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Making Teaching & Learning Visible: UM Secondary Math Lab with AP

The University of Michigan School of Education hosted its second annual Secondary Mathematics Laboratory (SML) from August 8-19, 2011 At the heart of the SML is a special mathematics class for entering ninth-graders taught by Bob Moses―civil rights leader, Algebra Project founder & president, and mathematics teacher. The class was collectively planned and studied by a diverse group of teachers, researchers, teacher educators and mathematicians. Each day, the group met prior the class, observes the lesson, and debriefs together. The 2011 SML was designed to build capacity for instructional leaders and instructional leadership teams.

A unique feature of the SML class is support in developing a shared understanding of responsive, mathematically demanding teaching. Many factors contribute to this. First, the physical space is organized for observation. For instance, sound is amplified to help observers hear, student work is made available, everything is documented for ongoing study, and a live video feed is provided for remote viewing. There is also a range of supports to help people be able to “see” what is often invisible to casual, and even experienced, observers. For instance, the lesson plan provided beforehand requires that the teacher, and group, make instructional planning explicit and it prepares people to watch what happens. The pre- and debriefing for observers includes people with diverse perspectives, providing a fuller picture of important dimensions of instruction. Even the teaching itself is conducted to provide greater access. This is done in many ways — for example by not only making sure that all students can see presented work, but also that observers can see, or by narrating for students what is happening, but in ways that simultaneously keep observers in the instructional design loop. Last, the presence of groups of scholars engaged in a variety of related studies of teaching enriches the collective planning and broader discussions.

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