Strategies to Enhance Professional Learning in Mathematics

Reflections of a Math Coach

Coming to the end of my first year in a math lead and coaching role, I have gained an abundance of experience and am now reflecting on how I can better support the teachers in the 26 elementary and secondary schools I serve.

When you are in a coaching role to promote educators enhancing their professional learning, you realize that many roadblocks exist and must be addressed before any effective work can be completed. Teachers may be concerned that collaboration with a coach is evaluative; will I be judged based on how I lead my class? Intimidation is also another roadblock that may exist. Maybe the educator is just shy and unsure of what the process of co-planning, co-teaching and reflecting will look like in their classroom. Regardless of what may stand between you and your colleague, it is important to accept that these and other hurdles are common and should be acknowledged before attempting to enhance the professional learning in your school community.

My approach to attempt breaking through barriers is to build trust with colleagues across the board. Sitting with different schools at professional development workshops, informal school visits and friendly emails to see how teachers are doing are some ways to build the trust necessary to begin the process of enhancing professional learning across our board.

As you begin to work with teachers on a regular basis, it will be important to have a discussion of the student learning need that exists in their classroom. Engaging in co-planning through discussions such as determining what student learning needs exist in their Sphere of Concern and Sphere of Influence, educators can better understand what needs could be addressed through professional learning.

Implementing Effective Teaching Practices

After determining what student learning need we will address through our collaborative professional learning, often times the introduction of a three-part lesson can be an excellent starting point. In intermediate math classrooms, use of the Targeted Implementation Planning Supports for Revised Mathematics (TIPS4RM) resource provides a basis for how to lead an effective three-part lesson. Focusing on using a gradual release of responsibility approach through real world rich problem solving tasks in the TIPS4RM resource provides teachers with a basis to begin their professional learning.

It is important to note that simply using the TIPS4RM resource does not address the areas of mathematical understanding necessary to lead an effective math lesson. Teachers must understand why a resource is effective including the constant inclusion of prior knowledge throughout the entirety of the resource rather than limiting a learning goal to one particular lesson.

My goal when working with teachers is to promote the effective teaching practices located within a resource such as TIPS4RM, not to simply promote using such a document without any form of modification. Every classroom is different and every student learning need is different, so thus it is important to encourage teachers modifying any resource to allow them to provide differentiated opportunities for each student to experience success.

Measuring Success in Professional Learning

When measuring success, I suggest using a Professional Learning Cycle.

Professional Learning Cycle |

Beginning with the Plan stage, teachers identify what student learning need they will be addressing and how they plan to go about making changes. Educators then Act on their plan by implementing their plan in their classrooms. Educators will Observe throughout the cycle and collect evidence allowing them to Reflect on their work. Upon completion of the 2-6 week cycle, educators then return to the planning stage to make adjustments as they begin their next cycle.

The goal through this collaborative inquiry process is to allow teachers to address the student learning needs from their own classroom and be given an opportunity to address their own professional learning needs with support from colleagues.

What strategies do you use when you work with colleagues in your division, school or board?


Download our Complete Guide to successfully implementing our Make Math Moments 3-Part Framework in your math class!
Make Math Moments 3-Part Framework Guidebook

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About Kyle Pearce

I’m Kyle Pearce and I am a former high school math teacher. I’m now the K-12 Mathematics Consultant with the Greater Essex County District School Board, where I uncover creative ways to spark curiosity and fuel sense making in mathematics. Read more.

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