Resources mentioned in this episode:

The Teaching Gap by Stigler & Hiebert

2019 Virtual Math Summit Registration

Welcome fellow Recovering Traditionalists to Episode 18.  Today we are investigating The Professional Development Gap.  Today’s insight comes from a book I’ve mentioned in a previous podcast: The Teaching Gap by Stigler & Hiebert.  But I wanted to pull out another section of the book.  

Throughout pages 12-13 they write:

“ Although most U.S. teachers report trying to improve their teaching with current reform recommendations in mind, the videos show little evidence that change is occurring.  Furthermore, when teachers do change their practice, it is often in only superficial ways…The problem of how to improve teaching on a wide scale is one that has been seriously underestimated by policy makers, reformers, and the public in this country.  The American approach has been to write and distribute reform documents and ask teachers to implement the recommendations contained in such documents…To really improve teaching we must invest far more than we do now in generating and sharing knowledge about teaching.  This is another sort of teaching gap. Compared to other countries, the United States clearly lacks a system for developing professional knowledge and for giving teachers the opportunity to learn about teaching…American teachers are left alone, an action sometimes justified on grounds of freedom, independence, and professionalism.  This is not good enough if we want excellent schools in the next century.”

Although this book was written 20 years ago the same thing continues to happen.  Think of the most current reform that tried to happen: the implementation of Common Core.  It was a reform document that was given to teachers and we were told to implement. No training. No information about why it’s important to do it or how to do it in our classrooms.

I agree.  There is still a lack of structure on how to implement and sustain change in our teaching of mathematics.  That’s one of the reasons I started the Build Math Minds Virtual Summit. I have had the opportunity to get amazing professional development and I wanted to extend that out to teachers who don’t have the opportunity.

It isn’t our fault if we haven’t been able to make a change in our teaching.  We haven’t been taught how. It’s just like putting a child out in center field and expecting them to make a catch if they’ve never been taught how to catch a ball.  We can be like Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez on the Sandlot and hit the ball out to Smalls in the outfield and hope and pray it lands in his mitt or we can teach him how to catch a ball.

One of the recommendations in the Teaching Gap is implementing Lesson Studies to help teachers learn how to “catch the ball” aka changing our teaching.

If you’d like to learn more about Lesson Study and how to close the Teaching Gap, and the Professional Development Gap, I’d highly recommend you get the book.  But I’d also like to encourage you to get registered for the free Build Math Minds Virtual Summit.  The Virtual Summit is a free online professional development conference for elementary teachers. We have almost 40 presenters who are sharing their knowledge about best practices for teaching mathematics in elementary grades.  One of the presenters happens to be a colleague of mine, Ryan Dent. For his session I get to interview him about how he has been using Lesson Studies with the teachers he works with. It was eye opening to me. I thought I knew what lesson studies were, but I learned a ton from my conversation with Ryan.   If you’d like to learn from Ryan and the many other presenters, you can go to to get registered.  

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As you start off the school year, I want you to keep in mind what is really important as we're trying to teach mathematics to our students.