Professional Learning Opportunities in the Classroom: Implications for Scaling up System-Level Professional Development in Mathematics

Joanna Higgins, Ro Parsons

Abstract


The New Zealand Numeracy Development Project is an example of a professional
learning and development initiative that has been progressively scaled up across a
system to improve teacher knowledge and practice and student outcomes in
mathematics. This paper examines two elements of the project’s design that have
been pivotal in enabling teachers to adopt ambitious pedagogical practices in
mathematics: classroom-focused opportunities to learn and access to external
expertise. Four aspects of facilitator practice that impact on teachers’ practice are
identified: a focus on students’ mathematical thinking; the use of pedagogical tools
to structure teaching tasks; modelling and the provision of commentary; and
observation and the provision of feedback. The question of sufficiency of
professional learning and development opportunities is raised, particularly in
enabling all teachers to respond to the challenge of providing equitable opportunities
to learn for a diverse student population. The challenge of how systems can build the
capability of facilitators so that they can engage teachers in substantive new learning
and practice is highlighted as an important area for further investigation.

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