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What is the MMSTLC?
The Michigan Mathematics and Science Teacher Leadership Collaborative (MMSTLC) is a statewide program to develop educational leadership around mathematics and science teaching and learning. Michigan has a problem: many of the instructional leaders in these fields around the state are nearing retirement, while younger generations of educators in our state have not developed a strong network of leaders to support these issues in our schools. The MMSTLC was created from a number of smaller, successful instructional leadership initiatives in science, along with a strong, research-based set of content and curricular programs in middle grades science and mathematics. All of these efforts, working together, form the core of the MMSTLC program. This group of partners not only manages and leads the professional learning program for the project, but also mentors individual local teams and handles administrative functions for the project. Partner Institutions and Investigators: Saginaw Valley State University (Walt Rathkamp - Grand Valley State University (Karen Meyers - and Mary Ann Sheline - University of Michigan - Dearborn (Judith Flowers - University of Michigan - Ann Arbor (Stephen Best - Michigan Mathematics and Science Center Network (

Local Teams and Partnerships:
Within the program, implementation occurs locally. From the statewide network of Mathematics and Science Centers (MSCs) that provide support for teachers in their region, an initial cadre of 8 teams was developed to participate in the pilot effort of the program, with another cadre of 11 additional teams joining the effort this past year. In order to ensure that these teams would be able to support educators locally on a variety of issues, teams were composed of representatives

from the centers (who acted as directors of the local team efforts), teachers from high needs schools who showed promise and interest in instructional leadership roles (designated as “teacher specialist/leaders” or TSLs), higher education faculty (STEM) from local institutions, and building or district administrators from the participating schools. These partnerships within the local area were rarely in place before the program, and are intended to provide initial support and encourage further collaborations to sustain reform efforts.

Local Professional Development and Implementation
These local teams participated in the various statewide professional development provided by the partners, and had opportunities to apply their learnings and develop skills through local implementation. Depending on needs and context, teacher leaders may take a semester sabbatical from teaching to work in the local MSC to learn about leadership and support local teachers, or teams of teachers from larger school districts may work on developing a PD series for teachers throughout their district. For more information about the MMSTLC, visit:

Good leaders are not born, but they can be developed. Good leaders NEED TO have a set of experiences, skills, attitudes, and knowledge to be able to help guide others in addressing the challenges around them while striving to achieve the goals they set for themselves and, in our case, their students. However, very little professional development addresses instructional leadership in the content areas. In order to ensure that the participants in this program have the ability to address some of the instructional challenges within their schools or regions, they need to have a set of skills, understandings, contacts, and experiences to help lead their schools toward academic achievement in mathematics and science.

Professional Development for Leadership
The MMSTLC developed a leadership development component to our statewide and local efforts that addresses a number of issues, including:
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Reviewing local data and situational contexts to develop strategic plans to support learning needs. Understanding strategies and considerations for designing and facilitating professional development. Recognizing and responding to one’s own and others’ leadership styles. Managing the process of change for individuals and schools, and addressing conflict with appropriate, productive responses during this process. Facilitating learning communities and engaging in partnering efforts to promote such professional learning.

We are not a “trainer of trainers” program for leaders. We don’t have a common set of resources that everyone would implement in their schools. Instead, we focus on the basic skills and concepts that all leaders need, and leave the decision-making and implementation to those who can best address these issues in their own schools.

Leadership Skills and Experiences
Because the teams contain people in a variety of roles, it is critical to provide a core set of understandings of leadership skills while also addressing the roles individual participants have on their team. The leadership sessions at MMSTLC workshops provide some customized opportunities for individual roles (such as observation strategies for administrators) while exposing the main participants (teacher leaders, STEM faculty, and MSC staff) to leadership knowledge and skills that would allow them to effectively support colleagues.

Instructional Leadership in Mathematics and Science
Leadership skills and strategies alone won’t help your colleague better teach her students. The MMSTLC also incorporates content-specific leadership knowledge and skills to help participants improve the content knowledge, pedagogical practices, and content-specific instructional practices of teachers. For instance, all teacher leaders collaborate with peers to design and lead short professional development activities among their colleagues first to get feedback before trying them with other teachers. Add to this curriculum alignment strategies, collaborative lesson design, observation or video-recording their instruction, and the result is educational leaders with the specific skills and knowledge to support colleagues and students for years to come, no matter what curriculum, policy, or assessment practice they encounter.

In 2000, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, created a vision and set of standards for what quality instruction would look like in a mathematics classroom. The challenge of providing this quality instruction is that it requires a deep level of pedagogical content knowledge – that is, a knowledge of both the mathematics content and how to teach this content to all students. The goal is for mathematics teachers to be able to understand the important “big ideas” in mathematics and then to teach these ideas to their students in meaningful ways. All too often, though, mathematics instruction is perceived as based on computation, memorization, and algorithms instead of engaging students in tasks that require mathematical thinking. And if studies like the TIMSS video studies are indicative of typical middle grades mathematics instruction, even when using such tasks, teachers often remove the rigor in favor of the use of a quick algorithm. Thus, in order to meet the challenges of rigorous mathematics for all students, teachers would likely benefit from professional development opportunities that are designed to enhance mathematics teaching and students’ learning.

Professional Development for Mathematics
In order to develop a deeper understanding of the pedagogical content knowledge required to get students to think mathematically, the MMSTLC mathematics component uses three kinds of resources: cases based on actual classroom incidents; tasks based on the core concepts in mathematics; and student work on these challenging tasks (see figure below). The resources allow teachers to grow in their own understanding of mathematics and to see how their instruction and task selection can foster student understanding. Rather that trying to address a wide variety of content strands, the focus is on ratio and proportional reasoning, one of the core concepts required for understanding other concepts in algebra and geometry. Workshop sessions center around these resources and how they could be used both in the teachers’ own instruction, and then in supporting the learning of other teachers that they will lead.

The cases involve accounts of instruction from actual classrooms and show the interactions that occur when teachers use complex mathematical tasks in the classroom, and also reflect the student thinking taking place during instruction. MMSTLC uses cases from the NSF sponsored QUASAR project to help teachers reflect on their own instruction.

Mathematics instruction is generally organized around tasks, and so, the quality and nature of the task is critical in determining the mathematics that students must understand. How the teacher addresses the task instructionally will determine how the students learn. Teachers in the MMSTLC are working with Vermont Project’s OGAP tasks to identify both mathematical and pedagogical goals.

Student Work
In order to properly assess the understandings students have about various concepts, workshop participants analyze various examples of student work to recognize what misconceptions students have, and how they might respond to these challenges instructionally. Workshop participants not only analyze student work from the OGAP project, but they are also encouraged to give the tasks to their own students and share that work during future workshop sessions.

Along with the focus on these resources, participants bring in examples of their own artifacts of instruction to help evaluate how the tasks and resources they use can be improved. These experiences can then help shape the professional development they provide to colleagues, raising the instructional bar for all involved.

There are a number of unique challenges for middle grades science educators. First and foremost, many lack a solid science background in the wide array of content strands that comprise the middle school science curriculum. Often, teachers also have limited time and poor instructional materials that focus on factual material or concepts, but do not address the investigation and communication skills required for students to “do science” in an authentic manner. Also, just like our mathematics teacher counterparts, research suggests that even when challenging tasks are presented to students to engage them in higher-order thinking, too often teachers step in and simplify the task to “help” the student. We address these challenges by helping teachers better understand the content, common student misconceptions, and instructional strategies to promote deeper understanding through inquiry.

Professional Development for Science
To address these challenges, the science sessions of MMSTLC focus on developing content and pedagogical content knowledge for the participating science educators. All of the work focuses on a broad theme of moving toward authentic, inquiry-based investigations and learning, while examining four specific areas that research shows are problematic for both students and teachers at this level:

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Student designed investigations - how to move from pre-planned experiments and demonstrations to studentdesigned and conducted investigations, focusing on structuring activities and contextual inquiry (Edelson et al, 1999; Reiser et al, 2004; Singer et al, 2000) Using scientific models to build understanding - addressing how to introduce physical, visual, conceptual, and mathematical models to develop conceptual understanding and limit misconceptions (AAAS, 1993) Engaging students in collecting, analyzing, and communicating data - using practices to encourage and support analysis of data gained through experimentation and research (Hug, 2005) Assessing student understanding of content - including evaluating performance assessments and artifacts to provide ongoing feedback (Smith and Reiser, 1998) and supporting students’ construction of scientific explanation, definition, and description (McNeill et al, 2006; Kuhn, 1993)

During workshops, the focus for each session is typically centered around the pedagogical content theme from the items above, incorporating an activity, lesson analysis, or review of student work or instruction from one or two of the many content strands in middle grades science. The content for these is selected by identifying known problem topics and aligning them to a specific, appropriate challenge. For example, we know students have misconceptions about the effects of gravity and mass on motion. In our PD, we examined and modeled strategies for the use of student designed investigations to explore this content with different variations of “ramp and cart” experiments. However, we also provided resource examples for student investigations on a variety of other topics, including, water quality, communicable diseases, density, pendulum movement, and others, so that participants could apply these to other content for themselves and their fellow teachers in their local schools. Because of the “leadership” nature of the professional development, participants also explore strategies for how the concepts would be addressed with these different content foci, and present these during practice sessions with other future leaders. Along the way, participants explore other topics through online discussion, book reviews, sharing of student work, and curriculum or assessment development work during the leadership release time at their local mathematics and science center. As they assist other teachers in their own schools, they also share experiences, lessons, and resources created to support others in the program.

Existing Resources
MMSTLC was fortunate to be able to draw upon a variety of resources to support the leadership and instructional needs of our participants. This included:

Mathematics case studies from the NSF sponsored QUASAR project and related books and tasks. Inquiry-based science curriculum resources, lessons, and sample student work from the University of Michigan and the Center for Highly Interactive Computing in Education. Leadership development resources from leading authors such as Marzano, DuFour, and the NSDC. Curricular and other resource documents from the Michigan Department of Education.

PD Materials
The resources we create serve dual purposes - both to support the participants in their own learning, and to guide the participants in using these resources with local teachers as a shared PD tool. This involves creating and modifying samples of participant work, research findings, facilitator notes, readings, lessons, tasks, and other resources to support math and science educators.

Online Resources and Professional Development
To share resources and provide opportunities for networking and communication, MMSTLC created an online professional development platform for our participants. This site, which will eventually host all of the project’s resources, allows small groups or all participants to collaborate and share ideas on their own time. These tools will eventually include individual sites for all local teams to use to facilitate learning and sharing of resources and ideas using a number of cutting edge collaborative online tools. For more information, visit

Participants and Resources
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Established 8 core Math/Science Center-based teams for Cadre I and began capacity-building in 2007-08, continuing into 2008-09 Established 11 core Math/Science Center-based teams for Cadre II and began capacity-building in 2008-09 Prepared 58 mathematics and science Teacher Specialist Leaders in Cadres I and II to serve more than 200 of their math/science colleagues in about 35 schools and more than 20,000 students Distributed $1.6 and $2.0 million respectively to Cadres I and II to support their work in improving mathematics and science teaching and learning Offered competitive grants to Cadre I teams totaling $320,000 Created a website ( for general audiences, with links to sites for MMSTLC teams to access resource materials, as well as a “participant-only” site with extended functionality and resources Provided more than 125 hours of state-level professional development over 1.5 years to Cadre I teams, including about 60 hours devoted to math and science content and pedagogy* and ~40 hours to building leadership skills Provided 78 hours of professional development to Cadre II teams in their first eight months, including about 27 hours of math and science content and pedagogy* and ~20 hours building leadership skills Supported four-month sabbaticals for 9 Cadre I Teacher Leaders and release time for 19 (working in teams in their schools) to enhance their capacities to help colleagues improve math/science teaching and learning Implemented by Cadre I Teacher Leaders and other Core Team Members a total of 319 PD, student, and other MMSTLC activities at the Center/school level July 2007-June 2008; a total of 1436 hours provided; attendance of 4388 across all activities Prepared a variety of MMSTLC math/science content and pedagogical instructional, professional development, and leadership materials for Teacher Leaders and other core team members

Impacts on Cadre I Teacher Leaders
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Results of a Science Teacher Leader pre- and post-program content test show total mean scores increased 5.5 points (out of 62), a statistically significant change.* Results of a Mathematics Teacher Leader pre- and post-program content test show total mean scores increased 0.6 points (out of 45), not a statistically significant change.* Science Teacher Leaders’ perceptions of their preparedness to use inquiry-focused instructional strategies in their science classrooms increased for selected items, including “Develop students’ conceptual understanding in science,” “Lead a class of students in using investigative strategies,” and “Assess students’ science content knowledge and skills through open-ended verbal or written responses.”* Mathematics Teacher Leaders’ perceptions of their preparedness to use inquiry-focused instructional strategies in their math classrooms increased for selected items, including “Develop students’ conceptual understanding of mathematics,” and “Assess students’ mathematical content knowledge and process skills through openended verbal or written responses.”* In the same surveys, both science and mathematics Teacher Leaders indicated an increase in their preparedness to work with their teacher colleagues on inquiry-focused instructional strategies.

This summary was prepared by Science and Mathematics Program Improvement (SAMPI), Western Michigan University 269-387-3791 Data in items with an asterisk (*) were supplied by Moore and Associates, Inc., Southfield, MI MMSTLC External Evaluators

For more information about the MMSTLC, visit: