Theorizing and Advancing Teachers' Responsive Decision Making in the Domain of Rational Numbers

This project addresses the growing need for research to support teachers in developing expertise in responsive decision making in which teachers elicit and build on children's mathematical thinking in the midst of instruction.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1712560
Funding Period: 
September 15, 2013 to August 31, 2018
Full Description: 

This project addresses the growing need for research to support teachers in developing expertise in responsive decision making in which teachers elicit and build on children's mathematical thinking in the midst of instruction. Specific objectives include characterizing grades 3-5 teachers' responsive decision making in the domain of rational numbers, investigating how professional development can support the development of this form of teaching expertise, and exploring the relationship between degree of teachers' responsive decision making and student learning. Theoretical and practical contributions of this project address the discrepancy in the field's capacity to produce research-based knowledge about children's thinking versus provide resources to take up and effectively use this knowledge. The primary organization is The University of Texas at Austin, and major partner organizations include the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, SRI International, and Teachers Development Group.

In this professional development design study, researchers engage approximately 100 teachers in up to three years of professional development designed to empower teachers to make instructional decisions guided by a research-based framework of children's thinking about rational numbers, with an emphasis on children's informal ideas of partitioning quantities and their understanding of the fundamental properties of operations and equality. Data sources include direct observation of workshops and teachers' classrooms as well as teachers' performance and reflection on a variety of assessments. On the basis of what is learned from these multiple data sources across 3 cohorts of teachers, researchers will iteratively build and refine a model of responsive decision making and identify critical features of the development of this expertise. Further, using approximately half the sample, researchers collect student data to test the conjecture that responsive decision making is related to increased opportunities for students to learn.

The findings, assessments, and professional development generated by this project will help the field respond to the critical challenge of how to support teachers to take up and effectively use knowledge of children's mathematical thinking in instruction. Anticipated intellectual products include a model of teachers' responsive decision making in the domain of rational numbers, identification of landmarks and obstacles in teachers' development of responsive decision making, and knowledge about the relationship between teachers' expertise in responsive decision making and student learning. Anticipated professional development products include a web-based tool to support teachers' self-guided collaborative inquiry and a well-specified, scalable professional development course for teachers with an immediate outlet for dissemination through the ongoing work of Teachers Development Group.

This project was previously funded under award # 1316653.