Virtual Conference

Supplementary Materials for AMTE Standards

Preparing Teachers of Mathematics with the Virtual Conference Assignment

The Virtual Conference Assignment is an innovation created to support elementary and secondary mathematics teacher candidates to engage in professional development and expand their professional networks. The assignment has been implemented in content and methods courses to simulate the experience of attending a local, regional, or national conference when one such opportunity is not available to candidates or is inaccessible due to lack of time or funding. The Virtual Conference Assignment has afforded teacher candidates the opportunity to engage in diverse professional development offerings and networking opportunities that are relevant to advancing the Standards for Preparing Teachers of Mathematics.

The assignment utilizes recorded video and audio from a variety of sources including: past professional organization conferences (e.g., NCTM), webinars (e.g., 100 Days of Learning from NCTM), and podcasts (e.g., Making Mathematical Moments that Matter Podcast). The sessions are intentionally curated to: expand professional learning opportunities for PSTs; build on course content; introduce new ideas or content not covered in a course; present diverse perspectives and include a more representative set of voices; and highlight issues of equity and access in mathematics education. Candidates are given a menu of choices from which to select and build their own conference experience. After each session that they “attend” candidates create a slide to summarize the content of the session, their personal takeaways, and implications for future teaching. Finally, candidates create a summary reflection slide where they discuss their overall experience with the assignment and the big ideas and takeaways from across all sessions attended. Candidates meet with classmates to share their slide decks in a process designed to mimic the way in which a teacher might disseminate information presented at a conference to their colleagues in a faculty meeting or professional learning community. 

Standards and Indicators these Materials Target

C.2.4 Analyze Teaching Practice. The Virtual Conference Assignment provides teacher candidates with exposure to multiple points of view from teachers, researchers, teacher educators, and other experts across the country and the world. This experience is effective in the following ways: 

  1. Exposure to the multitude of professional learning communities available to teachers including professional organizations (e.g., NCTM), podcasts, webinars, twitter, and blogs. Teacher candidates report that they did not know how many different opportunities there were for professional development and networking before doing this assignment. 
  2. Opportunities to analyze teaching practice outside of the constructs of their teacher education program. Varied perspectives, lenses, and approaches are important for teacher candidates to observe and experience as they develop professionally. Often, teacher education programs present one or limited perspectives. This assignment offers opportunities to view other perspectives. 
  3. Induction into a changing professional landscape. The ways in which teachers network, connect, and engage in professional development are changing. This change has been amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic. This assignment prepares teacher candidates for the new world of professional development and networking that is awaiting them as they enter the profession. 

C.2.5. Enhance Teaching Through Collaboration with Colleagues and Community Members. This assignment provides a different means of engagement and collaboration in the math education community. It introduces teacher candidates to new voices, perspectives, resources, and supports that they might not otherwise have known about. It provides opportunity for collaboration with colleagues in the reporting out of their work with classmates.

P.3.3. Address the Social Contexts of Teaching and Learning. As mathematics teacher educators, we understand the critical need to address issues of equity and access with candidates in order to best prepare them for their future work with diverse groups of students. We decided to leverage this assignment to embed conversations about equity and access in mathematics education from diverse perspectives into our courses. Based on the assignment design, candidates can choose to hear from a variety of Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) speakers sharing about their diverse experiences related to the teaching and learning of mathematics and problematic school policies (e.g., tracking, placement of the most effective teachers) that hinder equal access to high quality mathematics education. Often these presentations are the most popular choices and spark further conversation within and beyond class hours.

Notes on Implementation

In the first wave of data collection, this assignment was implemented with teacher candidates in elementary mathematics methods courses and secondary mathematics methods courses (Fall 2018 and Fall 2019) at a small public university in the Southeast (N= 43). A second wave of data collection occurred over four semesters (Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Summer 2020, and Fall 2020) in an elementary mathematics methods course, an elementary mathematics content course, and a special education mathematics methods course at a small liberal arts college in the Northeast (N = 28). The candidates were required to attend a local NCTM affiliate (or other approved) conference (when possible) or engage in a virtual conference experience designed by the researchers during the course and then reflect and report out on their experience and what they learned. Following the assignment, teacher candidates were invited to complete a survey, which contained Likert Scale items about their conference experience and assessed the success of this assignment in all of its forms (live and virtual) with regards to the goals of initiating candidates into a professional network and providing an opportunity for professional learning.

Survey results highlighted that the conference experience not only taught candidates about mathematics content and teaching but also exposed them to the opportunities presented at conferences including, but not limited to, professional networking, collaboration, access to lesson ideas and materials, and a variety of professional learning experiences. Participants articulated an interest in conference attendance and membership in a professional organization, which they attributed to their experience with the assignment. The results indicate that requiring candidates to attend a conference, whether in person or virtual, has a positive impact on their development as a teacher candidate and on their interest in future conferences and professional development opportunities.

Additionally, the summaries and reflections that candidates outline on their slides showcase how they are engaging with the presenters and the diverse viewpoints they offer about mathematics education. Some examples of this outcome from candidate summaries were:

  • “My big takeaways from the virtual conference is the need for teachers to reflect on their mathematics instruction especially in terms of access, equity, and empowerment, and also the need for us as educators to identify and remove barriers to providing all our students with access to high-quality mathematics instruction.”
  • “The discussion of access and equity to mathematics instruction was interesting to me because I had mistakenly assumed that math is straightforward and about numbers so there is less likelihood of bias and inequity,” 
  • “I wish I could have attended one [conference] in person so that I could have participated more; however, now I know that there is a way to acquire professional development when I do not have the time to attend in person.” 
  • “My overall experience as a conference participant was a way to be introduced to people that are in the education field and their ideas. I am excited for another opportunity to attend another conference in the future. I think that it would be beneficial to attend one in person so that I can start to build on my professional network with other educators.”

About the Authors


  • Katherine Ariemma Marin, Ph.D., University of Louisville
  • Sarah Roller Dyess, Ph.D., The University of Alabama in Huntsville