Teachers and district leaders in the Pathways partnership overwhelming cite their participation in these PLCs as the most rewarding and effective component of the project. Pathways research teams have generated extensive data corroborating these anecdotal claims and have uncovered critical variables that affect the functioning of these PLCs.
The cases developed in this presentation highlight challenges for the design of professional development. As we see in these cases, certain instructional approaches that include group interactions around conceptual tasks that are designed to promote meaning making and conceptual connections show promise for affecting the development of conceptual understanding and productive STEM behaviors. Our data suggests that knowledge, including connected conceptual and mathematical/scientific knowledge for teaching are key to managing effective discourse, as is fluency in both enacting and recognizing effective STEM behaviors. In this presentation, we identify challenges, as highlighted by the cases, to be addressed in the professional development design, and suggest some strategies for future design of professional development programs.We have identified crucial components of PLC formation and support that lead to inquiry and engagement about issues of student thinking and learning. Our analysis of qualitative data on teachers' engagement in their PLCs resulted in the emergence of three central categories of Process Behaviors generalizing the discipline-specific frameworks for STEM inquiry and three categories of Dispositional Behaviors related to their approach to discourse. We have also observed that the PLC facilitator is a key variable in promoting meaningful discourse among the PLC members. We will share results that are particularly focused on effective methods of supporting and evaluating teacher mathematics and PLCs.