Using Research-Based Formative Assessment to Improve Mathematics Teaching and Learning

This project provides professional development and support for teachers of mathematics in Grades 3-5 and assesses the impacts of the project through a rigorous cluster randomized control trial. The project supports teachers to provide instruction that helps all students reach ambitious academic goals in mathematics.

Full Description: 

Using Research-Based Formative Assessment to Improve Mathematics Teaching and Learning builds on almost a decade of research and development by the Vermont Mathematics Partnership's Ongoing Assessment Project (OGAP). The project provides professional development and support for teachers of mathematics in Grades 3-5 and assesses the impacts of the project through a rigorous cluster randomized control trial. The project supports teachers to provide instruction that helps all students reach ambitious academic goals in mathematics by: 1) increasing teachers' knowledge of mathematics and of how students learn specific mathematics content, and 2) providing teachers with specific tools and routines for enacting formative assessment and adapting their instruction. The project has three integrated components: 1) professional development and ongoing support in 30 New York City public schools, 2) research on teachers' use of assessment evidence in instruction, and 3) research on student and teacher outcomes.

Helping students deeply understand mathematical concepts requires teachers to become skilled in formative assessment, particularly in the ongoing analysis of evidence in student work when making instructional decisions: moving beyond right and wrong answers into the more important questions of how students think and reason mathematically, where their misconceptions lie, and how they can be addressed instructionally. Yet research shows that teachers struggle with the analytic aspects of formative assessment, and little is known about how teachers use evidence from student work or thinking to improve their instruction. The project addresses both of these concerns by: 1) implementing a rigorous, research-driven approach to formative assessment in 30 schools; and, 2) studying the effects of the intervention in ways that clearly measure impact on teachers and students, including the link between how teachers interpret student work and how they respond instructionally. The creativity and originality of the project lie in its synthesis of a vast body of knowledge about mathematics teaching and learning into a clearly packaged and presented set of tools, routines, and strategies which are directly usable in practice and can dramatically improve the quality of mathematics instruction. The project is organized around the central goal of improving teachers' formative assessment practice, with the research design providing rigorous evidence of project impacts while simultaneously informing the field.

The project will be implemented in a highly diverse school district serving a large number of students from groups traditionally underrepresented in mathematics and the sciences. The formative assessment system developed through this project will ultimately be made available, through a website and multi-media booklets, to all teachers in New York City public schools and across the country. The OGAP formative assessment system will be tied to college and career readiness standards in mathematics rather than a particular curriculum-although it addresses the same content as the major mathematics curricula-which means the materials, knowledge, and strategies will be usable across settings.

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