Research Shows Responsive Classroom Approach Increases Use of Standards-Based Math Teaching Practices

August 14, 2013

TURNERS FALLS, MA—Research results recently published by the Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning at the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education show that teachers trained in the Responsive Classroom approach use higher levels of standards-based mathematics teaching practices than non-Responsive Classroom teachers.

The University of Virginia researchers note that standards-based mathematics call on students to learn not only prescribed content but also the social and self-regulatory skills that contribute to their mathematical understanding and ability to solve problems. The research- and evidence-based Responsive Classroom approach, they say, can help teachers better implement the Common Core standards by giving them practical teaching strategies that enhance classroom social and instructional interactions.

"Teaching is an extraordinarily rewarding profession," says Lora Hodges, executive director of Northeast Foundation for Children/Responsive Classroom, "and few things are more rewarding than helping children develop intellectual curiosity, creative problem-solving skills, the ability to engage in academic conversations, persistence—all the critical competencies that support high-quality academic engagement. It's just that kind of engagement the Common Core State Standards are designed to produce, and just that kind of teaching that Responsive Classroom practices help teachers do."

With respect to mathematics in particular, Hodges' perspective is confirmed in research the UVA team published in The Elementary School Journal. According to their article (summarized in this two-page brief), researchers observed that third grade teachers trained in the Responsive Classroom approach used higher levels of standards-based mathematics teaching practices than teachers in control schools. In these classrooms, the researchers observed:

  • Higher levels of mathematical discourse
  • Better use of and translation among mathematical representations
  • Greater cognitive depth within lessons
  • Greater coherence and accuracy of mathematical content

Additionally, the research shows that teachers who used more Responsive Classroom instructional practices than their colleagues also implemented more standards-based mathematics teaching practices.

Executive director Hodges observes that "The Responsive Classroom approach has been enhancing teaching and learning in all subject areas, not just mathematics, for the past 30 years." The approach offers professional development focused on building teacher effectiveness in three crucial, interrelated domains:

  1. providing engaging academics
  2. effectively managing the classroom, and
  3. building a positive learning community.

Among the specific practices teachers use: starting the day with a Morning Meeting to set the tone for learning; using positive teacher language that recognizes that all children want to and can learn; giving children meaningful, structured choices that motivate them to engage fully in their learning; and creating well-organized classrooms that allow for active and interactive learning.

In considering the practical implications of their study, the researchers note that their findings underline the need to help teachers develop skills in teaching social and emotional skills as well as academic content. "We're energized by these recent research findings," says Hodges, "because they suggest that Responsive Classroom is indeed helping teachers deliver excellent teaching at the level of rigor intended by the Common Core."

For more information, contact:
Richard Henning
Northeast Foundation for Children, Inc.
85 Avenue A, P.O. Box 718, Turners Falls, MA  01376
800-360-6332, ext. 111