While most practitioners recognize the need to better support students, especially those who have been historically underserved, many struggle in knowing, concretely, how to do so.
Kara Jackson, an assistant professor of education in the University of Washington College of Education, is working to change that and improve middle-grades mathematics teaching and learning at a district-wide scale.
Since 2007, Jackson has collaborated with educators from four districts in a designed-based research-practice partnership called the Middle School Mathematics and the Institutional Setting of Teaching project.
One of the concrete, scalable practices Jackson and her team have identified as a difference-maker is in how teachers introduce a lesson.
“The first five to seven minutes really matter in a classroom,” Jackson said. “We found it’s really important that there’s a mini-discussion up front about the lesson in which kids are developing common language or images to describe not only the key context of a problem that they’re going to be engaging in, but also the key mathematical ideas that they’re going to try and make sense of.”
That front-end focus, Jackson said, helps students to dig into the mathematics.
“When you’re having a concluding discussion at the end of the lesson, that also enables more students to participate in a meaningful way,” she said.
Jackson, who shared insights from her project during the American Educational Research Association’s 2016 annual meeting, said the next stage of the project will be working with districts to develop more rapid processes for getting feedback on how instructional improvement strategies are working and refining those throughout the year.
Kara Jackson, Assistant Professor of Education
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