Jessica Rigby

As principals are looked to more than ever to help drive instructional improvement in their schools, Jessica Rigby is helping deepen understanding of the leadership practices, norms and routines that are needed to support teacher learning.

Rigby, an assistant professor of education at the University of Washington College of Education, presented findings of UW research into the role of principals and coaches in the effective implementation of math labs at the American Educational Research Association’s 2016 meeting.

Math labs are embedded professional development opportunities supported by the UW in which teachers gather for an entire day, plan a math lesson, teach it collectively, assess and revise the lesson, and then reteach the lesson to another section of students. 

“This is a really different model of professional development because it involves taking risks and working together with other teachers and coaches to improve instruction,” Rigby said.

One of the key findings by Rigby and her colleagues is the need to pay attention not only to student learning, but also teacher learning.

Rigby also noted that principals who align math lab work with other structures in the school, such as professional learning communities and evaluation processes, are finding the labs to be more productive.

“When the idea behind the math labs—that you’re a teacher who is paying attention to student thinking and offering opportunities for high quality student learning—exists in other structures,” Rigby said, “we see the math labs themselves are higher quality and across the board we’re seeing more ambitious instruction.”

Rigby also reported some principals are using math labs to shift the school cultural as a whole.

“Principals are leveraging this radical way of being a collaborator in a school not only in the labs themselves but elsewhere,” she said. “They’re generating a culture of trust and risk taking to improve instruction.”


Jessica Rigby, Assistant Professor of Education

Dustin Wunderlich, Director for Marketing and Communications