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What to do in Chicago

Objective

The purpose of this session is to introduce an observation tool to identify and measure the quality of mathematics teaching practices in preschool through third grade. Beyond presenting the tool, the audience will engage in an exercise of using the instrument to advance understanding about early mathematics teaching.

Perspectives

What does high-quality instruction look like in the classroom? The field lacks a clear definition of excellence in early mathematics teaching, let alone effective assessments to evaluate and monitor teaching around mathematics. The proposal of pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) urges the necessity of considering content-specific expertise for teaching (Shulman, 1986). By considering specialized knowledge that is only used for the purpose of teaching, it provides a unique perspective in investigating teacher competence.

HIS-EM is an observation tool that measures the ways that teachers' PCK is reflected in their teaching. The design of the assessment is also aligned to NCTM Principles and Common Core State standards and research in mathematics teaching (e.g., Borko et al., 2005; Stecher et al., 2006; Walkowiak et al., 2010).

Modes of Inquiry

High Impact Strategies for Early Mathematics (HIS-EM) is an on-site, live observation tool to measure the quality of mathematics teaching in preschool through third-grade classrooms. The observation starts and ends according to the lesson. Trained observers rate quality of the intentional teaching on a 7-point Likert scale.

Data Sources: A total of 192 Pre-K through 3rd grade teachers in public elementary schools were observed in Fall 2011 and Spring 2012. These schools serve primarily low-income, ethnically diverse students. 8 schools participated in a mathematics professional development program, the other schools served as a comparison group. 10 students were randomly selected from each class to take Woodcock Johnson Applied Problems Subtest #10 (W-J III).

Results

The trained observers were able to meet at least 80% reliability for field observations. Confirmatory factor analyses (CFAs) reflected a single underlying mathematics teaching proficiency and high internal consistency (alpha was 0.97). Descriptive indicated that HIS-EM was sensitive to variability in early math teaching practice. Overall, in Fall 2011, teachers' average HIS-EM scores ranged between 1.11 and 7.00 (M=4.02, SD= 1.37). In spring 2012 the intervention group (M=38.5) scored significantly higher than the comparison groups (M=31.8), t (189) = 4.42, p < .05, while there was not a significant difference between the two groups at Fall 2011. Two-level HLM analysis revealed significant prediction of students’ post-test performance in mathematics by HIS-EM scores (p < .05, n = 181).

Significance

There is a growing need to study and understand the mathematical quality of teachers' practice. However, the early childhood field is short of available tools to assist teachers and teacher educators in supporting and assessing classroom practice around mathematics teaching. HIS-EM's sensitivity to variation and change over time, as well as its prediction on students’ learning implied its potential to respond to this urgent need. The framework also has potential to support teachers, coaches, and teacher educators in describing and defining dimensions that impact student learning outcomes.