Do Organizational Supports for Math Instruction Improve the Quality of Beginning Teachers’ Instruction?
by Thomas M. Smith, Laura Neergaard Booker, Eric D. Hochberg & Laura M. Desimone - 2018
Background/Context: Researchers have found that teachers’ effectiveness at increasing student achievement improves during the first few years on the job. Yet little research maps the trajectory of beginning teachers’ instructional quality or investigates what forms of support are associated with variation in this trajectory. Further, although beginning teachers face many challenges not directly related to the rigor of their instruction, such as classroom management, effectively implementing high-quality instruction remains a major challenge.
Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: This article focuses on five research questions: (a) What are the initial levels of beginning seventh- and eighth-grade teachers’ mathematics instructional quality? (b) To what extent are teachers’ preservice qualifications (e.g., major; mathematics knowledge for teaching), prior teaching experience (e.g., weeks of student teaching), and school teaching context (e.g., percent of student receiving free or reduced price lunch) associated with the quality of their instruction during their first semester of teaching? (d) What are the levels of, and changes in, organizational supports for math instruction that these teachers receive during their first three years in the profession? (d) To what extent does the instructional quality of beginning middle school math teachers change over their first three years of teaching? and (e) To what extent do content-focused supports (e.g., math-focused mentoring, math-focused PD, professional community, principal leadership) provided over these three years predict improvement in instructional quality?
Population/Participants/Subjects: Participants include 62 teachers from eight southeastern and three northeastern districts in the United States.
Research Design: Using observation, survey, and interview data, we identify the links between the organizational supports provided beginning teachers and the teachers’ improvements in instructional quality during their first three years of teaching.
Findings/Results: Results suggest little improvement in the instructional quality of mathematics lessons during the first three years of teaching and that most organizational supports, as they are currently delivered, do not appear to help beginning middle school mathematics teachers improve their instructional quality. Using in-depth case studies, we explore the nature of the supports provided and their potential links to teacher improvement.
Conclusions/Recommendations: Our quantitative findings suggest that current methods of supporting beginning middle school mathematics teachers are not robust enough to support the type of teacher improvement demanded by new math standards, although our qualitative analyses suggest ways of designing these supports to better attend to instructional improvement. Our findings also emphasize the critical role the principal can play in connecting new teachers to effective supports.
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