Middle School Mathematics Teachers’ Professional Development and Student Achievement

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  • This article was downloaded by: [Stony Brook University]On: 01 November 2014, At: 02:18Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House,37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

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    Middle School Mathematics Teachers ProfessionalDevelopment and Student AchievementJames A. Telese aa University of Texas, Brownsville/Texas Southmost CollegePublished online: 06 Feb 2012.

    To cite this article: James A. Telese (2012) Middle School Mathematics Teachers Professional Development and StudentAchievement, The Journal of Educational Research, 105:2, 102-111, DOI: 10.1080/00220671.2010.521209

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  • The Journal of Educational Research, 105:102111, 2012Copyright C Taylor & Francis Group, LLCISSN: 0022-0671 print / 1940-0675 onlineDOI:10.1080/00220671.2010.521209

    Middle School Mathematics TeachersProfessional Development and Student

    AchievementJAMES A. TELESEUniversity of Texas, Brownsville/Texas Southmost College

    ABSTRACT. Middle school mathematics teacher quality isquestionable because the number of certified mathematicsteachers considered highly qualified is low (Birman et al.,2009). The author examined Grade 8 data from the 2005National Association of Educational Progress mathematicsassessment. The purposes of the study were to (a) determinethe impact of middle school mathematics teachers contentknowledge and teachers mathematics pedagogical knowledgeon student achievement and (b) compare the effect of the de-gree to which teachers received reform-oriented professionaldevelopment activities on student achievement. The resultsindicated that mathematics content knowledge has a largerrole in predicting student achievement than mathematics ped-agogical knowledge. Also, teachers who reported participat-ing in fewer professional development activities had studentswith higher scores than those students whose teachers re-ported either participating in more professional development.Results for various professional development activities arealso presented.

    Keywords: middle school mathematics teachers, National As-sociation of Educational Progress (NAEP), professional de-velopment

    I n the era of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001(NCLB; 2002), a focus has been placed on teacherquality, whereby the High Objective Uniform StateStandard of Evaluation provision permits states to allow theirteachers to demonstrate content knowledge through experi-ence, college coursework, or professional development (Bir-man et al., 2009). The intent of the program is that NCLBwill provide for effective and knowledgeable teachers.

    Professional development of teachers is seen as an avenueto help young people learn complex and analytical skills nec-essary for the 21st century, which requires education systemsto provide more effective professional learning than whathas been made available in the past (Darling-Hammond, &Richardson, 2009). There is a potential to positively influ-ence student outcomes when teacher professional develop-ment focuses on student learning and pedagogical contentknowledge (Blank, de las Alas, & Smith, 2007). It is thoughtthat professional development of teachers will lead to moreeffective teachers. There has long been a debate as to what

    constitutes effective teaching. One measure involves studentperformance. In the present article I present findings relatedto middle school mathematics teachers content knowledge,professional development, and student achievement.

    Teacher Knowledge

    What type of knowledge is necessary for effective teach-ing? According to Darling-Hammond (2001), teachers needknowledge related to the understanding of human develop-ment and learning in general as well as specific domains,the effects of curricular approaches and teaching strategiesfor special instances and circumstances, and assessment re-sulting in insight into students understanding. Similarly,10 principles were established by the Interstate TeacherSupport and Assessment Consortium (1992) for beginningteachers, which include understandings related to how chil-dren learn and how children differ in their approaches tolearning, using various instructional strategies that fostercritical thinking and problem solving, and understanding ofhow to use formal and informal assessment strategies. Be-cause content knowledge is a necessary component of effec-tive teaching, the level of middle school teachers contentknowledge plays an important role in how reform efforts areimplemented (Ball, Lubienski, & Spangler-Newborn, 2001).

    Under the NCLB program, Birman et al. (2009) reportedthat in 20062007 most mathematics teachers in the UnitedStates met the requirements to be deemed highly qualified,even though there were a variety of definitions used by thestates. However, the percentage of teachers not highly qual-ified was higher for middle school teachers (Birman et al.,2009). NCLB calls for middle and secondary teachers topass rigorous state certification tests in mathematics or havea major in mathematics.

    Yet, in a review of 57 studies conducted by Wilson, Flo-den, and Ferrini-Mundy (2002), which focused on research

    Address correspondence to James A. Telese, Department of Teach-ing, Learning, and Innovation,University of Texas, Brownsville/TexasSouthmost College, 80 Fort Brown, Brownsville, TX 78520, USA.(E-mail: james.telese@utb.edu)

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  • The Journal of Educational Research 103

    in teacher preparation, there were no reports identified thatdirectly related prospective teachers subject matter knowl-edge with student achievement. In their review, four of sevenstudies were identified that related to mathematics teacherssubject matter knowledge. Wilson et al. found that a positiverelationship existed between teachers subject matter knowl-edge and higher student achievement. They concluded thateducation coursework is an essential ingredient in teacherperformance. Regarding subject matter coursework, there islittle effect on student achievement when teachers reporthaving more than four to six courses. However, there is athreshold effect: Monk (1994) found little improvement instudent achievement when teachers took more than fiveundergraduate mathematics courses and that mathematicseducation courses contributed more to student achievementgains than undergraduate mathematics courses. These find-ings suggest that undergraduate mathematics content andmathematics education courses are necessary to positivelyaffect student achievement, with mathematics educationcourses having a greater impact.

    Moreover, Wilson et al. (2002) noted that researchon pedagogical preparation is very scarce, with few orno studies having been conducted on the relationshipbetween pedagogical preparation and student learningor teacher behavior. They concluded that because ofinadequate measurements, it is unclear as to the degreeof this association, showing some benefit for pedagogicalpreparation, which includes instructional methods, learningtheories, and educational psychology.

    There are very few studies that have examined the rela-tionship between teachers knowledge and student achieve-ment. Darling-Hammond (2000) examined National As-sociation of Educational Progress (NAEP) data and founda positive and statistically significant relationship amongteachers certification status, degree in the field, and studentoutcomes. The important influence of pedagogical prepa-ration was identified in an interpretive study in whichsecondary teachers with no pedagogical preparation werelimited in their ability to engage students in instruc-tion (Darling-Hammond, 2000; Felter, 1999; Goldhaber &Brewer, 2000). Teacher education courses experienced byveteran teachers were thought to be of little or inconsequen-tial use to them in practice (Kagan, 1992). Many teachersviewed them as irrelevant and had to learn how to teachon their own in their school (Zeichner, 1993). The value ofthe impact of teacher education coursework is reported tobe inconclusive due to research methods used and the smallsample sizes in interpretive studies (Wilson et al., 2002).Hence, the research on the influence of teacher educationon student achievement appears to be scarce in quality.

    Teacher Professional Development

    NCLB dictates that states ensure their teachers re-ceive high-quality professional development without defin-ing high-quality professional development (Borko, 2004).

    Little (1987) defined professional development as any activ-ity that is intended partly or primarily to prepare paid staffmembers for improved performance in present or future rolesin the school districts (p. 491). Assuming that professionaldevelopment should focus on aspects of improving teachersknowledge of content and pedagogy, it follows that profes-sional development for middle school mathematics teach-ers should hinge on topics that enhance teachers contentknowledge and instructional techniques.

    A key component in teachers lifelong learning processis continual professional development. However, it is oftenviewed as being fragmented, on an as-needed basis, andrelatively superficial (Loucks-Horsley, Love, Stiles, Mundry,& Hewson, 2003). Professional development activities thatmay improve teachers knowledge and skills range fromformal, structured topic-specific workshops to informal dis-cussions in hallways (Desimone, 2009). There is a trend inteachers professional development to connect it to studentlearning with an ultimate goal of closing achievement gapsamong student groups (Desimone, 2009; Loucks-Horsleyet al., 2003), as reported in Figure 1, which presents a coreconceptual framework for studying the effects of professionaldevelopment on teachers and students (Desimone, 2009).

    The context includes teacher characteristics, such as ex-perience, knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes (e.g., Borko &Putman, 1996; Franke, Carpenter, Levi, & Fennema, 2001),and student characteristics, such as achievement and so-cioeconomic status (Darling-Hammond & Sykes, 1999). Inthe model, context has the potential to influence the corecomponents of professional development and its outcomesrelated to the teachers and students.

    Criticism of teacher professional development stems fromits expense and unseen benefits. In 20042005, local, state,and federal agencies spent about $1.5 billion on teacher pro-fessional development (Birman et al., 2007). Professional de-velopment for inservice teachers is an expensive endeavor,and teachers may experience workshops that do not directlyaddress their needs, making them a waste of time and money(Cohen & Hill, 2000; Wilson, Lubienski, & Mattson, 1996).Professional development is rarely considered developmen-tal because there few programs that address teachers learningand the practices they are to enact, and associated math-ematical practices (Heaton, 2000). Although professionaldevelopment is an expensive endeavor, it is a critical aspectof teachers professional life.

    The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics(NCTM) established standards for the professional devel-opment of mathematics teachers (Martin, 2007). The coun-cil contended that professional development should focuson five standards (which parallels Desimones [2009] coreconceptual framework): (a) knowing mathematics contentand school mathematics, (b) knowing students as learners ofmathematics, (c) knowing mathematics pedagogy, and (d)developing as a mathematics teacher (Martin, 2007). Theprevious list suggests that teachers, through professional de-velopment, become reflective in their practice. Teachers

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  • 104 The Journal of Educational Research

    FIGURE 1. Core conceptual framework for studying the effects of professional development on teachers and students (adaptedfrom Desimone, 2009).

    ought to examine and revise their assumptions about thenature of mathematics, how it should be taught, how stu-dents learn mathematics, and analyze the effectiveness oftheir teaching (Loucks-Horsley et al., 2003; Martin, 2007).

    Professional development should be designed to enhancemiddle school mathematics teachers knowledge of math-ematics and their ability to effectively teach mathematicsto culturally and socially diverse students (Stevens, Harris,Aguirre-Munoz, & Cobbs, 2009). Loucks-Horsley et al.(2003) also considered the context of teacher professionaldevelopment to be important and included several con-textual factors, including students, standards, and studentlearning needs, practices regarding curriculum, instruction,and assessment, and national, state and local policies.Hence, it is apparent that teachers must possess contentknowledge and knowledge of how to effectively implementmathematics instruction.

    The research on teacher learning is a relatively youngfield; a knowledge base is beginning to form on the topic ofthe impact of teacher professional development on studentoutcomes (Borko, 2004). There are few studies that squarelyattacked this issue (e.g., Desimone, 2009). When studies onteacher learning are conducted, they tend to focus on whatthe teacher has learned and the extent to which the pro-gram was implemented (Borko, 2004). For example, Pe...

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