Developing a professional learning community among mathematics teachers on two Montana Indian reservations
Nelson, Karma Grace
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This study documents the development of a professional learning community [Math Inquiry Group] of mathematics teachers from schools on or near the Crow and Northern Cheyenne reservations in Southeast Montana (referred to in this study as the bounded system) using an approach referred to as ALRR (Ask, Listen, Respond and Reflect). It adds to the current body of literature identifying professional learning communities as a recommended method to improve classroom practice and close achievement gaps in mathematics. Although much has been written about professional learning communities within a given school or district, there is little advice for those wishing to develop a professional learning community across schools. Teachers and administrators in the bounded system were committed to improving student learning in mathematics but struggled to do so within the context of high student mobility rates and a serious lack of consistent curricular material.The use of ALRR helped establish a spirit of trust among Math Inquiry Group [MIG] participants while responding to important contextual factors. The identified contextual factors were organized around three themes: organizational, family and community, and policy factors. Twenty-three mathematics teachers from grades 5-12 were interviewed about their participation in the professional learning community known as MIG over a threeyear period. The researcher's analysis of the interview transcripts indicates teacher participation in MIG addressed their professional, intellectual, emotional, and personal needs. Teachers also identified an increase in personal content and pedagogical knowledge of mathematics and an increased self-confidence in their ability to teach the content. These in turn influenced their classroom practice. Through the process, teachers began to change their sense of professional identity.