Leveraging the role of an instructional coach to close middle school mathematics teachers’ knowing-doing gap : a mixed methods experimental study.


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Mathematics teachers have access to an abundance of information regarding best practices for mathematics instruction yet struggle to implement the overwhelming amount of knowledge they possess. This gap between knowledge and implementation of effective mathematics teaching practices prevents classroom instruction from reflecting the knowledge teachers have about good teaching and has a powerful and negative effect on students. To better support mathematics teachers and close this knowing-doing gap, this study identifies teachers’ specific barriers regarding the implementation of effective mathematics teaching practices and utilized these internal and external barriers to develop an instructional coaching cycle that closes the knowing-doing gap. This study explored the complicated relationship between teachers’ knowledge, beliefs, and the implementation of effective mathematics teaching practices by focusing on ongoing and specific teacher support in a mixed-methods experimental design. I collected information about the size of the knowing-doing gap for mathematics teachers through a quantitative Mathematics Teaching Practices Knowing-Doing Gap Questionnaire focused on teachers’ knowledge, beliefs, and implementation of effective mathematics teaching practices. Participants who exhibited the knowing-doing gap engaged in qualitative interviews designed to gather information on specific barriers and obstacles teachers faced with implementing effective mathematics teaching practices. The combination of quantitative gap sizes and qualitative interviews guided the design of instructional coaching cycles targeted specifically toward teachers’ needs. These instructional coaching cycles helped address the need for ongoing teacher support, including a partnership between the teacher and an instructional coach. The interviews with participants answered the qualitative research question by revealing five internal and four external barriers. During the experimental phase, instructional coaches who conducted the coaching cycles agreed that the context of the barriers and teacher self-reflections improved the course of their coaching cycles and identified four areas of improvement. Finally, the quantitative analysis revealed that teachers who engaged in the instructional coaching cycles saw a statistically significant decrease in the gap size between knowledge and implementation levels. This decrease in gap size occurred after the implementation of coaching cycles focused specifically on removing internal and external barriers for middle school mathematics teachers.



Mathematics teaching practices. Knowing-doing gap. Knowledge. Beliefs. Implementation. Middle school math. Teachers. Implementation gap.