One of the most powerful professional development experiences for me was working with Lucy West. She was hired as a consultant to the urban school district where I was working as a middle school math coach. Her work with our district transformed my view of professional development and changed the way I teach.
Lucy’s work with the New York City School System provides evidence that her methods and techniques are effective. Classroom discourse (accountable talk), teacher development (content-focused coaching), and the development of teacher learning communities are the three areas I am sharing with you. She has given her permission to share “Learning Stance Norms for Professional Learning Communities” as a download for this post. This is one of many resources available through her website.
Ms. West’s ideas are sometimes challenging to teachers because they are different and because there is an expectation that teachers will change their practices as a result of the training they receive.
I remember very well the outcome of that demonstration class: I heard what I wanted to hear from students and not what they said.😦 It was one of those transformative moments in my teaching—and I remember it often.
Here are recommend readings and resources from Lucy West you can use to grow professionally in areas of accountable talk, content-focused coaching, and YOUR approach to learning .
#1 Content Focused Coaching
Ms. West has co-authored two books on coaching math teachers, both of which I own. Agents of Change: How Content Coaching Transforms Teaching and Learning (2013) is an extension of her book Content-Focused Coaching: Transforming Mathematics Lessons (2003). These books are replete with suggestions and techniques for, and the pitfalls of, content coaching for math teachers. Both books give access to video clips of examples of coaching sessions. More importantly, these videos highlight the role of the coach as an agent of change for the mathematics teaching community.
The more recent book, Agents of Change, is divided into three sections. The first section focuses on a theory of content coaching, how coaching should be part of a system of change within the school and district, and outlines the roles of coach, teacher leader, teacher, principal, and district supervisor. This is a robust theory on how to change teaching and learning in the mathematics classroom.
The second section describe the skills that coaches need—skills that teachers who become coaches often don’t have—as West points out. Coaches need to have a deep awareness of themselves so that they can help others, and they need to have great communication skills, as well as being able to develop coaching relationships with teachers whether or not they are eager to engage in the process.
The third and final section is a case study of the coaching process amplified by access to video of the actual coaching sessions. The video tracks a specific coaching situation through the preconference, lesson, and post-conference, while the book highlights the coaching moves advocated by West and her colleagues.
#2 Accountable Talk
By helping students listen to and comment on each others’ reasoning, a very high level of math learning can take place in the classroom. When implemented with all students, it also provides evidence to the teacher about whether students understand the intended outcomes in class. Accountable talk moves help to create this high level discourse that we all aspire to with our students.
Adding Talk to the Equation: Discussion and Delivery in Mathematics (2016) is West’s most recent work. It is an investigation based on five video case studies that can serve as a jumping-off point for professional development. She has invested over twenty years in implementing accountable talk in classrooms around the country. This resource represents a culmination of her work to date with the resources so that you can implement it in your district, school, or classroom.
West’s Adding Talk to the Equation, available online for a fee, is a series of case studies showing how teachers can work to implement accountable talk in different stages of development. All of the classes show how accountable talk can be implemented in mathematics classrooms from Grades 1 to 6. A printed companion guide provides the transcripts of the case studies, as well as commentary on the process by Ms. West. This is a great resource for professional development sessions at your school!
#3 Approach to Learning
Apart from coaching techniques, accountable talk moves, and a systems approach to change, the most important thing that I took away from my training with Lucy West is an approach to learning, MY learning.
If we are to make progress in helping all students reach proficiency in mathematics, then we need to lead the way in adopting a learning stance of our own. This kind of professional development culture is unfortunately rare in many schools I have seen close up.
Lucy West has graciously allowed us to reprint her document Learning Stance Norms for Professional Learning Communities from her website.
Whether you want to inspect your own learning stance on your professional development, or you are looking for a set of norms for a professional development culture in your building or district, I encourage you to download this tip sheet.
Dr. Matthew Beyranevand, math teacher, author, presenter, and district administrator, has created a variety of free professional development resources for math teachers! Matthew has curated webinars, masterclasses, and printable downloads aimed to help increase students' interest and engagement in the learning of mathematics while building conceptual understanding.
Free 2-Part On Demand Math Masterclasses
Develop Growth Mindset In Mathematics Masterclass
Attend a FREE, 2-part Masterclass, where Dr. Matthew Beyranevand will share a variety of best practices for promoting growth mindsets in K–6 students while also building their conceptual understanding and love of mathematics.
More specifically, you'll learn:
Plus, receive a Certificate of Participation and gain access to FREE resources that will support your teaching.
Create Excellence in Mathematics Instruction: A Guide for Leadership Masterclass
Register for a 2-part Masterclass where Dr. Matthew Beyranevand answers the question students often ask, "Why do we learn math?" and help you create highly engaging and relevant math programs.
In this Masterclass, you’ll learn the essential elements of strong math programs. From practical strategies for observing a class to techniques for implementing change, math educators and leaders will come away with new ideas for making their math program the best it can be.
You'll also learn how to:
PLUS, receive a Certificate of Participation and gain access to FREE resources that will support your teaching!
Free Virtual On Demand Webinars
Growth Mindset in Math: Solving Problems in Multiple Ways
Watch Dr. Matthew Beyranevand's lively and informative webinar on supporting growth mindset and encouraging students to look at and solve math problems in multiple ways!
Growth Mindset in Math: Building Resilience with Play
Learn how to foster resilience in your students so they can develop essential problem-solving skills such as perseverance and inquiry.
Coupled with Dr. Beyranevand’s ever-present commitment to acquiring a growth mindset, this webinar will enhance your teaching practice and transform your students’ work habits.
Free Downloads for Math PD
Faculty Meeting in a Box: Growth Mindset Kit
With this FREE Faculty Meeting In a Box: Growth Mindset Kit, K–8 principals will have everything they need to lead an informative and interactive meeting on Growth Mindset!
Growth Mindset Teacher Survey
The second resource available to you is a growth mindset worksheet created by Matthew. It is an eight-question Teacher Growth Mindset Survey that you can administer for yourself or in a group setting with your colleagues. It’s a great way to see where you stand regarding growth mindset in your own teaching.
Professional development helps math educators improve their professional knowledge, gain new skills, and set examples for students. Make yourself a priority this summer and hone your skills by participating in various math professional development opportunities!