The first three days of the Advanced Summer Institute occurred at the beginning of the summer and the final two days near the end, as a follow-up. In the first part, teachers participated again as learners in mathematical experiences followed by focused reflective sessions. This time, however, the experiences focused on algebra rather than geometry and measurement, and they were designed around activities derived from CMP and MiC units. In analyzing these experiences, teachers focused mostly on the mathematical content and curricular implications. This activity invited a rethinking of the key ideas in algebra and, consequently, the main goals of teaching algebra in middle school. Participants then read articles on algebra and analyzed in depth at least one unit from either the CMP or the MiC curricula. During the last two days of the Advanced Summer Institute, participants presented their analyses of the assigned units and discussed each curriculum and the choices each represented in terms of mathematical content, learning priorities and sequencing of activities.

During the following school year, teachers implemented their chosen CMP or MiC unit. The instructional materials themselves provided the main support for these implementations. In most cases, a group of teachers chose to work together on the same unit and thus established a “study group” that met a few times after school. At first, a mathematics teacher educator facilitated these study groups, but the teachers eventually met independently. Later in the project, after one school had decided to adopt the CMP, its teachers continued to hold these collaborative sessions as a way to support the use of this curriculum.

Throughout the three years of the project, a subgroup of teachers who had taken leadership roles in their schools also participated in a monthly Leadership Seminar. The facilitators organized activities in this seminar in response to the needs of the participating lead teachers. The activities were designed to expand the lead teachers’ personal understandings of school mathematics reform, to improve teaching practices and to develop leadership skills. For example, the group discussed a few cases of teaching mathematics through inquiry in order to develop a shared understanding of what characterizes such an instructional approach. Later on, teachers’ need to rethink the teaching and learning of geometry in middle school led to a series of different group experiences, such as discussing several articles, analyzing the units developed by NSF-funded middle school curricula and hearing a presentation by a research mathematician.

Facilitators organized additional professional development opportunities in response to the needs of smaller subgroups. For example, some meetings were held for special education teachers only, in order to address issues they had raised about their unique role and responsibilities. New teachers were advised to observe their more experienced colleagues’ classrooms regularly as a form of professional development. Curriculum writing groups and department meetings, often initiated and facilitated by the lead teachers themselves, also occasionally became sites for professional development.

The two examples of professional development reported in this chapter support the claim we made in the introduction to the monograph: There is no one model of professional development that works for all. Rather, professional development is about decision making in context. At the same time, the creative solutions generated by the projects described in this chapter suggest that professional development providers and consumers can make informed decisions about the kinds of experiences mathematics teachers need. Furthermore, those decisions should be made in light of what we know works best to address specific goals or teacher learning needs, however tentative that knowledge might be. The remainder of the monograph is dedicated to uncover and examine such knowledge.
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