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Learning Lessons From Instruction: Descriptive Results From an Observational Study of Urban Elementary Classrooms


by Heather C. Hill, Erica Litke & Kathleen Lynch

Background: For nearly three decades, policy makers and researchers in the United States have promoted more intellectually rigorous standards for mathematics teaching and learning. Yet, to date, we have limited descriptive evidence on the extent to which reform-oriented instruction has been enacted at scale.


Purpose: The purpose of the study is to examine the prevalence of reform-aligned mathematics instructional practices in five U.S. school districts. We also seek to describe the range of instruction students experience by presenting case studies of teachers at high, medium, and low levels of reform alignment.

Participants: We draw on 1,735 video-recorded lessons from 329 elementary teachers in these five U.S. urban districts.


Research Design: We present descriptive analyses of lesson scores on a mathematics-focused classroom observation instrument. We also draw on interviews with district personnel, rater-written lesson summaries, and lesson video to develop case studies of instructional practice.

Findings: We find that teachers in our sample do use reform-aligned instructional practices, but they do so within the confines of traditional lesson formats. We also find that the implementation of these instructional practices varies in quality. Furthermore, the prevalence and strength of these practices corresponds to the coherence of district efforts at instructional reform.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that, unlike other studies in which reform-oriented instruction rarely occurred, reform practices do appear to some degree in study classrooms. In addition, our analyses suggest that implementation of these reform practices corresponds to the strength and coherence of district efforts to change instruction.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 120 Number 12, 2018, p. 1-46
https://www.tcrecord.org/library ID Number: 22502, Date Accessed: 11/30/2020 9:08:27 PM


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