Stepping out of the Classroom: Building Teacher Knowledge for Developing Classroom PracticeReport as inadecuate

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Teacher Education Quarterly, v36 n3 p39-53 Sum 2009

One professional development approach that has supported teachers in learning about particular children so as to become better teachers of those children is called the Descriptive Review Process (DRP), and involves taking an in-depth look at an individual child (Himley & Carini, 2000). The DRP is a ritualized close look at a particular child that generally happens within the context of an on-going study group of teachers. The goal of this particular Study Group was to support a group of elementary school teachers in becoming better teachers of mathematics. The Descriptive Review Process was used as a vehicle to focus specifically on the development of mathematics teaching practice. This study then, included an exploration of alternatives that have been used outside of mathematics education such as the Descriptive Review Process, and the use of photography to access home and community funds of knowledge, while at the same time addressing issues of student thinking in mathematics by using the Cognitively Guided Instruction framework to examine student thinking in mathematics within the classroom (Carpenter et al., 1999). For the purposes of this article, the activities that the teachers engaged in which focused their attention outside of the classroom to learn about their target students, are the ones which are discussed. Study Group activities included (a) shadowing the student in school contexts to which the teacher does not typically have access, and (b) meeting with the student's parent to become informed about out-of-school interests and competencies that could support changes in mathematics teaching practice. One contribution of this study is that it built on the methods of the DRP in two ways: first, it used a focus specifically on mathematics teaching and learning to reflect on and inform classroom practice in mathematics, and secondly it expanded the spaces into which teachers looked for evidence of a child's experiences and competencies. Teachers literally steed outside of the classroom in order to inform their classroom teaching practice of mathematics. After providing a brief description of the Study Group, the author presents the case of one particular teacher as an example of learning that happened as a result of her participation in the Study Group, and changes in practice she was able to implement based on that knowledge gained.

Descriptors: Mathematics Education, Teacher Characteristics, Group Activities, Mathematics Teachers, Elementary School Teachers, Teaching Methods, Professional Development, Grade 1, Grade 2, Grade 3, Grade 4

Caddo Gap Press. 3145 Geary Boulevard PMB 275, San Francisco, CA 94118. Tel: 415-666-3012; Fax: 415-666-3552; e-mail: caddogap[at]; Web site:

Author: Foote, Mary Q.


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