teaching and learning. It permits administrators to gain insight into ways they can support teachers who are working to improve their mathematics instruction.
|In The Math Coach Field Guide: Charting Your Course, mathematics coach Leyani von Rotz describes how she expanded her teachers’ understanding of the mathematics curriculum by asking each grade level team to plan a lesson that represented an aspect of math learning important at their grade level. On a large bulletin board, the teams displayed samples of student work from their lessons. During grade-level meetings, von Rotz asked teachers to talk about what they noticed in the student work across grade levels and to discuss implications for their own math instruction. Von Rotz felt that discussions around this bulletin board deepened her teachers’ understanding of the mathematics they were charged with teaching and resulted in increased communication about mathematics teaching and learning across grade levels.|
Felix, C., & Snowdy, P. (Eds.). (2006). The math coach field guide: Charting your course. Sausalito, CA: Math Solutions.
West, L., & Cameron, A. (2013). Agents of change: How content coaching transforms teaching & learning. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.