How CPM Educational Program uses Virtual Conferencing Technology to Support Professionalizing Shifts in Teacher Discourse

How CPM Educational Program uses Virtual Conferencing Technology to Support Professionalizing Shifts in Teacher Discourse

Lara Jasien & Sharon Rendon

CPM Educational Program


At AMTE 2021, we presented a session in which we shared our findings on why and how particular socio-technological features support professionalizing shifts in teacher discourse during virtual PD.  Professionalizing discourse (Horn & Kane, 2019) stands in contrast to normalizing discourse (Horn & Little, 2010; Little & Horn, 2007), thus supporting teachers to make sense of their teaching in new ways. In professionalizing discourse, teachers collaboratively work to develop shared meanings of new concepts — they press each other to explicitly connect, with detail, the concepts they are developing with the particular contexts of their daily work. In the context of PD that is not job-embedded, we understand that learning occurs not because of activities themselves but because of the way activities, as facilitated by knowledgeable others, reorganize teachers’ discourse practices (Horn & Kane, 2019).

Because socio-technologies mediate interaction between people by affording some types of interactions and constraining others, they also fundamentally affect the epistemology of the PD, reflecting how the PD-designers think that people come to know and do (Barab et al., 2003). Thus, designing virtual PD requires attending to what is essential about co-presence and place and selecting technology that amplifies those essential elements. As with co-present learning, we understand the essential elements of virtual learning to be an interactional process of participating in a community of practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991). Thus, CPM’s virtual PD is designed to prioritize togetherness as teachers engage in (a) analyzing the mathematical content of curriculum (AMTE Std. C.1.4), (b) planning for effective instruction (AMTE Std. C.2.3), and (c) anticipating students’ thinking about mathematics content (AMTE Std. C.3.1).

The platform CPM uses for virtual PD is called the Big Blue Button (BBB) — an online platform that does not require downloading a desktop application. It has all the important features of Zoom — a main room and breakout rooms with chat features, hosts/moderator ability to move between rooms, a whiteboard, screen sharing (including video with sound), and ability to record — and more. Here is how CPM uses socio-technological features of BBB to support professionalizing shifts in teacher discourse:

Breakout rooms are used for Study Team Teaching Strategies (STTS) and for formative assessment to inform instruction. For an example of the latter, breakout rooms are used by PD leaders to model the “3 pass promise” (see p. 7 of this CPM newsletter, authored by Lorna Vazquez of Neillsville, WI). For an example of the former, BBB participants can choose breakout rooms to rejoin the same team over multiple sessions and can easily change teams during STTS. In addition, breakout rooms in BBB open in a new browser tab, allowing participants to have full access to the main room at all times (also helpful for STTS, such as the huddle). BBB also allows participants to take slides, task cards, and PDFs from the main room with them into their breakout rooms, cutting down on preparation time for PD leaders. Finally, BBB makes all comments in the public chat viewable when participants arrive, not just content after they arrive as does Zoom, which is helpful for community building. When sessions are recorded, the public chat is included in the recording. Finally, the whiteboard feature of BBB includes an option to "turn on the multi user whiteboard” in the main room and breakout rooms, which enables anyone/everyone to annotate a slide at the same time with simple drawing tools. This collaborative inscription tool allows teachers to more directly shape each other’s thinking as what each person contributes is semi-permanently documented.

Shared notes are used for a public place to record collective thinking. This feature is missing from Zoom, but we find it incredibly helpful for facilitating “learning together.” Shared notes are available through a button near the chat window; participants choose to either look at the chat or the shared notes, and PD-leaders can suggest which mode participants are in. To support learning, shared notes can be used to collaborate on documenting what is important, prepare for breakout rooms by documenting team room and role assignments, or as a parking lot for participants to anonymously note questions that moderators can then address throughout or at the end of the session. Shared notes can be downloaded as a .txt file, which is useful for participants and moderators who want to go back to them later.

Overall, we at CPM have found that these socio-technological features support teachers to engage in professionalizing discourse. For example:

  • Teachers connect their own mathematical strategies to what they think their students would and would not come up with, which supports their development of concepts of expansive mathematical competence.
  • Teachers discuss how long they would need to give their particular students on particular kinds of mathematical tasks, which supports their development of concepts of collaborative learning in heterogeneous teams. 
  • Teachers discuss how to facilitate learning on particular kinds of mathematical tasks which supports their development of concepts of multiple modes of instruction.
  • Teachers discuss how their students would respond to team roles, and the tradeoffs of using them which supports their development of concepts of complex instruction

To learn more, please follow this link to see our AMTE 2021 presentation slidedeck.



Barab, S. A., Barnett, M., & Squire, K. (2002). Developing an Empirical Account of a Community of Practice: Characterizing the Essential Tensions. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 11(4), 489-542. doi:10.1207/S15327809JLS1104_3

Horn, I. S., & Kane, B. D. (2019). What We Mean When We Talk About Teaching: The Limits of Professional Language and Possibilities for Professionalizing Discourse in Teachers’ Conversations. Teachers College record (1970), 121(6), 1-32.

Horn, I. S., & Little, J. W. (2010). Attending to Problems of Practice: Routines and Resources for Professional Learning in Teachers’ Workplace Interactions. American Educational Research Journal, 47(1), 181-217. doi:10.3102/0002831209345158

Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning : legitimate peripheral participation / Jean Lave, Etienne Wenger. Cambridge [England] ;: Cambridge University Press.

Little, J. W., & Horn, I. S. (2007). Normalizing problems of practice: Converting routine conversation into a resource for learning in professional communities. In L. Stoll & K. S. Louis (Eds.), Professional learning communities: Divergence, depth, and dilemmas (pp. 79-92). New York, NY: Open University Press.

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