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Becoming an elementary mathematics teacher leader: Collaborative teacher growth and change

Amy S Wolpin, University of Massachusetts Amherst


While the goal of mathematics education reform is to improve the mathematics achievement of all students (NCTM, 2000), at the core of these efforts is the teacher (Garet, Porter, Desimore, Birman, & Yoon, 2001). Educational change ultimately rests on the teachers who directly impact the students. Teacher leaders with expertise in all the dimensions of mathematics education can provide school-based professional development needed to support and maintain the teacher change process. The focus of this self-study is a critical examination of the influences on my development as an elementary mathematics teacher leader and on the strategies I develop as I coach teachers to improve, and change their practice. "Reciprocal Mathematics Coaching" was designed as a process to promote collaborative, job-embedded professional development. This model provided a means to meet each teacher's individual goals along a professional development continuum. Findings from the study indicate that teacher leader coaching interventions ranged along a continuum from the support of surface features of the curriculum, to co-teaching, and then to critical colleagueship in pursuit of a deeper pedagogy. Expected teacher outcomes occurred, but practice of reform-based instruction would require a longer time frame and the establishment of peer coaching support. My teacher leadership evolved from my approach to visualizing mathematics; elementary subject specialization; experience from teaching special education and regular education; beliefs in personalizing learning for students and teachers; self-reflective practice and practitioner research; and professional empowerment through collegial collaboration. Through "Reciprocal Mathematics Coaching", I came to learn how the pervasiveness of the affective domain impacts teachers even as they choose to improve their practice. Negative memories from their own mathematics education continue to influence their teaching. Formal teacher leadership can facilitate steps toward effective teacher growth and change. The strength of teacher leadership emanates from the nexus of teacher knowledge domains (Hill & Ball, 2004; Shulman, 1986;) situated within a learning community of reflective practice (Senge, 1990; Sergiovanni, 2000).

Subject Area

Curricula|Teaching|Mathematics education|Elementary education

Recommended Citation

Wolpin, Amy S, "Becoming an elementary mathematics teacher leader: Collaborative teacher growth and change" (2006). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3242386.