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Developing Ambitious Math Instruction Through Web-Based Coaching

Beyond the professional development workshops school districts traditionally offer, many districts are moving to one-on-one coaching models among teachers. Much of the research into this practice has focused on reading and literacy, where studies have found strong effects on improving instructional practice and student achievement. In Developing Ambitious Mathematics Instruction Through Web-Based Coaching: A Randomized Field Trial, Brown University professor and FutureEd research director Matthew A. Kraft teamed with Harvard University's Heather Hill to explores model for math coaching.

They developed a web-page coaching program that started with about 140 elementary and middle school math teachers from two Midwestern school districts teaching grades 3 to 8. About half of the teachers worked with coaches—many of whom were math teachers with experience coaching or developing curriculum. The goal was to improve instructional practices and align those practices with Common Core standards. The teachers taped their interactions with students and reflected on them with their coaches, working to improve a set of instructional practices.

The results found that teachers improved their teaching as measured by the Mathematical Quality of Instruction instrument and student surveys. They did not, however, see improvements in math test scores among students. The researchers suggested more study to determine whether scores improved in ways that the standardized tests did not pick up or whether the approach needs adjusting.

By Phyllis W. Jordan