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Coherence and Change in Teacher Professional Learning Communities


This paper addresses the following claim(s):

"Each PLC has unique dynamics and factors influencing their motivation, productivity, and inquirential engagement. In this presentation, we report results from data analysis on one PLC working on their school geometry curriculum. In this PLC, teachers were highly motivated to resolve the problem of the lack of conceptual coherence they perceived when they reviewed state standards, their district standards, and their textbook for a development of the main ideas in the course. During a week-long summer workshop run by STEM faculty these teachers chose to spend their time reorganizing the district standards around central strands of i) quantitative reasoning which repeatedly emphasizes the identification of physical or mathematical objects, measurable qualities of those objects, and units of measurement, ii) geometric constructions as establishing objects with specific measurable and relative properties, iii) arithmetic equations as meaningful statements of relationships among measurable attributes, and algebra as a
generalization of these arithmetic statements, and iv) proof as a development of rigorous reasoning, generalization and justification of student arguments. A STEM faculty member worked with the group to help with the teachers reconceptualize the content of the Geometry curriculum. When the teachers saw a list of apparently unrelated topics mandated by their district, the STEM faculty member helped to outline the overarching ideas that ultimately guided the teachers to create coherent curriculum materials. Subsequently, school geometry teachers met weekly for one three-hour session after school with STEM faculty, and an additional one-hour session with themselves in an effort to revise curriculum around these strands. The STEM faculty participated in the weekly 3-hour sessions to help with the creation of the course materials that the teachers in the group would then pilot in their classrooms.

In this presentation we will discuss the nature of the shifts made by teachers in this PLC relative to their perspective on the geometry course they teach, the materials they use, their district standards and assessments. In addition we focus on shifts in teacher classroom practice as documented using the Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol (RTOP). We will present an in-depth case study of one high-school geometry teacher who has made considerable changes from traditional lecture to more actively engaging students in a reformed classroom setting. An initial increase in her RTOP scores indicated a movement toward a more reformed teaching approach following collaborative lesson development within the geometry PLC. A second increase in her RTOP scores occurred following the summer workshop where the teachers reorganized the district standards around the four central strands.

Interviews and PLC discussions reveal that teachers difficulties changing their classroom practices were partially a result of a lack of experience designing a coherent curriculum. The emphasis on the overarching ideas could not have been achieved without the ongoing guidance of the STEM faculty and project personnel who were active members in the curriculum development process. Much of the guidance from the STEM faculty assumed the form of engaging the teachers in meaningful discourse emphasizing different strands to support changes in their curriculum and classroom practice. In addition to teacher frustrations concerning district curriculum and assessments and the development of new curriculum, the slow process of changing each of the teachers, acceptance of incremental change, and issues of time required to work on creating and adopting new classroom activities, balancing demands of their principal, parents, and district assessment committees were additional sources of teacher frustration. STEM faculty were surprised by the depth of some of these issues and were able to adapt their roles in the PLC to provide more support for teachers to help them better manage these competing concerns."