The Teacher Team That Could!

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Sharon Rendon, Director of Professional Learning,

You may remember the story from your youth about the little engine that could. There is a similar story about teams of teachers who are having the same type of experiences in relationship to student learning. This notion is called collective efficacy or the belief that educators’ beliefs can impact student learning. In her book Collective Efficacy, Jenni Donohoo, describes it this way, “When teachers believe that together they and their colleagues can impact student achievement, they share a sense of collective teacher efficacy.”

This notion of teachers believing they can make a difference has been shown to have a very high effect size in studies by John Hattie. This contribution for student learning comes from the school, not an outside influence. In fact, collective teacher efficacy is double the effect of prior achievement, three times more powerful and predictive than socioeconomic status, three times more likely to influence student achievement than student motivation, concentration, persistence, and engagement, and more than triple the effect of home environment and parental involvement. So you might be asking, This is great, but how might I or my colleagues begin to cultivate or develop this notion of collective teacher efficacy?

Three strategies surface as possibilities for building this belief system for teams of teachers. The first strategy a teacher team can use to increase collective efficacy is to acknowledge success that can be attributed to causes within their control. In other words, when teachers make positive connections between teacher actions and improved student achievement, confidence in the teacher’s ability to effect change is increased. One caution here is not to give up too quickly. Change and effort takes time, so stay committed to the right work and celebrate when increased student learning happens.

A second action that teams can take is to find and observe success in school environments similar to their own. For example, find another school setting or class similar to yours and see what they are doing well. In Oregon, one school found a neighboring district that was having great success with student learning under similar conditions, and they arranged a visit to find out what that successful school was doing. After the visit the team of teachers committed to some of those similar actions. Change is now happening. Identifying others’ successes is a fabulous tool for building collective efficacy.

Finally, cultivation of this belief in teachers or teams occurs when teams are encouraged by “credible and trustworthy persuaders to innovate and overcome challenges.” One might think of this as a knowledgeable cheerleader or someone standing alongside saying, “You’ve got this! And I know how we are going to make this happen!” This person can be found in another colleague, an administrator, and possibly a coach. A leader who advocates for high-quality teaching and learning, designs systems that support instruction, empowers others through a culture of productive professionalism, and monitors and acts on evidence of learning can play a key role in supporting teachers’ efficacy.

Teachers can make a difference. It is possible to overcome all the all the obstacles that are in a students’ way. So when you are discouraged, remember, the mantra “I think we can” can really have an impact on student learning. Stay committed and keep that belief high. Actions you take as a teacher or team of teachers matter!


Donohoo, Jenni. Collective Efficacy: How Educators Beliefs Impact Student Learning. Corwin, 2017.
Dickens, Gillian, editor. Instructional Leadership in Mathematics Education. NCSM, 2019.
Stricklin, Thomas. NCSM presentation: Leading and Coaching for Collective Efficacy. San Diego, CA. April, 2019.

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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.