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MIST Dissemination

Cobb, P., Jackson, K., Henrick, E., & Smith, T. M. (2018).   Systems for instructional improvement: Creating coherence from the classroom to the district office.   Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.

MIST cover

The MIST Project addressed the question of what it takes to improve the quality of mathematics teaching at the scale of a large district.  Our response to this question takes the form a theory of action for instructional improvement at scale. We pull our findings together in this book as they relate to the various elements of this theory, which include curriculum materials and assessments; pull-out teacher professional development; school-based teacher collaborative meetings; coaches’ practices in providing job-embedded support teachers’ learning; school leaders’ practices as instructional leaders in mathematics; and system leaders’ practices in supporting the development of school-level capacity for instructional improvement.


Theory of Action for Instructional Improvement at Scale


Cobb, P., & Smith, T. (2008). The challenge of scale: Designing schools and districts as learning organizations for instructional improvement in mathematics. In K. Krainer, & T. Wood (Eds.), International handbook of mathematics teacher education: Vol. 3. Participants in mathematics teacher education: Individuals, teams, communities and networks (pp. 231-254). Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense.

Cobb, P., & Jackson, K. (2011). Towards an empirically grounded theory of action for improving the quality of mathematics teaching at scaleMathematics Teacher Education and Development,  13(1), 6-33.

Cobb, P. Jackson, K., Smith, H., & Henrick, E. (2017). Supporting improvements in the quality of mathematics teaching on a large scale. In S. Doff & R. Komoss (Eds.) Making Change Happen (pp. 203-221) New York: Springer.


Research Practice Partnerships


Henrick, E. C., Cobb, P., Penuel, W. R., Jackson, K. & Clark, T. (2017).Assessing Research-Practice Partnerships: Five Dimensions of Effectiveness. New York, NY: William T. Grant Foundation.

Henrick, E., Munoz, M. & Cobb, P. (2016). A better research-practice partnershipPhi Delta Kappan, 98(3), 23-27.

Rosenquist, B., Henrick, E., & Smith, T. M. (2015). Research-practice partnerships to support the development of high quality mathematics instruction for all students. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk (JESPAR), 20:1-2, 42-57.


Methodology and Theoretical Perspectives


Cobb, P., Jackson, K., Smith, T., Sorum, M., & Henrick, E. (2013). Design research with educational systems: Investigating and supporting improvements in the quality of mathematics teaching and learning at scale. In B. J. Fishman, W. R. Penuel, A.-R. Allen & B. H. Cheng (Eds.), Design based implementation research: Theories, methods, and exemplars. National Society for the Study of Education Yearbook (Vol. 112, Issue 2, pp. 320-349). New York: Teachers College.

Cobb, P., & Jackson, K. (2012). Analyzing educational policies: A learning design perspectiveThe Journal of the Learning Sciences, 21(4), 487-521.

Henrick, E., Cobb, P., & Jackson, K. (2015). Educational Design to support System-Wide Instructional Improvement. In A. Bikner-Ahsbahs, Ch. Knipping, & N. Presmeg (Eds.), Approaches to Qualitative Research in Mathematics Education. Examples of Methodology and Methods (pp. 497-530). (Springer Series: Advances in Mathematics education). Dordrecht, Heidelberg, New York, London: Springer.

Cobb, P., Jackson, K. & Dunlap, C. (2016). Design research: An analysis and critique. In L. D. English & D. Kirshner (Eds.) Handbook of International Research in Mathematics Education (3rd ed.), pp. 481-503, New York: Routledge.

Cobb, P., Jackson, K., & Dunlap, C. (2017). Conducting design studies to investigate and support mathematics students’ and teachers’ learning.  In J.Cai (Ed.), Compendium for research in mathematics education (pp. 208-236).  Reston, VA:  National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

Wilhelm, A. G. & Andrews-Larson, C. (2016). Why don't teachers understand our questions? Reconceptualizing teachers' "misinterpretation" of survey itemsAERA Open, 2(2), 1-13. doi: 10.1177/2332858416643077.

Wilhelm, A. G. & Kim, S. (2015). Generalizing from observations of mathematics teachers instructional practice using the Instructional Quality Assessment. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 46(3), 270-279.


Teachers’ Knowledge, Perspectives, and Practices


Boston, M., & Wilhelm, A. G. (2015). Middle school mathematics instruction in instructionally-focused urban districtsUrban Education, 1-33. doi: 10.1177/0042085915574528.

Gargroetzi, E., Chavez, R., Horn, I. S., & Byun, S. (in press). Institution-identities in the neoliberal era: Challenging differential opportunities for mathematics learning. Journal of Research in Mathematics Education.

Jackson, K., Gibbons, L., & Sharpe, C. (2017). Teachers views of students’ mathematical capabilities: Challenges and possibilities for ambitious reform. Teachers College Record, 119(7), p. – ID Number: 21791, Date Accessed: 3/5/2017 5:10:35 PM

Jackson, K., & Wilson, J. (2012). Supporting African American students’ learning of mathematics: A problem of practiceUrban Education, 47(2), 354-398.

Wilhelm, A. G., Munter, C., & Jackson, K. (2017). Examining relations between teachers explanations of sources of students difficulty in mathematics and students opportunities to learnThe Elementary School Journal, 117(3), 345-370.

Wilson, J., Nazemi, M., & Jackson, K., Wilhelm, A. (2019). Investigating teaching practice in conceptually-oriented mathematics classrooms characterized by African American student success. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 50(4), 362-400. 

Berebitsky, D. & Salloum, S. J. (in press). The Influence of Collective Efficacy on Mathematics Instruction in Urban Schools.  Journal of Research on Organization in Education.

Jackson, K., Shahan, E., Gibbons, L., & Cobb, P. (2012). Launching complex tasksMathematics Teaching in the Middle School, 18(1), 24-29.

Jackson, K., Garrison, A., Wilson, J., Gibbons, L., & Shahan, E. (2013). Exploring relationships between setting up complex tasks and opportunities to learn in concluding whole-class discussions in middle-grades mathematics instructionJournal for Research in Mathematics Education, 44(4), 646-682.

Munter, C. (2015). Envisioning the role of the mathematics teacher. NCSM Journal of Mathematics Education Leadership, 16(1), 29-40.

Munter, C., & Correnti, R. (2017). Examining relations between mathematics teachers instructional vision, knowledge, and change in practice. American Journal of Education, 123(2), 171-202.

Munter, C. (2014). Developing visions of high-quality mathematics instructionJournal for Research in Mathematics Education, 45(5), 584-635.

Munter, C. (2009, September). Defining visions of high-quality mathematics instruction. In S. L. Swars, D. W. Stinson, & S. Lemons-Smith, (Eds.),Proceedings of the Thirty First Annual Meeting of the North American Chapter of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education (pp. 983-991). Atlanta, GA: Georgia State University.

Wilhelm, A. G. (2014). The enactment of cognitively demanding mathematical tasks: Investigating links to teachers’ knowledge and beliefsJournal for Research in Mathematics Education, 45(5), 636-674.

Wilhelm, A. G., Munter, C., & Jackson, K. (2015). Examining relations between teachers’ diagnoses of sources of students’ difficulty in mathematics and students’ opportunities to learn. In S. Mukhopadhyay & B. Greer, (Eds.), Proceedings of the Eighth International Mathematics Education and Society Conference (pp. 994–1007). Portland, OR: Portland State University.


Content-Focused Coaching


Gibbons, L. K. & Cobb, P. (2016). Content-focused coaching: Five Key PracticesElementary School Journal, 117(2), 237-259.

Gibbons, L. K. & Cobb, P. (2017). Focusing on teacher learning opportunities to identify potentially productive coaching activities. Journal of Teacher Education, 68(4), 411-425.

Kane, B. D., & Rosenquist, B. (2019). Relationships Between Instructional Coaches’ Time Use and District- and School-Level Policies and Expectations. American Educational Research Journal

Kane, B. D., & Rosenquist, B. (2018). Making the most of instructional coaches. Phi Delta Kappan, 99(7), 21-25.


Teacher Collaborative Meetings


Andrews-Larson, C., Wilson, J., & Larbi-Cherif, A. (2017). Instructional Improvement and Teachers' Collaborative Conversations: The Role of Focus and Facilitation. Teacher College Record, 119(2), 1-37.

Horn, I. S., Garner, B., Kane, B. D., & Brasel, J. (2017). A taxonomy of instructional learning opportunities in teachers' collegial conversationsJournal of Teacher Education, 68(1), 41-54.

Horn, I. S. & Kane, B. D. (2019, April). What we mean when we talk about teaching: Professionalizing discourse and the limits of technical language for teacher learning. Teachers College Record, 121(4).

Horn, I. S., Kane, B. D., & Wilson, J. (2015, April). Making sense of student performance data: Data use logics and mathematics teacher learning opportunities. American Educational Research Journal, 52(2), 208-242.

Horn, I.S. (2016). Accountability as a Design for Teacher Learning: Sensemaking about Mathematics and Equity in the NCLB Era. Urban Education, 1-27. DOI: 10.1177/0042085916646625.


Teacher Advice Networks


Sun, M., Wilhelm, A. G., Larson, C. J., & Frank, K. A. (2014). Exploring colleagues’ professional influence on mathematics teachers’ learning. Teachers College Record116(6).

Wilhelm, A. G., Chen, I.-C., Smith, T. M., & Frank, K. A. (2016). Selecting expertise in context: Middle school mathematics teachers' selection of new sources of instructional adviceAmerican Educational Research Journal, 53(3), 456-491.

Berebitsky, D. & Andrews-Larson, C. (2017). Teacher Advice Seeking: Relating Centrality and Expertise in Middle School Mathematics Social NetworksTeachers College Record, 119(10).

Berebitsky, D. & Salloum, S. J. (2017). The Relationship between Collective Efficacy and Teachers' Social Networks in Urban Middle SchoolsAERA Open.


Systems of Support for Professional Learning


Jackson, K., & Cobb, P. (2013). Coordinating professional development across contexts and role groups. In M. Evans (Ed.), Teacher education and pedagogy: Theory, policy and practice (pp. 80-99). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Jackson, K., Cobb, P., Wilson, J., Webster, M., Dunlap, C., & Applegate, M. (2015). Investigating the development of mathematics leaders' capacity to support teachers' learning on a large scale. ZDM Mathematics Education, 47(1), 93-104.

Cobb, P., & Jackson, K. (2015).  Supporting teachers’ use of research-based instructional sequences.  International Journal on Mathematics Education ZDM Mathematics Education, 47(6), 1027-1038. doi: 10.1007/s11858-015-0692-5

Webster, M. (2017). High-quality professional development for teachers. Bulletin of Soka Educational Studies, (68), 291-310.


School Instructional Leadership


Rigby, J. G., Larbi-Cherif, A. L., Rosenquist, B., Sharpe, C. J., Cobb, P. A., & Smith, T. M. (2017). Administrator observation & feedback: Does it lead toward improvement in inquiry-oriented math instruction? Educational Administration Quarterly, 53(3), 475-516. doi:10.1177/0013161X16687006

Rigby, J. G., Andrews-Larson, C., & Chen, I. (in press). Learning Opportunities about Teaching Mathematics: A longitudinal case study of school leaders' influence. Teachers College Record.

Gibbons, L. K., Wilhelm, A. G., & Cobb, P. A. (2019). Coordinating Leadership Supports for Teachers’ Instructional ImprovementJournal of School Leadership.

Katterfeld, K. (2013). Setting instructional expectations: Patterns of principal leadership for middle school mathematicsLeadership and Policy in Schools, 12(4), 337-373.

Dunlap, C., Webster, M., Jackson, K. & Cobb, P. (2015). Schooling Leaders on the Common Core. Phi Delta Kappan Common Core Writing Project. Available at

Boston, M. D., Henrick, E. C., Gibbons, L. K., Berebitsky, D., & Colby, G. T. (2016). Investigating How to Support Principals as Instructional Leaders in Mathematics. Journal of Research on Leadership Education, 1942775116640254.



We prepare a feedback report for each collaborating district each year in which we share our findings about how the district’s instructional improvement strategies for middle-school mathematics are playing out in school and classrooms, explain gaps between the intended and implemented strategies, and make recommendations on how the district might adjust its strategies to make them more effective.

Two of the collaborating districts have given us permission to share redacted versions of the feedback reports that we shared with them in May 2011.


Cobb, P. (2017). "Improving Teaching at Scale" Episode 1705 of this podcast 

Munter, C. (2017). "Examining Relations Between Mathematics Teachers’ Instructional Vision and Knowledge and Change in Practice" Episode 1702 of this podcast 

Munter, C. (2014). "Developing Visions of High Quality Mathematics Instruction" Episode 1422 of this podcast 

Wilhelm, A. (2014). "Mathematics Teachers' Enactment of Cognitively Demanding Tasks" Episode 1420 of this podcast 


Jackson, K. (2013). "Exploring Relationships Between Setting Up Complex Tasks..." Episode 1317 of this podcast 



Presentation by Paul Cobb - "Designing schools and districts as learning organisations for instructional improvement in mathematics"
Download the audio file and lecture slides
This presentation focused on improving mathematics teaching and learning at scale - adopting innovations that have proven effective in a small number of classrooms and reproducing them in a large number of classrooms. Professor Cobb argued that research should view maths teachers' instructional practices in their schools and jurisdictions; and detailed structures that might support the ongoing improvement of teachers' classroom practices. The lecture described an improvement plan for maths instruction being implemented by a large US school, its performance and future considerations. Professor Cobb concluded by discussing the value of research collaborations that bridge classroom instructional processes and the broader policy environment.

Video of discussion of project conjectures:

Designing Instructional Improvement in Mathematics