Communication Center  Conference  Projects Share  Reports from the Field Resources  Library  LSC Project Websites  NSF Program Notes
 How to Use this site    Contact us  LSC-Net: Local Systemic Change Network
Virtual Conference 2003

Virtual Conference 2002

Virtual Conference 2001

Other LSC Conference Archives

Lessons Learned 2002

Lessons Learned 2000

Effects of the LSC

Other Presentations

Public Engagement

Conference Schedule

Conference Material


Teacher Enhancement in Mathematics: Essential Components of Effective Professional Development

author: Diane M. Spresser, Joyce Evans
description: This session, which was a three-hour minicourse at the recent annual meeting of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics in Washington, D. C., was designed around strategies that have been used effectively in professional development programs by leaders of NSF-supported Teacher Enhancement projects.
published: 04/09/1998
posted to site: 04/09/1998
Overhead # 1

Teacher Enhancement in Mathematics:
Essential Components of Effective Professional Development

Diane Spresser & Joyce Evans
National Science Foundation
4201 Wilson Blvd, Rm. 885
Arlington, VA 22230
(703) 306-1613/ /

Overhead # 2

Teacher Enhancement in Mathematics

The Teacher Enhancement Program at the National Science Foundation is a major funder and supporter of professional development for teachers of mathematics, grades K-12. Through a discussion of strategies that have been used effectively by project leaders and an examination of best practices, this session targets essential components of professional development.

Overhead # 3

Teacher Enhancement in Mathematics

Clearly, effective professional development should provide teachers with:
increased expertise in mathematics and pedagogy and be aligned with the instructional materials.

Other less obvious, but also critical, factors:
the roles and responsibilities of lead teachers and school administrators,
teacher unions,
school and district policies and reward systems,
the degree of parent and community support,
the level of involvement with institutions of higher education, etc.

Overhead # 4

Key Ingredients

Five "Key Ingredients" for Effective Professional Development

Overhead # 5 (as identified by participants)

  1. Teachers need to perceive the need for PD.

  2. Administration Support

  3. Time

  4. Money for individual teachers to participate (as well as schools)

  5. Sustainability for the big term.

Overhead # 6-12

Questions for Discussion

  1. What was the catalyst (e.g. persons' events) or the concern/interest that prompted you to even begin thinking about professional development?

  2. What factors informed your thinking about what professional development was needed?

  3. How did you go about "setting the stage" for your project? From what groups did you seek input?

  4. What is the major focus of the professional development in your project (e.g., academic content of student work, algebraic thinking, preparation to use specific instructional materials in mathematics, case studies)? What informed your choice of focus?

  5. What informed your decision about the professional development leadership team? What expertise was needed in the team?

  6. Did you have to sell the project to teachers and building administrators? If so, what strategies did you use? What response did you receive?

  7. How were decisions made about timing (e.g., after school, summer, released time during regular day) and location (e.g., school site, university campus) for the professional development sessions? What factors influenced the decisions?

Overhead # 13-14

Finding Time for Professional Development

Watts and Castle outline five approaches that have been used to create more time for professional development:

  1. Using substitutes or releasing students. Some schools are effectively using one morning or afternoon a week for teacher development and other improvement activities. However, this approach provides only small blocks of time and is often resented by parents.

  2. Purchasing teacher time by using permanent substitutes, retirees, or giving compensation for weekends or summer work. This is expensive, sporadic, and some teachers will not participate on weekends or during the summer.

  3. Scheduling time by providing common planning time for teachers working with the same children or teaching the same grade on a regular basis. This is often done in schools using instructional teams, but it could be done in many more schools if assistance was provided with block scheduling.

  4. Restructuring time by permanently altering teaching responsibilities, the teaching schedule, school day, or school calendar. This has serious implications for busing, union contracts, facilities maintenance, state regulations and budgets. It also means changing public expectations -- a reason few schools or districts have taken this approach.

  5. Making better use of available time and staff.

Watts and Castle, Phi Delta Kappan, Vol. 75: 306-310.

Overhead # 15-17

Questions for Discussion

  1. How are lead or resource teachers involved in the delivery of professional development? What is your definition of "lead" or "resource" teachers and what are the selection criteria? What responsibilities do they have? What professional development do they need to be successful? What support, both current and long-term, will districts provide for them?

  2. How do you increase the probability that teachers and administrators view sustained professional development as essential to a practicing professional?

  3. Given the benefits of hindsight, what would you have done differently in the professional development? Is there a particular lesson you wish you had learned earlier?

  4. What feedback has been most useful in making the ongoing refinements necessary for the project's professional development to be effective?

Overhead # 18-21

Professional Development
10 Important Principles

  1. Address issues of concern and interest, largely (but not exclusively) identified by teachers themselves, and involve a degree of choice for participants.

  2. Involve groups of teachers rather than individuals from a number of schools, and enlist the support of the school and district administration, students, parents, and the broader school community.

  3. Recognize and address the many impediments to teachers, growth at the individual, school, and district level.

  4. Using teachers as participants in classroom activities or students in real situations, model desired classroom approaches during inservice sessions to project a clearer vision of the proposed changes.

  5. Solicit teachers' conscious commitment to participate actively in the professional development sessions and to undertake required readings and classroom tasks, appropriately adapted for their own classroom.

  6. Recognize that changes in teachers, beliefs about teaching and learning are derived largely from classroom practice; as a result, such changes will follow the opportunity to validate, through observing positive student learning, information supplied by professional development programs.

  7. Allow time and opportunities for planning, reflection, and feedback in order to report successes and failures to the group, to share "the wisdom of practice," and to discuss problems and solutions regarding individual students and new teaching approaches.

  8. Enable participating teachers to gain a substantial degree of ownership by their involvement in decision making and by being regarded as true partners in the change process.

  9. Recognize that change is gradual, difficult, and often painful process, and afford opportunities for ongoing support from peers and critical friends.

  10. Encourage participants to set further goals for their professional development.