An Administrator’s Six Spheres of Influence in Mathematics Teaching and Learning: Part 6

As an administrator and instructional leader in your school or district, you are well-positioned to positively impact teaching and learning in mathematics. The ways in which you empower teachers to engage in best practices in mathematics teaching are reflected in your Six Spheres of Influence.

Your Six Spheres of Influence:

  • The lens through which you observe teachers
  • Your expectations regarding the posting of lesson objectives
  • Your requirements related to lesson structures
  • The ways you hold teachers accountable to provide feedback to students
  • The structures you have in place for intervention
  • How you support teacher planning

In this sixth and final post focused on unpacking the spheres, I will share my views on teacher planning.

How to Support Teacher Planning

What I’ve noticed over the last few years is that teachers are working harder than ever before but planning less. The possible reasons for this phenomenon are well beyond this blog, but what to do to support teachers is not. Your sphere of influence can be made more impactful by supporting teachers to plan using the TQE Process. The TQE Process refers to the use of tasks, questions, and evidence to help students meet a specified learning goal.

                                                                      Source: Dixon, Nolan, & Adams, 2016, Solution Tree

What is important here is that planning begins with the learning goal. Tasks are selected based on that goal. I see too many teachers focus on the task rather than on the mathematical thinking they want their students to experience. Teachers support the implementation of their tasks through the questions they use. Those questions help teachers engage students in the mathematical practices—such as "model with mathematics" or "look for and make use of structure." They also support teachers in eliciting common errors and misconceptions from students so that those errors can be addressed and resolved during instruction. Everything the students say and do during instruction provides evidence for teachers to use in their formative assessment process to guide instruction throughout the lesson.

This TQE Process provides an excellent structure for planning; however, it does take a fair amount of time to develop lessons using it. This is why I suggest that teachers only use the TQE Process to plan two to three lessons during a unit of instruction (I am defining a unit to mean approximately three weeks of instruction). The key is that teachers must make sense of the overarching learning goal for the unit to select the three most important lessons. The practice of selecting the lessons and implementing the TQE Process for planning has a positive impact on teaching for the entire unit. I strongly encourage you to use your influence to support teachers to plan in this manner within their collaborative teams.

As I close this final blog in the series on the Six Spheres of Influence, I want to share how great it has been to “see” so many of you on Twitter responding to the ideas I have presented. I hope you will connect with me (@thestrokeofluck) to continue the dialogue and the conversations.

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Learn more about HMH’s Into Math program for K-12 students.