This project will investigate the factors that influence curriculum coherence and how teachers in Grades 3-5 respond to these factors as they make decisions about their mathematics curriculum.
One important aspect of any mathematics curriculum is its coherence, or the mathematical connections across lessons. This coherence links lessons and activities so that mathematical ideas, representations, practices, skills, and ways of thinking build upon each other to help students construct mathematical meaning and enhance their learning. When teachers relied predominantly on published curriculum materials, curricular coherence was largely provided by the curriculum authors. However, many of today's teachers are no longer given a foundational textbook or single set of resources. Further, teachers have unprecedented access via the internet and social media to lessons and activities produced by many different curriculum developers (including other teachers). As a result, the important task of building curricular coherence becomes the responsibility of the classroom teacher. And yet, very little is known about how teachers think about curricular coherence or how their decisions about lessons and activities reflect the coherent mathematical story they hope to students will learn in their classrooms. This project will investigate the factors that influence curriculum coherence and how teachers in Grades 3-5 respond to these factors as they make decisions about their mathematics curriculum. A national survey of 300 Grades 3-5 teachers will be conducted in in the first phase of the project and the work will continue with small groups of four case study teachers in each of four different districts across four states. Case study participants will work with project researchers to co-develop a set of tools for supporting curriculum coherence. The structure of the project and the selection of case study participants will facilitate the collaborative co-development of tools across institutions and across geographic and curricular contexts, supporting the use of the tools across a wide range of contexts. The outcomes of this study will contribute to broader impacts by developing understandings of curriculum coherence that are robust across a range of curricular, policy, and district/school contexts, with implications that support the participation of students in diverse mathematics classrooms. The survey findings and the coherence toolkit co-developed with teachers will be disseminated widely through conference presentations, including teacher-oriented conferences, through journal publications, and through making survey data available to other researchers.
The research objectives of this study are to explore 1) patterns of Grade 3-5 teacher curricular resource use across a range of curriculum contexts, 2) teacher decisions about curriculum coherence, and 3) how curriculum toolkits co-developed with teachers might support teachers in making decisions related to curriculum coherence. Given the potential variation among and within states and districts in terms of contextual factors impacting curriculum use, teachers will be surveyed about their contexts, available resources, and curricular decision-making. Survey data will be analyzed using primarily descriptive analyses. Following the survey, in-depth case studies of teacher curricular resource use in contexts that vary along two dimensions (autonomy to select curricular resources and the complexity of curricular influences, including the number of resources available) will be developed. Case study data, including interviews, video-recorded co-design groups, and curriculum use artifacts, will be analyzed using methods of discourse analysis, thematic analysis, and document analysis and synthesized within and across cases. By selecting cases along these dimensions, a set of tools will be co-developed to support teachers as they navigate diverse curricular contexts to enact a coherent curriculum for students.