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ASU partners with K-12 school district to expand educational resources

students in a classroom
November 07, 2014

When the Humboldt Unified School District was searching for a way to educate its teachers about inquiry-based mathematics and the new Arizona Career and College Readiness Standards (ACCRS), they chose to expand an already successful partnership.

Susan Larson, a retired Arizona State University senior lecturer in mathematics education, collaborated with Humboldt school district leadership for several years to provide face-to-face professional development in the use of the inquiry-based instructional method.

To broaden the depth and scope of these professional learning opportunities, Humboldt Unified School District and ASU’s Professional Learning Library (PLL) agreed to create a collection of classroom instruction videos and instructional plans that model the use of inquiry-based instruction in the teaching of the ACCRS mathematics.

The library is a free online ecosystem where preschool through college educators can share, connect, learn and collaborate, developed and maintained by the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at ASU. Educators can access a wide variety of learning resources and professional development offerings.

“As a district, we had talked many times about developing a ‘bank’ of lessons for teachers to draw on, but when Sue Larson mentioned the opportunity to partner with ASU through sharing our lessons world-wide through the PLL, it only made sense that this was the direction we needed to investigate,” says Cole Young, director of educational services at Humboldt Unified School District in Prescott Valley.

For the last three years, Larson has been working with the Humboldt school district teachers in the implementation of inquiry-based mathematics instruction. She has been modeling for the teachers what this type of instruction looks like in 4th through 8th grade classrooms. Often, the teachers doubted that Larson could reach their kids.

“They’d give reasons why it wouldn’t work in their classroom, and then the teachers would watch the videos I’d recorded of my lesson modeling in their classrooms and they’d see how it works with their students,” Larson says. “That’s very powerful for them.”

The Professional Learning Library team captured Larson in action in the classrooms of the Humboldt teachers. The resulting videos are available for the public on the library. The collection will be expanding throughout the fall.

In the summer of 2014, Larson collaborated with teams of Humboldt teachers to develop instructional plans for K-8 ACCRS mathematics. The teams created new instructional plans or linked to other sites with high quality inquiry-based lessons. Larson vetted each plan prior to them being published on the library, where there are more than 300 math lessons from the Humboldt school district and ASU.

“The PLL is a valuable resource,” Young says. “Teachers are in constant search of inquiry-based material to cover their grade-level standards. Having a site where our teachers within the district have been published through their hard work and focus on quality, inquiry-based vetted lessons makes it a guaranteed resource in their search.“

The ease of discovery and delivery of targeted resources is already making a difference in the classroom.

“We’re asking teachers to teach in ways they’ve never taught before. We used to use a text book, write the lessons on the chalk board. That’s changing,” Larson says. “Thanks to the PLL, we now have a bunch of 7th and 8th grade teachers who can see how inquiry-based learning is changing math.”

Humboldt Unified School District is the first K-12 school district to partner with and publish resources on the ASU Professional Learning Library. In addition to those provided by Humboldt, the library offers thousands of videos, instructional plans, learning modules and other resources for educators.

Humboldt officials are excited not only about the math lessons on the library that its teachers and administrators are already using, but about all the other materials available, as well.

“We look forward to our continued relationship with ASU, Heidi Blair and Sue Larson, and the opportunity to share this work with others,” says Paul Stanton, superintendent of the Humboldt school district. “Great partnerships like these take multiple years and many people, and Humboldt is blessed to have such great partners.”

The Professional Learning Library is continuously expanding its collection of resources and number of partnerships. School districts interested in sharing their resources in this ecosystem should contact for more details.