Indicator C.2.5. Enhance Teaching Through Collaboration With Colleagues, Families, and Community Members
Well-prepared beginning teachers of mathematics seek collaboration with other education professionals, parents, caregivers, and community partners to provide the best mathematics learning opportunities for every student.
Well-prepared beginning teachers of mathematics understand the importance of being a part of a community of educators and believe that the community has the potential to affect teaching in a positive way. “In an excellent mathematics program, educators hold themselves and their colleagues accountable for the mathematical success of every student and for personal and collective professional growth toward effective teaching and learning of mathematics” (NCTM, 2014a, p. 99). Well-prepared beginners anticipate that collaboration with colleagues will spur the need to explain one’s teaching practices and articulate rationales for instructional decisions. For example, they are open to making their ideas and decisions visible and subject to shared scrutiny to develop deeper, more widely shared understandings of students’ learning (Doerr, Goldsmith, & Lewis, 2010).
Professional learning communities provide teachers with opportunities to collaborate over prolonged periods of time. Five dimensions of successful professional learning communities include (a) common vision and shared values, (b) collective responsibility, (c) leadership support, (d) good facilitation, and (e) use of data and student work (Fulton, Doerr, & Britton, 2010). Observing one another’s teaching and providing feedback and protocols for reflecting on practice are often used as key elements in the work of a professional learning community. These dimensions alleviate the isolation of teaching and enable a well-prepared beginner to learn from colleagues and share his or her own expertise. For example, during student teaching and other clinical experiences, well-prepared beginning teachers have had opportunities to observe their peers (i.e., other student teachers) and classroom teachers and reflect on the effectiveness of specific teaching practices. This reflection is scaffolded by university faculty, supervisors, and school-based mentor teachers who provide prospective teachers with writing prompts and oral questions that encourage them to think deeply about what they observed, analyzing both strengths and weaknesses in these situations. Through activities such as these, well-prepared beginning teachers demonstrate a disposition toward teaching as a collaborative endeavor focused on student learning (Leatham & Peterson, 2010).
Engaging with communities outside of school is an important way teachers can strengthen their teaching. Such communities include families, faith-based organizations, public libraries, local businesses, and community centers that provide additional space and mathematical learning opportunities for students, which teachers can leverage (Aguirre et al., 2012; Civil, 2007; González, Andrade, Civil, & Moll, 2001; Vomvoridi-Ivanovic, 2012). Well-prepared beginning teachers are aware of, and committed to employing, multiple strategies to get to know families and communities to better serve students. Examples include annual home/neighborhood visits with families, organizing a robotics or mathematics club at a local library or community center, meeting with a religious or civic leader serving the basic needs of newcomers in the local community, or volunteering in community-based organizations with different language backgrounds to engage beyond their comfort zones.
Well-prepared beginners must be clear and confident in their visions for teaching mathematics. They must be able to effectively communicate their visions while building relationships and trust with families to support mathematics learning throughout the school year. They seek to understand family perspectives and priorities and understand the importance of helping families see how these priorities are being met in their children’s mathematics learning. Routine practices such as classroom websites, newsletters, or both; back-to-school nights; family mathematics nights; family surveys; and parent-teacher conferences serve as venues for communicating this vision to multiple stakeholders. That those events include a focus on mathematics, including students’ mathematical thinking and how parents and families can support students’ mathematics learning, is important.
Well-prepared beginners work diligently to build relationships with families and caregivers focused on the learning needs of their children. They know that providing constructive feedback focused on strengths and areas of growth about students’ mathematics performance is essential (Aguirre, Mayfield-Ingram, & Martin, 2013). Important also is to be inclusive when communicating about learning expectations and homework assignments, for example, by translating letters sent home into the parents’ languages and honoring mathematics strategies that family members use. Well-prepared beginners are ready with strategies that will ensure that parents understand the rationale for innovations in the teaching and learning of mathematics (e.g., new standards or new teaching approaches) and minimize potential fears and concerns that parents might have about these unfamiliar approaches. These strategies could include organizing family mathematics nights or curriculum nights, sharing specific ways to help with homework, or sending specific family-oriented mathematics activities to parents and caregivers to support their students’ learning at home (Hendrickson, Siebert, Smith, Kunzler, & Christensen, 2004; Peressini, 1998). Teachers can also provide resources for family-focused mathematics-project initiatives such as Family Math (Stenmark, Thompson, & Cossey, 1986), Math and Parent Partners (MAPPS) (Civil & Bernier, 2006), and Multicultural Literature as a Context for Mathematical Problem Solving: Children and Parents Learning Together (Strutchens, 2002), and others that have shown how engaging with parents as partners in their students’ education can increase their children’s achievement and advance equity in mathematics education.