This exploratory project builds on twelve years of successful experience with the summer program for secondary mathematics teachers at PCMI. It addresses the following two needs in the field of professional development for secondary mathematics teachers: increase content knowledge and understanding of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics; and investigate and develop alternative models to conduct content-based professional development that meets the recommendations of the MET-II report.
Electronic Communities for Mathematics Instruction (e-CMI)
This 2-year Exploratory project, Electronic Communities for Mathematics Instruction (eCMI), is designed and conducted by the Education Development Center (EDC) in collaboration with the Institute for Advanced Study and the Park City Mathematics Institute (PCMI). It builds on EDC's successful experience over the last twelve years with the design and implementation of the summer program for secondary mathematics teachers at PCMI. It addresses the following two needs in the field of professional development for secondary mathematics teachers: increase content knowledge and understanding of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics; and investigate and develop alternative models to conduct transformative, content-based professional development that meets the recommendations of the MET-II report. Addressing the need to find affordable, effective professional development models, particularly given the enormous task of helping teachers understand the implications of the Common Core, the project eCMI will design and conduct a research study and pilot a professional development design, centering on the following two questions: (1) How can tools, experiences, and facilitation be structured in order to build an authentic and vibrant multisite community of learners? (2) To what extent and in what ways does participation in eCMI lead to increases in secondary teachers' knowledge of mathematics, particularly the knowledge and use of mathematical habits of mind? The long-term goal is for eCMI to evolve into a common large-scale national professional development program that helps secondary teachers implement the Common Core, with special focus on the Standards for Mathematical Practice.
To create a context for investigating the two questions above, eCMI will develop and pilot a blended program using online and local mathematics facilitation in a course focused on deepening knowledge of mathematics using the Common Core as a blueprint. The project team will refine and extend the "e-table" concept, developed over the past few years at PCMI, in which teachers in different sites work together with a facilitator via sophisticated electronic conferencing technology. The mathematics course will consist of nine three-hour sessions conducted online during the academic year. Each session will integrate challenging mathematics content, carefully designed and focused on developing mathematical habits of mind through problem solving, with explicit opportunities that ask teachers to reflect on the implications of these experiences for their learning and beliefs. Teachers will be asked to spend time between sessions in deeper discussions online by sharing responses to reflective prompts and responding to each other's prompts. Sessions will be delivered to tables of five or six participants and a table leader meeting live at the same site and connected electronically to other sites. Table leaders will be teachers or university faculty experienced with the following style of delivery: serious and challenging mathematics that is driven by problem-based experience. The project team will collect information on teachers' beliefs about the nature of mathematics and their strategies for approaching mathematics.
Secondary teachers who immplement the standards for mathematical practice require extensive experiences in the practice of mathematics. Several professional development programs, including PCMI, have been able to provide such experiences but they are expensive in cost and labor. eCMI will adapt the proven PCMI design, one that uses carefully designed problem sets in which significant mathematical results emerge from reflection on numerical and geometric experiments, to blend online and face-to-face platforms in a way that has the potential to increase the reach of the program by orders of magnitude. The exploratory project, through pilot and research programs, will lay the foundation for such a scale up by working with 15-30 secondary mathematics teachers. Results of the research will inform the field about ways in which teachers can be provided with genuine mathematical experiences through the use of online media paired with local facilitation.