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How Does Induction and Continuing Professional Development Affect Beginning Middle School Math Teachers' Instruction and Student Achievement?


Student achievement in math is greatly dependent on the supply, retention, and quality of math teachers. States and districts have increasingly been turning to induction--first-year professional development and other orientation/initiation activities--as a policy mechanism to improve teaching. This project bridges the most recent research on teachers' professional development and induction to develop a conceptual framework for studying teacher learning. The project has two main objectives: (1) to use the conceptual framework to develop a methodology and a coherent, integrated set of instruments for studying math teachers' induction and continuing learning experiences (Year 1); and (2) to study the relationship between induction and other professional development activities, math instruction, and student learning (Years 2, 3, 4, and 5), in the context of a three-year longitudinal empirical study of new middle school math teachers in three southern districts.

The study advances the field by (1) moving beyond retention as an outcome to link induction with the content and quality of instruction and with improvement in students' math achievement; (2) placing a focus on the potentially pivotal role of mathematics content, an aspect largely ignored in the induction literature; (3) developing and applying a conceptual framework to guide instrument development and all aspects of the empirical study; (3) assessing all first-year professional development experiences, not just those categorized as "induction"; (4) building on recent induction research by expanding beyond an exclusive focus on the mentor-mentee relationship to include professional community and the role of the principal, especially in interactions around math content; and (5) measuring both the extent to which instruction is aligned with state standards and assessments and the quality of instruction, with a mixed methods approach--allowing for the examination of the extent to which induction programs and accountability policy move teachers toward or away from reform-oriented instruction in math. Further, the instrumentation and methodology bring together and adapt state-of-the-art instruments developed in part with NSF support for use in other contexts to measure the content and quality of professional development, teachers' content and pedagogical content knowledge, and the alignment and quality of instruction. The goal is to provide a coherent, integrated set of qualitative and quantitative instruments for use by both researchers and practitioners to assess the quality and effects of induction programs on teaching and learning in math. The work responds to several current challenges in STEM education, specifically the pervasive need to build math teachers' content knowledge and the quality of their instruction.

The study builds the capacity of the field to study math teachers' induction activities--with broader implications for investigating teachers' learning at all stages of their careers--by producing a framework for identifying what is important to measure about teacher learning, and providing tools for measurement. Simultaneously, the project contributes to knowledge about the effects of induction activities on increasing math teachers' content and pedagogical content knowledge, improving their instruction and bolstering student learning. The project begins with a series of partnerships with scholars and practitioners in three southern districts, and expands to include a national working conference to bring together scholars, evaluators, and practitioners to work toward a coherent framework and methodology for studying teacher learning and teacher change. Members of Vanderbilt's doctoral and postdoctoral Experimental Education Research Training (ExpERT), a highly selective program that provides training in rigorous scientific research methods to the most promising students, will participate in parts of data collection and analysis to ensure their exposure to issues.