Fundamentally, facilitators enable study groups to stay focused and follow their protocol, so as to use meeting time well. During meetings, facilitators guide the discussions on accessibility in mathematics, encourage reflection, and foster a safe atmosphere for discussion and collaboration.
Facilitators are typically experienced teachers, lead teachers, or coordinators from within the district. For example, in AAM, facilitators were math coordinators and math and special education teachers.
Because facilitators are critical to success, AAM developed criteria to help administrators choose effective facilitators. We suggest that facilitators be:
AAM staff led workshops twice a year for study group facilitators, on such topics as strengthening group process, effective questioning, and protocols. Facilitators valued the chance to grow as leaders and to share experiences with fellow facilitators.
I can feel the growth in my approach to the job. I’m more assertive… not afraid to say, “we need to refocus” or to demand that teachers be accountable for bringing work or coming on time. I think I used to say, “I’ll do it” or “I’ll take care of it” and now I can assign responsibility to other people without feeling guilty about it. (Facilitator)
Study groups received support from a knowledgeable other—in AAM, a project staffer—who attended meetings, provided resources, and contributed expertise in mathematics education, special education, and knowlege of the study group process. The presence of this "outsider" support helped to promote accountability, and added validity the study group's work. This role can be filled by a math or special education coordinator, math coach, or other knowledgeable personnel from the district.
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This project is supported by the National Science Foundation Grant No. ESI-9911831. Opinions expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Foundation.