Teacher Transparency

John Hayes, Eagle River, WI, johnhayes@cpm.org

Picture the following situation.

Mr. H’s math department has just adopted CPM. He is three weeks into the first term when suddenly his students realize that they are putting much more effort into their math learning then they ever have in their learning career. They are frustrated and looking for something or someone to blame for this new learning discomfort. At home they tell their parents, “Mr. H isn’t teaching us. He only has us work in teams and we have to figure it out ourselves.”

What should Mr. H do? Perhaps allowing transparency in his practice might help.

Teacher transparency, as I use it here, involves communicating learning intentions and success criteria for the learning intentions. Research has shown that teacher transparency is important for student learning. In a meta-analysis relating to achievement, Hattie (2009) found an average effect size of 0.75 when teachers communicated both learning intentions and their success criteria to students. It is of course important in a CPM lesson to communicate the math goal and success criteria to your students. However, teacher transparency is an added layer of communication which may impact engagement, students’ perception of your teaching practice, and equity.

Engagement. Unclear expectations yield learning disruptions in the classroom. Marzano (2003) found that “across the various grade levels the average number of disruptions in classes where rules and procedures were effectively implemented was 28 percentile points lower than the average number of disruptions in classes where that was not the case” (p. 14). The instructional strategies outlined in CPM’s lessons can help address such challenges. In particular, Study Team and Teaching Strategies and Team Roles provide opportunities to engage all learners, formatively assess, stimulate movement, spread ideas, and strengthen math identities. However, if we keep their purpose a mystery, students will be unsure what their behavior expectations are when we employ these strategies. Telling students that you are using the Facilitator role to get learning started promptly not only sends the message that you want learning to start right away, but it also tells the student why the purpose of the Facilitator is important. Explaining that you are using a Swapmeet to make sure that students are able to collect and critique other teams’ ideas provides students with a plan and an expectation during the Swapmeet – to critique and collect ideas.

Students’ perceptions of your teaching practice. Students can feel anxious in our classrooms if they do not know the reason behind our teaching moves, but if we have teacher transparency, students may see the diversity of our teaching practices as orchestrating their learning. In a way, teacher transparency is a means to bolster the teacher’s position as the more knowledgeable other. If you are implementing CPM as intended, you are using multiple modes of instruction with every lesson. Multiple modes of instruction might include whole class discussion, working in teams of four, working in pairs, having teams give presentations, working with manipulatives, and creating posters. Teachers often have clear reasons why they switch from one mode to another. These reasons might include attempting to level status, creating opportunities to critique the reasoning of others, and increasing engagement. Providing students with the reason why you are switching modes as well as the expectations they should be following for that mode allows students to engage at a more meaningful level. This might sound like the following: “I’d like you to think and ink for the next minute by yourself. Make sure you understand what the problem is asking. Try four ideas that you can discuss with your team.” Now all students know that their ideas are valuable. More reserved students or students who might be struggling will have their status leveled within their team.

Equity. Transparency of your teaching practice also provides access to learners who might struggle. Principles to Actions states in their Access and Equity Element that “To provide access and equity, teachers go beyond ‘good teaching,’ to teaching that ensures that all students have opportunities to engage successfully in the mathematics classroom and learn challenging mathematics” (NCTM 2014). This seems easier said than done, especially if students need support with their math identity. Winkelmes (2016) reported that university students’ math identities are impacted with practice transparency: “Students who received more transparency reported gains in three areas that are important predictors of students’ success: academic confidence, sense of belonging,and mastery of the skills that employers value most when hiring” (p. 32). Teacher Transparency is a critical component of engaging all students in a collaborative classroom.

Transparency in your teaching practice is challenging to maintain. However, it can shift your students’ perspectives of how they are learning. Your students can be a direct channel to how others such as administration, parents, other faculty, and even other students, view your practice. In addition, focusing on transparency may cause you to reflect on your planning process and therefore improve your instruction as you gain clarity on each lesson’s learning intentions and the criteria you will need in order to know students have successfully achieved these learning intentions.


Hattie, J. A. C. (2009). Visible learning. A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. Routledge: New York, NY.

Marzano, R. J. (2003a). What works in schools. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Marzano, R. J. (with Marzano, J. S., & Pickering, D. J.). (2003b). Classroom management that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. (2014). Principles to actions: Ensuring mathematical success for all. Reston, VA: Author.

Winkelmes, Mary-Ann. 2009. Transparency in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education Project. Creative Commons License 3.0. 

Winkelmes, Mary-Ann. 2013. “Transparency in Teaching: Faculty Share Data and Improve Students’ Learning.” Liberal Education 99(2): 48-55.

Winkelmes, Mary-Ann, Matthew Bernacki, Jeffrey Butler, Michelle Zochowski, Jennifer Golanics, Kati Harriss Weavil. “A Teaching Intervention that Increases Underserved College Students’ Success.” Peer Review (Winter/Spring 2016).

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Algebra Tiles Blue Icon

Algebra Tiles Session

  • Used throughout CPM middle and high school courses
  • Concrete, geometric representation of algebraic concepts.
  • Two-hour virtual session,
  •  Learn how students build their conceptual understanding of simplifying algebraic expressions
  • Solving equations using these tools.  
  • Determining perimeter,
  • Combining like terms,
  • Comparing expressions,
  • Solving equations
  • Use an area model to multiply polynomials,
  • Factor quadratics and other polynomials, and
  • Complete the square.
  • Support the transition from a concrete (manipulative) representation to an abstract model of mathematics..

Foundations for Implementation

This professional learning is designed for teachers as they begin their implementation of CPM. This series contains multiple components and is grounded in multiple active experiences delivered over the first year. This learning experience will encourage teachers to adjust their instructional practices, expand their content knowledge, and challenge their beliefs about teaching and learning. Teachers and leaders will gain first-hand experience with CPM with emphasis on what they will be teaching. Throughout this series educators will experience the mathematics, consider instructional practices, and learn about the classroom environment necessary for a successful implementation of CPM curriculum resources.

Page 2 of the Professional Learning Progression (PDF) describes all of the components of this learning event and the additional support available. Teachers new to a course, but have previously attended Foundations for Implementation, can choose to engage in the course Content Modules in the Professional Learning Portal rather than attending the entire series of learning events again.

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Building on Instructional Practice Series

The Building on Instructional Practice Series consists of three different events – Building on Discourse, Building on Assessment, Building on Equity – that are designed for teachers with a minimum of one year of experience teaching with CPM instructional materials and who have completed the Foundations for Implementation Series.

Building on Equity

In Building on Equity, participants will learn how to include equitable practices in their classroom and support traditionally underserved students in becoming leaders of their own learning. Essential questions include: How do I shift dependent learners into independent learners? How does my own math identity and cultural background impact my classroom? The focus of day one is equitable classroom culture. Participants will reflect on how their math identity and mindsets impact student learning. They will begin working on a plan for Chapter 1 that creates an equitable classroom culture. The focus of day two and three is implementing equitable tasks. Participants will develop their use of the 5 Practices for Orchestrating Meaningful Mathematical Discussions and curate strategies for supporting all students in becoming leaders of their own learning. Participants will use an equity lens to reflect on and revise their Chapter 1 lesson plans.

Building on Assessment

In Building on Assessment, participants will apply assessment research and develop methods to provide feedback to students and inform equitable assessment decisions. On day one, participants will align assessment practices with learning progressions and the principle of mastery over time as well as write assessment items. During day two, participants will develop rubrics, explore alternate types of assessment, and plan for implementation that supports student ownership. On the third day, participants will develop strategies to monitor progress and provide evidence of proficiency with identified mathematics content and practices. Participants will develop assessment action plans that will encourage continued collaboration within their learning community.

Building on Discourse

In Building on Discourse, participants will improve their ability to facilitate meaningful mathematical discourse. This learning experience will encourage participants to adjust their instructional practices in the areas of sharing math authority, developing independent learners, and the creation of equitable classroom environments. Participants will plan for student learning by using teaching practices such as posing purposeful questioning, supporting productive struggle, and facilitating meaningful mathematical discourse. In doing so, participants learn to support students collaboratively engaged with rich tasks with all elements of the Effective Mathematics Teaching Practices incorporated through intentional and reflective planning.