Annual Report Overviews
PRIME-TEAM Annual Overview
PROGRESS REPORT NARRATIVE
The PRIME-TEAM Project
A Professional Development Project
Project Directors: Eric W. Hart and Harold L. Schoen
The PRIME-TEAM project is a two-year Teacher Leadership project focusing on implementation of the innovative high school mathematics curriculum developed by the Core-Plus Mathematics Project. The 65 teachers involved will become leaders in both comprehensive curriculum reform and in local educational change. Thus, this project will be valuable in its own right as a means for providing leadership in the state of Iowa for promoting excellence in Iowa high school mathematics education, and it will lay the groundwork for a full-fledged NSF Local Systemic Change project. Accordingly, we will at a later date propose a Local Systemic Change project that will build upon, extend, and systemically implement the exemplary reform begun in the present Teacher Leadership project.
The PRIME-TEAM project will provide professional development in two major areascurriculum reform and local educational change. Curriculum reform is interpreted broadly to include mathematical content, student learning, pedagogy, and assessment. Local educational change refers to issues related to implementing systemic change at the level of individual schools. These issues include working with colleagues, administrators, counselors, school boards, and parents; mechanisms for scheduling and enrollment; articulation with middle schools and colleges; and strategies for effective collaborative reflection and establishment of local professional development communities.
The general mechanism we will use for facilitating teacher growth is what we have called "recursive reflection" (Hart, Schoen, et al., 1993). This is a process that we have observed, operationalized, and implemented in previous teacher enhancement projects, both at the state level (e.g., Modeling Innovation in Iowa Mathematics Education, 1996-97) and the national level (e.g., Project to Implement the NCTM Standard on Discrete Mathematics, 1992-96). It is a process whereby the next level of teacher growth is attained by systematically reflecting upon the previous level. Teachers first experience one level, then reflect upon it as a means of moving to the next level. In particular, PRIME-TEAM teachers will be engaged in systematically reflecting upon mathematical content, curriculum, student learning, teaching, assessment, and local educational change, both during the summer workshops and during the academic years.
Curriculum-Based Professional Development
A complementary aspect of our professional development model is what may be called curriculum-based professional development. This includes summer and academic year workshops built around comprehensive and innovative curriculum materials, as well as reflective teaching of those materials. The power of professional development based on well-designed, innovative curriculum materials has been documented in several recent studies. For example, Summerlin (1996) states that, "Professional development effects of the materials themselves appeared to be significant". In a recent study of professional development in California (Cohen, 1997), it was shown that professional development focusing on new curricula and the content that undergirds it has a positive impact on student achievement. Ball and Cohen (1996) also discuss the role of curriculum materials in teacher learning and instructional reform. They state that, "Teachers could be engaged with curriculum materials in ways that generated learning if the materials were integrated into a program of professional development aimed at improving their capacity to teach. In that case, well-designed materials could be a resource for teachers' learning" (p. 8).
The Core-Plus teacher support materials have been carefully designed with just this purpose in mind. Furthermore, extensive professional development work by the PRIME-TEAM co-directors, as well as by other members of the Core-Plus development team, has shown that the student materials of the Core-Plus curriculum can also be a powerful vehicle for teacher learning. The Core-Plus materials weave together innovations in content, curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment into a comprehensive high school mathematics curriculum. They thereby provide a concrete basis for teacher learning. In fact, by building upon the comprehensive nature of the curriculum, effective professional development programs have been designed by the co-directors and others which focus on the Core-Plus curriculum materials. The PRIME-TEAM professional development program incorporates and builds upon the successful features of these past efforts.
School-Based Leadership and Educational Change
There is a strand of school-based leadership and educational change that runs throughout the project. This refers to issues related to implementing systemic change at the level of individual schools. These issues include working with colleagues, administrators, counselors, school boards, and parents; mechanisms for scheduling and enrollment; articulation with middle schools and colleges; and strategies for effective collaborative reflection and establishment of local professional development communities.
Professional development in the areas of curriculum reform and local educational change, based upon the ideas of recursive reflection and curriculum-based teacher learning, occur in the PRIME-TEAM project through summer workshops and academic year activities, as described below.
In summer 1999 there were four one-week workshops, one on each of the four courses of the Core-Plus curriculum. Each workshop focused on the first four units of a given course (out of seven plus a capstone unit). By working through only four units, more time was available for the necessary work with content, pedagogy, assessment, and other implementation issues. Each workshop day lasted 8 hours with 1 hour of "homework" each night. Workshops were taught by instructional teams consisting of experienced Core-Plus teachers and the project directors. Team teaching in this way proved to be effective, and it provided a good balance of theory and practice, big ideas and nuts & bolts. During the summer workshops, teachers alternated between learning the curriculum much as their students will learn it, and reflecting upon that experience in terms of content, curriculum, student learning, pedagogy, and assessment.
With respect to the strand of school-based leadership and educational change that runs throughout the project, during the summer workshops there were several half-day sessions that focussed on working with colleagues, administrators, counselors, and parents, mechanisms for scheduling and enrollment, articulation with middle schools and colleges, and strategies for effective peer mentoring and establishment of local professional development communities. This is a major strand of the project and is pursued systematically in the academic year activities as well.
Reflection was continually woven in through informal discussion and "meta-checkpoints." A meta-checkpoint mirrors the "Checkpoints" that are part of the student materials. During a Checkpoint students (and teachers acting as students) reflect upon, summarize, and share the mathematical understandings they have developed through the investigations that comprise each lesson. Similarly, during a meta-checkpoint teachers discuss, summarize, and share the understandings and concerns they have about issues of curriculum, student learning, teaching, and assessment related to the curriculum material they have just been working through. Just as a classroom teacher facilitates the Checkpoint discussion in a class of high school students, the workshop instructors facilitated the meta-checkpoint discussion in the summer workshops.
There was also instruction in and reflection about mathematical content. The Core-Plus curriculum includes new content as well as new approaches to old content. Teachers need to elevate their understanding beyond the mathematics that they actually teach their students. This is accomplished in several ways. Work on each unit in the summer workshops (and academic year workshops) begins and ends with a discussion of the big mathematical ideas. Specific instruction in mathematical content is provided as part of working through units that focus on new content, especially in discrete mathematics and probability and statistics. Finally, the teacher support materials include brief summaries of new content and annotated references.
With respect to the strand of school-based leadership and educational change that runs throughout the project, during the summer workshops there was a half-day session, led by a specialist, on working with colleagues, administrators, counselors, and parents, mechanisms for scheduling and enrollment, articulation with middle schools and colleges, and strategies for effective peer mentoring and establishment of local professional development communities. This is a major strand of the project and is pursued systematically in the academic year activities as well.
There were six types of academic year activities in 1999 - two half-day introductory meetings, two half-day follow-up support and professional development meetings, two 1.5 day mini-workshops, local educational change and professional development activities, site visits by project staff, and reflective teaching of the Core-Plus curriculum. In addition, several presentations related to the project were given at the NCTM Regional Conference in Des Moines, February 1999.
Reflective teaching of an innovative curriculum is a powerful professional development activity. Summer workshops and other academic year activities need to be complemented by coordinated, reflective teaching in the classroom. As teachers teach a comprehensive reform curriculum and see how their own students struggle and learn, they gain valuable insights and grow professionally in ways that no summer workshop or follow-up meeting can foster. Systematic and ongoing reflection on teaching, and simultaneously on assessment, student learning, curriculum, and mathematical content, is promoted through all phases of the PRIME-TEAM project, and in particular at the classroom teaching level through such mechanisms as common planning periods and hosting and making classroom visits.
In January and March 1999, there were two 1.5 day mini-workshops. These workshops were similar to the summer workshops discussed above. The main goal was to prepare teachers to teach the latter units of the Core-Plus curriculum, which were not covered during the summer workshop.
Site visits by project staff were made during the winter and spring 1999. The site vistis had three goals: (a) gather implementation information, (b) observe at least one class, and (c) provide information, support, and teacher professional development. Specific protocols and reporting forms were created and used for these site visits.
In October and November 1999, there were two half-day follow-up support and professional development meetings. During these meetings, following a brief project update, teachers worked in groups to discuss, plan, and improve their teaching of the curriculum, their Implementation Plans, and their local professional development and educational change efforts. They worked in groups with teachers at their own school, with teachers teaching the same course, in cross-school groups, and cross-course groups.
Local professional development and educational change activities included common planning periods, hosting and making classroom visits, working with colleagues, administrators, counselors, school boards, and parents towards systemic local change, working in department meetings on the PRIME-TEAM project, and working with feeder middle schools.