John Hayes, Eagle River, WI, firstname.lastname@example.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).