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MIST Project Progress

Professional Development

Phase 1

Professional Development for School Leaders
In the first phase of the MIST project, round 1 interview data indicated that most participating principals had received professional development that focused on assessing the quality of classroom instruction. However, most had only a limited understanding of high-quality mathematics instruction. As a result, we collaborated with University of Pittsburgh's Institute for Learning to develop a series of three half-day workshops to support school leaders' development as instructional leaders in mathematics. Specifically, these workshops focused on support for school leaders to:

  • develop a relatively sophisticated vision of high-quality mathematics instruction
  • press teachers to develop instructional practices consistent with this vision
  • communicate this vision to other stakeholders

The workshop was piloted in one of the collaborating districts in August-October 2009. We are currently analyzing the data from the three sessions, which include video-recordings of all activities as well as a series of pre- and post-assessments embedded in the activities.

Phase 2

District-Based Professional Development for Teachers, Coaches, and School Leaders
In the second phase of the MIST project, we are working closely with two of the original four districts to plan and co-lead coordinated professional development for math teachers, instructional coaches, and school leaders to investigate key conjectures of our Theory of Action. For each role group, this professional development is coordinated across settings (e.g., pull-out district professional development for teachers, school-based teacher collaborative meetings, and individual work with a coach in the classroom). We will conduct analyses that will focus on the extent to which opportunities to develop the intended instructional and instructional leadership practices arise.

Analyses of these data will inform the revision of the professional development design. In addition, we will analyze interview, survey, and classroom data to assess the extent to which members of each role group develop the intended instructional or instructional leadership practices.

Ongoing Analyses to Test and Refine our Hypotheses

Current in-progress analyses include:

Ambitious and Equitable Instructional Practices

  • What specific instructional practices support all students' participation in all phases of rigorous mathematics lessons?
  • How does the introduction, or launch, of challenging tasks relate to equity in students' opportunities to learn in middle-grades mathematics (e.g., in the concluding whole-class discussion)?
  • What classroom instructional practices are likely to support ELLs' learning?
  • Are there measurable differences in the instructional practices of teachers in tracked and de-tracked schools?
  • How are teachers' beliefs about the mathematical capabilities of their students related to their understanding of what constitutes high quality mathematical instruction and their practice in their classrooms?
  • What influences teachers' maintenance of the cognitive demand of mathematical tasks from set up through implementation?

Teacher Learning/Classroom Instruction

  • What influences the extent to which teachers' maintain the cognitive demand of challenging mathematical tasks?
  • How are districts' plans for school-based professional development transformed during implementation?
  • How are gains in student achievement related to teachers' ability to enact the dimensions of high-quality mathematics instruction assessed by the IQA?
  • How does district organization of site-based professional development shape teachers' professional learning opportunities?
  • How do schools and districts with diverse institutional structures, resources, and constraints support middle-grades mathematics teachers' development of forms of equitable and ambitious instructional practices?

School Instructional Leadership

  • How did principals' ability to recognize high and low quality tasks and high and low quality task implementation change following their participation in the School Leadership workshop?
  • How is principals' feedback to teachers about their classroom instruction influenced by professional development that focuses on maintaining rigorous tasks during instruction?
  • How does what principals understand about high-quality mathematics instruction relate to what they do to support teachers' improvement of their instructional practices?
  • In what ways was the school leadership workshop effective in enhancing principals' ability to recognize high and low quality tasks and high and low quality task implementation and in what ways could it be revised to further enhance this ability?


  • How are instructional coaches supported to become a central source of expertise for teachers?
  • What type of activities in which mathematics coaches and teachers engage are likely to support teacher development?
  • What do mathematics coaches need to know and be able to do in order to support teachers to develop high quality instructional practice?
  • How can the principal and the coach work together to support teachers' learning from a more expert other, from their own practice, and from each other?

Teacher Networks

  • How do district policies influence the teachers' depth of interactions about instruction?
  • How does the distribution of expertise in teacher network affect teachers' development of high-quality instructional practices?

District Leadership

  • How does the way in which district leaders frame the problem of supporting students' learning influence their strategies for supporting the development of school capacity?

District/University Partnerships

  • How can district/university partnerships support teachers' development of high-quality instructional practices?