The purpose of this project is to investigate issues in the design and implementation of effective virtual learning communities (VLCs) for teachers and to examine the relation between teachers' reflective engagement with VLCs and their students' mathematics learning outcomes. Findings from this project will be used to build and share effective ways to support teacher learning online.
U.S. elementary teachers face many challenges. They are asked to teach all subjects to students with different needs and abilities. To do this well, they need good professional learning opportunities. Many teachers look online for such opportunities, but little is known about the quality of those opportunities and how they can be improved to help teachers meet their challenges. The goals of this project are to learn more about how teachers use one popular website for elementary mathematics teachers and how this website and similar ones can be adapted to better support teacher learning. Specifically, the project will (1) interview teachers about their use of the website, (2) investigate how to improve the ways teachers interact with video resources on the site by testing different ways of guiding their attention, and (3) examine how teachers' interactions with these video resources are related to their students' learning of mathematics. Findings from this project will be used to build and share effective ways to support teacher learning online. The project will thus benefit teachers who use the popular website, teachers who use similar websites, researchers who study how teachers learn from such websites, and the students of teachers who learn from such websites.
Video-based learning has been the focus of much professional development research over the past decade. As video-based learning has been found to be effective, many professional developers have taken this learning to scale through the online space. A number of high profile and popular virtual learning communities (VLCs) have emerged to allow teachers to interact with video, but the scant number of studies on the effectiveness of such VLCs show some difficulties in engaging teachers in sustained, reflective professional learning. The purpose of this project is to investigate several major issues in the design and implementation of effective VLCs for teachers and to examine the relation between teachers' reflective engagement with VLCs and their students' mathematics learning outcomes. The investigators propose 3 studies, which build on each other, to address these issues. This project will (1) interview teachers who are members of a popular VLC, to investigate what they learn and how they contribute to community; (2) investigate conditions that impact the posting of reflective commentary about video cases through iterative experiments, as reflective commentary has the potential to build community and to support teacher learning; and (3) investigate the relation between reflective reactions to video cases and student mathematics outcomes. Through these investigations, this project will explore issues that impact the scalability of teachers learning asynchronously from online video. Results will be used to develop guided pathways - a prototype of an innovation that will be based on the results from the research - on one widely used VLC. Thus, this project will provide both a contribution to the field of STEM teacher education research and an immediate, research-based product that can be disseminated to thousands of teachers through an existing VLC.