Teaching Amidst Uncertainty: Developing Mathematics Teachers' Groupwork Monitoring Practices

This study addresses two open questions in mathematics education and teacher learning research related to groupwork monitoring. Using contemporary information visualization techniques and open-source tools, alongside a video-based coaching activity, teachers will a) analyze classroom video records featuring group math discussions and b) uncover and investigate their specific interactions with student groups as well as their overall approach to this important phase of their lessons. Through these tools, teachers will develop strategic and integrated understandings of effective groupwork monitoring strategies. As a result of this work, teachers and researchers will be able to better connect teachers’ monitoring choices to students’ peer-to-peer math talk.

Full Description: 

Decades of research shows that students learn best and instruction is more inclusive when students have opportunities to talk about mathematics. For this reason, many conceptually-oriented mathematics instructional approaches emphasize peer-to-peer discussion. Yet research diverges around questions of how teachers should manage such discussions, an instructional practice referred to as groupwork monitoring. There is contradictory guidance on issues of teacher involvement: should teachers stand back to support student autonomy or involve themselves frequently to support productive sensemaking? This study addresses two open questions in mathematics education and teacher learning research related to groupwork monitoring. The first question centers on groupwork monitoring itself: How can teachers foster productive mathematical talk among students? The second question touches on an underdeveloped topic in teacher education: in what ways can teacher preparation and professional development support teachers in learning effective group work monitoring. Many teacher education strategies–such as rehearsing routines or learning curriculum–aim for teachers to learn well-structured, predictable aspects of instruction, yet there are not clear approaches in helping teachers learn to support more interactive and emergent aspects of mathematics teaching. This Design and Development project addresses these challenges by studying experienced and accomplished secondary mathematics teachers’ learning about groupwork monitoring in a large urban school district. Using contemporary information visualization techniques and open-source tools, alongside a video-based coaching activity, teachers will a) analyze classroom video records featuring group math discussions and b) uncover and investigate their specific interactions with student groups as well as their overall approach to this important phase of their lessons. Through these tools, teachers will develop strategic and integrated understandings of effective groupwork monitoring strategies. As a result of this work, teachers and researchers will be able to better connect teachers’ monitoring choices to students’ peer-to-peer math talk.

To investigate how experienced secondary mathematics teachers learn about groupwork monitoring, the project will develop rich visualization tools to analyze classroom discussions, engage teachers in analytical activities, and study resultant teacher and student learning. In Phase 1, the project team will build on existing visualization tools to develop efficient processes for producing interactive visualizations of monitoring that provide new ways to link classroom video to teachers’ overall interactional patterns. In Phase 2, 12-16 experienced secondary mathematics teachers in six school-based teams will engage over a two-year period with teacher professional development designed to enhance their sensemaking about monitoring, both individually and in teams. The enhanced video feedback system will allow teachers to guide, document, and investigate their evolving sensemaking. In Phase 3, individual and team learning portraits of productive math talk will be developed from the rich corpus of classroom and teacher sensemaking data. At the same time, the corpus will be analyzed using quantitative methods to investigate the conditions under which different teacher monitoring moves support or impede students’ productive math talk. The primary research products will be: 1) novel, open-source tools that dynamically visualize teachers’ monitoring work over a lesson, coordinated with specific teacher-group interaction; 2) a framework for mathematics teachers’ monitoring; 3) a theory about teachers’ learning of responsive and situated practices, of which monitoring is an example; and 4) stronger empirical evidence to guide mathematics teachers’ monitoring practices.

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