SSD Study Offers New Window into PD Facilitators’ Needs

The National Science Foundation-funded Supporting Staff Developers study—led by PIs Babette Moeller, Amy Brodesky, and Lynn Goldsmith—and drawing on the expertise of Ashley Lewis, Anna McTigue, Emily Fagan, and Michelle Raymond, and partners at Bank Street College of Education—is investigating the kinds of training and resources facilitators need to effectively implement the Math for All and Addressing Accessibility in Mathematics (AAM) professional development programs. Although they differ in content, grade level focus, and use of video, the two programs share some key features. Both programs focus on standards-based math education for students with disabilities, engage special educators and general education math teachers in collaborative lesson planning, and guide them in carrying out adapted lessons.

Moeller says, “We’ve found that facilitators need to experience the PD as a teacher would, deeply engage with the content, and receive the same kind of just-in-time support—opportunities to ask questions and to reflect. We’ve also found that the co-facilitation is important, but can be challenging. It can be uncomfortable to not be the sole expert in the room or venture beyond your ‘content comfort zone.’ Yet the process enables facilitators to learn from their peers, model collaboration for teachers, and step out of their expert roles to become teachers’ guides by the side.”

“The programs have a rich variety of activities—solving math problems, watching videos, and examining student work,” Brodesky adds, “and all activities require preparation and planning on the part of the facilitators. They can’t just wing it! One of the most effective strategies we’ve built into the institute is practice presentations in which facilitators model how they will teach a small part of a session and receive peer feedback on their presentations. In the institute evaluations, facilitators give these practice presentations overwhelmingly positive feedback for helping them get ready to facilitate courses and for giving them a sense of what’s involved in preparing a session.”

Recently Moeller, in collaboration with partners from Bank Street, launched a new online Math for Allfacilitator course and Brodesky led a four-day AAM facilitator institute at EDC in Waltham. The course and institute reflect revisions in the two programs’ facilitator support activities and resources based on data gathered during a pilot phase. Through February 2013, the team will collect data on the impact of the support and facilitators’ challenges and has begun to share preliminary findings at national conferences.  

Last Updated: November 2012