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What to Look for in a CMP Classroom

Evaluation of teachers has become an important political issue, but determining what constitutes good teaching is a complex task. We believe that good teaching comes in many different forms and that what is most important is what the students are doing. When CMP has been successfully implemented, students are engaged, and they explore important mathematics through challenging tasks. Students work together to tackle problems. They make conjectures, provide arguments, consider alternate strategies, challenge ideas, and communicate their understandings through various media. In earlier work with the Show-Me Center, we developed a guide that can be used to observe CMP classrooms. We have also developed a coaching guide that can be used by coaches, administrators, and peers.

The guides re designed to be used for coaching sessions, classroom observations or for teachers to use while collaborating with their colleagues.

An Observation Guide

This observation protocol is designed as a guide for teachers, coaches, administrators, and other support personnel. The protocol provides a general overview of aspects of the classroom on which to concentrate to achieve fidelity of implementation of CMP. These aspects include students' learning practices, discourse, written and oral work, and other actions.

CMP is a problem-centered curriculum that promotes an inquiry-based teaching- learning classroom environment, in which the CCSSM Standards for Mathematical Practice come alive as students pursue solutions to Problems. Implementing a coherent student-centered investigation of mathematics presents a challenge to teachers; they need support and guidance in order to engage and sustain high-level thinking with diverse groups of students.

Many classroom observations focus on the teacher. However, it is the student engagement with mathematics that enhances learning. Thus, one must focus on the learner. Observing students' engagement, through both verbal and written statements, allows for some assessment of the learning potential of a lesson as it is being enacted. Since effective teachers have unique styles for producing rich classroom environments, it is also important to examine what the teacher does to produce such an environment. Moving the mathematical learning forward should always be the main focus.

Use of the Protocol

The intent of the protocol is to inspire rich conversations among teachers, coaches, and administrators about the learning and teaching of mathematics in a productive classroom environment. The rating scale on the protocol is not meant as a way to evaluate teachers; rather, it is provided as a tool for assessing implementation.

Keeping track of every portion of the observation may present difficulties for an observer. One way to use the protocol would be to observe the lesson and record notes using a blank observation sheet, such as Appendix F. Then, while conferencing about the lesson, the teacher and colleague can use those notes to fill in this form. Another option would be to choose a few items on which to focus. So, rather than trying to keep track of all 14 items during the lesson, the observer can focus and document evidence for a few.

A lower score on a particular item may help indicate areas of focus for district or school professional development. You will find creative ways to use the protocol as you consider its benefits.

Observing CMP Classrooms was originally developed by Yvonne Grant, Susan Friel, Glenda Lappan, Elizabeth Phillips, Sandra Wilcox for the Show-Me Center, an NSF-funded project (2003).

 Download a PDF of Observation Protocol for CMP Classrooms

Coaching Worksheet

The intent of coaching is to enhance the teaching-learning environment. In order for this to happen, teachers need to feel supported by, rather than evaluated by, their coach, and coaches need to be transparent and nonjudgmental. The Coaching Worksheet was designed specifically for use in CMP classrooms. It acts as a note-taking tool for the coach during the lesson and provides discussion questions for both the teacher and the coach during the preconference and post conference. The notes taken on the worksheet should objectively track the happenings in the classroom, resulting in documentation that can help the teacher reflect on the lesson.

Use of the Worksheet

The teacher and coach should have a preconference to discuss the lesson. The coach shares a blank copy of the coaching worksheet with the teacher. The teacher chooses an area on which to concentrate, such as "effective questioning and listening during the Explore." This gives the coach focus for the observation and note taking.

Then, the coach observes the lesson and records notes on a copy of the Coaching Worksheet or on a blank observation sheet, such as Appendix G. The majority of the notes should be in the area of focus chosen by the teacher. The coach leaves the notes with the teacher so that the teacher is confident that the notes are confidential. The teacher can then read what the coach observed and reflect on the lesson through the perception of someone else.

At the post conference, the teacher and the coach use the notes to discuss the teachers area of concern. The conversation is meant to support the teacher's reflection on the classroom experience.

 Download a PDF of the Coaching Worksheet

 Download a PDF of the Classroom Worksheet

The Coaching Worksheet was developed by Yvonne Grant for Connecting, Teaching, Learning, and Assessment, a supplement to an NSF-funded project to Michigan State University NSF/MDR-91-50217 (1997).