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Coaching in early mathematics

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Falling scores in math have prompted a renewed interest in math instruction at early ages. By their own admission, early childhood educators are generally underprepared and not always comfortable teaching math. Professional development (PD) in early mathematics is widely considered a main way to increase teachers' skills and efficacy (e.g., Guskey, 2000; Hyson & Woods, 2014; Munby, Russell, & Martin, 2001; Piasta, Logan, Pelatti, Capps, & Petrill, 2015; Richardson & Placier, 2001; Sarama, Clements, Wolfe, & Spitler, 2016; Sarama & DiBiase, 2004; Zaslow, 2014). However, it has been documented that stand-alone PD is not as effective in changing practice (e.g., Biancarosa & Bryk, 2011; Garet et al., 2008; Guskey, 2000; Hyson & Woods, 2014; Institute of Medicine and National Research Council, 2015; Joyce & Showers, 2002; Zaslow, 2014). Site-embedded ongoing support in the form of coaching or mentoring has been shown to be critical for successful implementation (Neuman & Cunningham, 2009; Powell, Diamond, Burchinal, & Koehler, 2010). In this chapter, we describe coaching models and abstract characteristics of effective coaching from the research. With this background, we provide an in-depth view of the coaching aspect of two large empirical studies in early mathematics. We introduce the theoretical framework from which the coaching models for these projects were developed and describe the research on which they were based. We then summarize how the planned models were instantiated and challenges to their implementation within each project. In the final section, we summarize what we have learned and described implications and challenges for the field. (author abstract)
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