Systems for Instructional Improvement

Systems for Instructional Improvement Creating Coherence from the Classroom to the District Office

Paul Cobb, Kara Jackson, Erin Henrick, Thomas M. Smith, and the MIST team, Afterword by Michael Sorum
paper, 336 Pages
Pub. Date: May 2018
ISBN-13: 978-1-68253-177-8
Price: $35.00

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Pub. Date: May 2018
ISBN-13: 978-1-68253-179-2

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In Systems for Instructional Improvement, Paul Cobb and his colleagues draw on their extensive research to propose a series of specific, empirically grounded recommendations that together constitute a theory of action for advancing instruction at scale. The authors outline the elements of a coherent instructional system; describe productive practices for school leaders in supporting teachers’ growth; and discuss the role of district leaders in developing school-level capacity for instructional improvement.


Systems for Instructional Improvement describes the ways that typically isolated elements of practice interact to create the space in which learning happens. The authors map out a pathway for district and school personnel who hope to design instructional systems with the intentionality that will generate results. — Nate Schwartz, chief research and strategy officer, Tennessee Department of Education

Systems for Instructional Improvement vividly illustrates the systemic nature of successful school improvement efforts and the multiple roles that university partners can play in supporting those efforts. The Theory of Action and research-based recommendations from the MIST team’s research-practice partnership are invaluable resources for school and district leaders and educational researchers committed to understanding and supporting instructional improvement at scale. — Hilda Borko, professor of education, Stanford University Graduate School of Education

Cobb, Jackson, Henrick, and Smith provide a detailed roadmap for organizing a coherent system to improve adult practice in service of excellent instruction for every child. System leaders, principals, teachers, and everyone who wants to see our kids more engaged in rich experiences every day would do well to follow the path laid out by the authors of this book. — Joshua P. Starr, chief executive officer, PDK International

The authors’ detailed and concrete recommendations serve as a large-scope roadmap for districts to improve instruction while keeping students’ learning at the center. — Joy Esboldt & Travis J. Bristol, Teachers College Record

Readers are encouraged to consume every morsel of the rich text in order to appreciate the requisite need for these strategies to work in concert with one another, rather than in isolation. — Judy Paolucci, School Administrator

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About the Authors

Paul Cobb is a research professor at Vanderbilt University. He is the principal investigator of the MIST study. He received his doctorate in mathematics from The University of Georgia. He has taught courses in elementary mathematics teaching, design research methodology, and the school and district setting of mathematics teaching and learning. His research focuses on improving the quality of mathematics teaching and student learning on a large scale, and on issues of equity in students’ access to significant mathematical ideas.

Kara Jackson is an associate professor of mathematics education at the University of Washington, Seattle. She received her doctorate in Education, Culture, and Society with an emphasis in mathematics education at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. Dr. Jackson is a co-principal investigator of MIST. Her research focuses on specifying forms of practice that support all learners to participate in rigorous mathematics and how to organize educational contexts to support teachers to develop such practices.

Erin Henrick is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Teaching and Learning at Vanderbilt University. She is the project manager and is a co-principal investigator on the MIST project, and received her doctorate in Education, Leadership, and Policy from Vanderbilt University. Dr. Henrick’s research interests include district-level design research, researcher practitioner partnerships that support improvements in the quality of teaching, and school and district supports to foster instructional improvement.

Dr. Thomas M. Smith is the Dean of the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Riverside, and is a co-principal investigator of the MIST project. He earned his doctorate in education theory and policy from the Pennsylvania State University. Previously he was associate professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations at Vanderbilt University. His research focuses on school and district instructional improvement in mathematics, and on research practitioner partnerships.

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