Wonder #3: How do I Begin?

Once a plan and resources are in place, the next question is how to attract teachers to the community. Any new form of professional learning requires an initiation and series of welcoming opportunities to attract and draw attendees. Because a math community is an ongoing commitment, it is important to inform teachers about what it could be, and to gather teacher voice to ensure that the community being created meets professional learner needs.  Initiation processes can include an initial invitation, an in-person after-school information sessions, and a pre-assessment ½ day workshop.

Invitation to Teachers

Guidelines for initiating a Mathematics Community should be co-constructed with senior administration so that there is a shared understanding of the content and intent of the learning that professionals will be experiencing. This invitation should include core expectations for community actions, which may include:

o   committing to changing practice within classrooms

o   collecting and analyzing student data (classroom, school-wide, Division-wide and provincial assessments)

o   deepening content, pedagogical, and curricular knowledge and refining instruction to support student learning and achievement

After School Information Session

An information session has two purposes:

  1.    To set a context for a mathematics community and provide information.
  2.    To show that structure and content of the community is tentative, and will be co-constructed with math community members.

Pre-assessment Workshop

The Pre-Assessment Day workshop is a half day that introduces community members to each other, and provides a pre-assessment of community member needs, and includes:

  1.    Setting Norms
  2.    Identifying Questions
  3.    Creating Shared Vision
  4.    Identifying Strengths and Needs
  5.    Making Commitments

1.   Setting Norms

In small groups, community members identify how they will be working together. The Circle of Courage graphic organizer (Brendtro, Brokenleg, & Van Bockern, 1990) can be used as a prompt for developing norms. These norms should be revisited regularly by community members.

2.   Identifying Questions

In small groups, community members are given the opportunity to brainstorm onto chart paper what questions they have regarding the teaching and learning of mathematics. After brainstorming, facilitators should address ‘easily answered’ questions right away. Answers are noted on each brainstormed list by community members in a different colour. The questions that are not easily answered become the work of the community, and should be saved for reflection at the end of the year.

3.   Creating Shared Vision

It is effective to use a thinking device (Knight, Partnership learning fieldbook, 2002) that is related to visioning or building a dream. A thinking device can be a video, picture, story, painting, or some other device that is shared to prompt dialogue and reflection. Then ask:

i.        In grade-alike groupings, “what is the dream math student? What would you see, hear, observe?”Dream poster


ii.        And then, groups add in a different colour “what does the dream math teacher do to allow that dream math student to grow?”

These ‘dream sheets’ are then revisited every community meeting as a reminder of what the goal is for student and teacher behaviours.

4.   Identifying Strengths and Needs

To know the area of content focus for future community meetings, it is important for community members to reflect on their own knowledge and identify strengths and weaknesses. A process that allows for this:

i.        Each community member puts their name on 3 sticky notes each of 2 different colours.Affinity diagram

ii.        Referring to curricular outcomes, each community member identifies 3 areas of strength (ie. yellow) and 3 areas of growth (ie. blue).

iii.        Organize outcomes for the entire grade band by strand on the wall. Community members affix their sticky notes onto the outcomes they have identified.

Identification of strengths and areas of growth has multiple purposes

  1.     To determine the mathematical topics to be explored at whole community meetings, and help identify community co-facilitators based on self-identified strengths.
  2.    To determine which topics will be used to generate topic-specific optional workshops.
  3.     To help community members connect in small groups or pairs where one person has identified a topic as a strength and one has identified a topic as an area of growth.

5.   Making Commitments

Community members are asked to identify commitments for actions between meetings on . This allows learning to be continuous and provides a reflection point for the next meeting. Differentiated commitments are emphasized, as community members will be at different places in their ability to act in their classrooms, schools, and the community at large.

Something to emphasize is that community members do not need to fill in all stems on the commitment sheet. These sheets are gathered and then handed back out at the next meeting where community members reflect on the ‘As a result, I observed that…’ as a way to begin the conversation about impact on students.

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