Visual Access to Mathematics: Professional Development for Teachers of English Learners

This project addresses a critical need, developing professional development materials to address the teachers of ELLs. The project will create resources to help teachers build ELLs' mathematical proficiency through the design and development of professional development materials building on visual representations (VRs) for mathematical reasoning across a range of mathematical topics.

Award Number: 
1503057
Funding Period: 
Saturday, August 1, 2015 to Wednesday, July 31, 2019
Full Description: 

The demands placed on mathematics teachers of all students have increased with the introduction of college and career readiness standards. At the same time, the mathematics achievement of English Language Learners (ELLs) lags behind that of their peers. This project addresses a critical need, developing professional development materials to address the teachers of ELLs. The project will create resources to help teachers build ELLs' mathematical proficiency through the design and development of professional development materials building on visual representations (VRs) for mathematical reasoning across a range of mathematical topics. The project will study how to enhance teachers' pedagogical content knowledge that is critical to fostering ELLs' mathematical problem solving and communication to help support fluency in using VRs among teachers and students. To broaden the participation of students who have traditionally not demonstrated high levels of achievement in mathematics, a critical underpinning to further success in the sciences and engineering, there will need to be greater support for teachers of these students using techniques that have been demonstrated to improve student learning. 

The project will use an iterative design and development process to develop a blended learning model of professional development on using VRs with a 30-hour face-to-face summer institute and sixteen 2-hour online learning sessions. Teachers and teacher-leaders will help support the development of the professional development materials. A cluster randomized control trial will study the piloting of the materials and their impact on teacher outcomes. Thirty middle schools from Massachusetts and Maine serving high numbers of ELLs, with approximately 120 teachers, will be randomly assigned to receive the treatment or control conditions. Using a two-level random intercepts hierarchical linear model, the study will explore the impact of participation in the professional development on teachers' mathematical knowledge for teaching and instructional practice. The pilot study will also explore the feasibility of delivering the professional development model more broadly. It builds on prior work that has shown efficacy in geometry, but expands the work beyond a single area in mathematics. At the same time, they will test the model for feasibility of broad implementation.

The Discovery Research K-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools (RMTs). Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects.

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