Fostering communication and colleagueship across institutions to improve the quality of education for children in West Michigan
TeachingWorks aims to build an interconnected system of training and support that enables beginning teachers to enter the profession with the necessary skills and knowledge to teach skillfully, and with care. As a part of this mission, TeachingWorks has strategically partnered with teacher preparation programs, school districts and leaders, and practicing teachers in West Michigan on two new projects: the School-Based Teacher Education Partnership (STEP) and the Grand Rapids Mathematics Collaborative (GRMC).
School-Based Teacher Education Partnership
Launched in 2015, STEP is a collaborative effort between TeachingWorks, teacher education faculty at Grand Valley State University (GVSU), and mentor teachers in the Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS). Throughout the year, a group of more than 20 teacher educators and elementary mentor teachers meet monthly in Grand Rapids to produce strategies that they can use to work synergistically across the university and in school settings to better support student teachers as they learn to teach.
“Student teachers in field placements typically do not have a chance to receive coaching on the lessons they teach until after they complete the lesson. Our fundamental goal is to create more opportunities for student teachers to receive coaching and feedback in real time,” said TeachingWorks ELA Research & Design Specialist Susan Atkins. “Part of the STEP project is to help mentor teachers reconsider how they’re using their time with novices. We offer innovative ways to build in teaching strategies for student teachers, as well as to receive coaching and feedback before and while they enact lessons with children.”
“Our fundamental goal is to create more opportunities for student teachers to receive coaching and feedback in real time.” Susan Atkins, ELA Research & Design Specialist, TeachingWorks
Grand Rapids Mathematics Collaborative
This year, thanks to a $3 million gift from Michael & Susan Jandernoa, TeachingWorks launched the GRMC, a partnership between TeachingWorks, GVSU, GRPS, Godfrey-Lee Public Schools, and the Kent Intermediate School District. The partnership is focused on a program of training, development, and support to improve mathematics teaching in grades 3–8 within each school district.
Each month, members of the TeachingWorks staff meet with approximately 15 teachers and school leaders from each district. During the meetings, the group focuses on using high-leverage practices for teaching mathematics in ways that create opportunities for children from marginalized communities to develop positive academic identities.
According to TeachingWorks Director Deborah Loewenberg Ball, participants in the program have been particularly excited to learn concrete ways to advance justice while teaching mathematical content. “It has been so exciting to see the uptake of this work by the practicing teachers and school leaders, and to hear stories from them about the positive ways their students are responding to the adjustments they are making to their instruction,” she said. “The ways they are now engaging with children and having discussions about their mathematical thinking have proven to build students’ confidence and foster success in the classroom.”
Combined, the TeachingWorks projects in West Michigan demonstrate the power of fostering communication and colleagueship across separate institutions for improving the quality of education for children. “By working with so many different stakeholders in the region, we are building up a strategy that we believe will have a significant impact in inspiring a deep commitment to skillful teaching throughout West Michigan and beyond,” said Ball.