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Penn Graduate School of Education

The Collaboratory for Teacher Education at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education


The Penn GSE Collaboratory is a hub for research on teaching and teacher education. The faculty’s research contributes to program innovations and knowledge in the field. 

Current Research Projects

Exploring the Enabling Conditions for High Quality Project-Based Learning

Building off of the work around core teaching practices of project-based learning, this study examines the conditions school and district leaders can facilitate within their contexts that will enable effective project-based learning to happen within classrooms. Key data sources will be leaders’ work products produced during a year-long PBL professional development experience, focusing on how conceptualizations of PBL and their role in supporting it evolve as the year progresses.

External Collaborators: Tyler Thigpen, Transcend Education

The Core Practice Consortium brings together teacher educators from across institutions, disciplines, and theoretical perspectives to grapple with questions about how better to prepare novice teachers. This cross-institutional group uses design-based research to investigate the implementation of teacher education pedagogies that can support the development of core practices among beginning teachers.

External Collaborators: See Core Practices Consortium website

The Responsive Math Teaching project focuses on improving mathematics instruction in a network of elementary schools through a research-practice partnership between Penn GSE and the School District of Philadelphia. The four-year project, funded by the National Science Foundation, is developing tools and resources to help translate district instructional vision into classroom practice, including: (1)  an instructional model that is responsive to both students’ developing understanding and to mathematical goals, (2) professional development for teachers to experience, teach, and lead Responsive Math Teaching lessons, and (3) mentoring for school-based Math Lead Teachers in instructional coaching. The project team is studying how teachers learn to take on leadership roles by tracing their development over time along several dimensions of leadership capacity and analyzing the extent to which dimensions of the instructional model are being translated into coaching and teacher practice.

Penn GSE Faculty: Caroline B. EbbyCaroline Watts,    Penn GSE Project Team: Joy Anderson Davis, Brittany Hess, Lizzy Pecora
Penn GSE Doctoral Students: Lindsay Goldsmith-Markey, Jennifer Valerio

A Close Examination of Teachers' Transition into the Teaching Profession

The aim of this project is to learn about and support first-year teachers as they transition into the teaching profession. To do so, the research team began by conducting focus groups with first- and second-year teachers in the three teacher education programs at Penn GSE. Based on the focus group findings, the research team developed a brief self-compassion intervention designed to cultivate supportive and adaptive beliefs in beginning teachers. To test the efficacy of the intervention, the researchers carried out a placebo-controlled longitudinal field experiment with first-year teachers in the three teacher education programs. A total of 121 teachers completed either the self-compassion intervention or a placebo control condition. Participants also completed a survey immediately following the intervention and six months later. Currently, the research team is analyzing study findings— assessing the effects of the intervention on teachers' motivational beliefs, orientation toward improving in teaching, well-being, burnout/stress, and commitment to the profession. Findings will be shared with the teacher education programs in the coming months with the hope of refining the intervention and identifying ways to incorporate learnings into teacher development efforts.

Penn GSE Faculty: Rebecca Maynard
Penn GSE Doctoral Students: Rebecca Baelen
External Collaborators: Brian Galla, University of Pittsburgh
Funded by the Mind and Life Institute

Transitions to the First Year of Teaching in Urban Schools: Learning to Enact Dialogic Instruction in Mathematics

In the Urban Teaching Apprenticeship Program (UTAP), we use the structured instructional activity, Number Talk, and a web-based video platform, to help novice teachers enact dialogic teaching practices in elementary mathematics, receive feedback, and reflect on their own progress. This qualitative study examines novice teachers’ use of dialogic practices in urban classrooms during their first year of teaching. Taking advantage of data collected through the video platform during the preservice year, we will explore changes in these practices across three different activity settings (methods course, student teaching, and first year of teaching), along with factors that support and constrain their use.

Penn GSE Doctoral Students: Lindsay Goldsmith-Markey

Investigating Teachers’ Enactment of Core Practices of Project-Based Learning

Project-based learning (PBL) is being adopted in an increasing number of schools and classrooms and has been linked to positive learning outcomes for students. While significant efforts have focused on building and researching curriculum materials for PBL, very little work has focused on how to prepare teachers to enact these curricula. This video-based study investigates whether a practice-based model of teacher development influences teachers to take up practice aligned with project-based instruction.

Advisory Team: Matthew Riggan, Co-Founder of The Workshop School; Meg Riordan, Director of External Research, EL Education; Chris Lehmann, CEO of Science Leadership Academy Schools; Shaquita Smith, Curriculum Specialist, School District of Philadelphia

While classroom discourse plays an essential role in inquiry-oriented instruction, most U.S. classrooms are permeated with practices that constrain productive discourse. This project aims to understand how teachers, working together over time, collectively make sense of the work of facilitating student-centered discussions of literary texts. We study the tools that teachers create to support their practice as discussion facilitators and track changes in their practice and their sense-making.

Penn GSE Faculty: Sarah Schneider Kavanagh
External Collaborators: Hala Ghousseini, University of Wisconsin - Madison; Elizabeth Dutro, University of Colorado - Boulder; Elham Kazemi, University of Washington - Seattle
Funded by the McDonnell Foundation

Understanding Conceptions of Mentoring Practice

Research on the practice of mentoring tends to focus only on mentoring activity that occurs outside of instructional time (e.g. co-planning, coaching conversation, and analyzing student work). The research literature remains almost silent about how mentor teachers interact with novices when P-12 students are present. Through a qualitative analysis of interview data, researchers are investigating how mentors, novices, and teacher education faculty conceptualize the setting, timing, and practice of mentoring. Participants span three teacher education institutions.

Penn GSE Faculty: Sarah Schneider Kavanagh
External Collaborators: Sharon Feiman-Nemser, Brandeis University; Karen Hammerness, American Museum of Natural History; Kavita Kapadia Matsko, National Louis University; Jamie Wallace, American Museum of Natural History