Improving Instruction

The LSC mission included changing the focus of instruction so that teachers were oriented more toward integrating scientific and mathematical inquiry with knowledge of science and mathematics concepts and principles. Students were to be given opportunities to focus on in-depth learning of concepts, emphasizing understanding, reasoning and problem solving. Consequently, nearly half of LSC professional development time was devoted to engaging teachers in mathematics/science inquiry. Typically, teachers "experienced" the activities as students might - working through problems in small groups - with guided discussions facilitated by project staff, teacher leaders, or content experts.

Format of LSC Professional Development
(Average Percent of Professional Development Hours)

Average Percent of Professional Development Hours

LSC evaluation data on teachers' classroom practice, which were drawn from both evaluator ratings of classroom observations and teacher questionnaires, suggest that teacher participation in LSC professional development is linked to a number of positive outcomes in their instruction, including:

  • overall improvement in the quality of mathematics/science lessons;
  • increased time spent on science instruction in the elementary grades;
  • enhanced quality of content presented to students;
  • more frequent use of investigative practices, (e.g., engaging in hands-on activities, working on models or simulations) as well as higher quality questioning, and sense-making; and
  • greater intellectual rigor and student engagement.

Teacher Use of Investigative Teaching Practices,
by Extent of Participation in LSC Professional Development

Use of Investigative Teaching Practices

Teacher participation in LSC professional development is positively related to their use of investigative classroom practices. This finding was consistent for teachers in LSC projects targeting grades K-8 mathematics classes and those targeting grades 6-12 mathematics, as well as those targeting grades K-8 science. An important result of these analyses is that the relationship between professional development and investigative practices is not linear, that is, most of the observed gains, or improvements in instruction, were made by teachers within the first 100 hours they spent in professional development sessions.

Lessons in Mathematics and Science

Evaluators of each LSC project were required to observe a single lesson of each of a random sample of teachers targeted by their project. Evaluators utilized a common instrument for rating the lessons, the Classroom Observation Protocol (COP) [PDF] (185 K).

Lessons that were taught by teachers receiving treatment (i.e., participating in LSC professional development) and that were based on the district-adopted instructional materials were more than twice as likely to receive a high rating than lessons of untreated teachers who were not using the designated instructional materials. (Bowes & Banilower, 2004)

Highly-Rated Lessons,
by Use of District-Designated Materials and Treatment

Impact on Classroom Practices

See also: Instructional Materials


While participation in the LSC had a positive impact on instruction, there was considerable room for improvement in this area. One cross-site analysis compared "treated" teachers, i.e., those who had participated in LSC professional development, with "non-treated" teachers, and found that even though a greater percentage of lessons taught by treated teachers were rated highly, many lessons in both groups still had room for improvement.

The LSC Capstone Report: Lessons from a Decade of Mathematics and Science Reform
(PDF) [354 KB]