Pedagogical Content Knowledge

Reducing Racially Biased Beliefs by Fostering a Complex Understanding of Human Genetics Research in High School Biology Students (Collaborative Research: Duncan)

The project will refine a genetics education curriculum, called Humane Genome Literacy (HGL), in order to reduce belief in genetic essentialism. This research will provide curriculum writers and educators with knowledge about how to design a humane genetics education to maximize reductions in students’ genetic essentialist beliefs. The research findings will demonstrate how to support teachers who wish to reduce beliefs in genetic essentialism by teaching students about the complexity of human genetics research using the HGL learning materials.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2100876
Funding Period: 
Wed, 09/01/2021 to Sun, 08/31/2025
Full Description: 

Genetic essentialism is the belief that people of the same race share genes that make them physically, cognitively, and behaviorally uniform, and thus different from other races. The project will refine a genetics education curriculum, called Humane Genome Literacy (HGL), in order to reduce belief in genetic essentialism. This research will provide curriculum writers and educators with knowledge about how to design a humane genetics education to maximize reductions in students’ genetic essentialist beliefs and minimize the threat of backfiring (unintentionally increasing belief in essentialism). The research findings will demonstrate how to support teachers who wish to reduce beliefs in genetic essentialism by teaching students about the complexity of human genetics research using the HGL learning materials.  Project research findings, learning materials, and professional development institutes will be made available to educators and researchers across the country who desire to teach genetics to reduce racial prejudice.

To prepare for the research, the project will revise and augment the project’s existing HGL curriculum and professional development institutes.  In year one, the project will develop new versions of the HGL interventions. Using these materials, the project will train teachers to implement new versions of the HGL interventions in their classrooms. Researchers will video and audio record a sample of teachers and students as they learn. These data will be analyzed qualitatively to: (1) examine how the conceptual change of genetic essentialism was promoted or impeded by interactions between teachers, students, and the materials; and (2) identify and corroborate general factors undergirding the backfiring effect.  Knowledge constructed through these studies will be used to revise the HGL interventions and PDIs.  In year three, using the revised versions of the HGL intervention, the project will conduct a cluster randomized trial (CRT). The CRT will compare the HGL interventions to a well-defined “business as usual” genetics curriculum, using a statistically powerful and geographically diverse sample (N = 135 teachers, N = 16,200 students, from 33 states). Using data from the CRT, the project will identify classrooms where the interventions reduced essentialism, had no effect on it, and where it backfired. Then, the project will use stimulated recall methods to interview the teachers and students in those classrooms to make sense of factors that contributed to these outcomes. The project will use this information to develop the final version of the HGL interventions and PDI materials. By the end of year four, the project will have trained an additional 90-100 teachers to use HGL interventions, reaching an additional 10,800-12,000 students, in at least 33 different states.

Reducing Racially Biased Beliefs by Fostering a Complex Understanding of Human Genetics Research in High School Biology Students (Collaborative Research: Wedow)

The project will refine a genetics education curriculum, called Humane Genome Literacy (HGL), in order to reduce belief in genetic essentialism. This research will provide curriculum writers and educators with knowledge about how to design a humane genetics education to maximize reductions in students’ genetic essentialist beliefs. The research findings will demonstrate how to support teachers who wish to reduce beliefs in genetic essentialism by teaching students about the complexity of human genetics research using the HGL learning materials.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2100959
Funding Period: 
Wed, 09/01/2021 to Sun, 08/31/2025
Full Description: 

Genetic essentialism is the belief that people of the same race share genes that make them physically, cognitively, and behaviorally uniform, and thus different from other races. The project will refine a genetics education curriculum, called Humane Genome Literacy (HGL), in order to reduce belief in genetic essentialism. This research will provide curriculum writers and educators with knowledge about how to design a humane genetics education to maximize reductions in students’ genetic essentialist beliefs and minimize the threat of backfiring (unintentionally increasing belief in essentialism). The research findings will demonstrate how to support teachers who wish to reduce beliefs in genetic essentialism by teaching students about the complexity of human genetics research using the HGL learning materials.  Project research findings, learning materials, and professional development institutes will be made available to educators and researchers across the country who desire to teach genetics to reduce racial prejudice.

To prepare for the research, the project will revise and augment the project’s existing HGL curriculum and professional development institutes.  In year one, the project will develop new versions of the HGL interventions. Using these materials, the project will train teachers to implement new versions of the HGL interventions in their classrooms. Researchers will video and audio record a sample of teachers and students as they learn. These data will be analyzed qualitatively to: (1) examine how the conceptual change of genetic essentialism was promoted or impeded by interactions between teachers, students, and the materials; and (2) identify and corroborate general factors undergirding the backfiring effect.  Knowledge constructed through these studies will be used to revise the HGL interventions and PDIs.  In year three, using the revised versions of the HGL intervention, the project will conduct a cluster randomized trial (CRT). The CRT will compare the HGL interventions to a well-defined “business as usual” genetics curriculum, using a statistically powerful and geographically diverse sample (N = 135 teachers, N = 16,200 students, from 33 states). Using data from the CRT, the project will identify classrooms where the interventions reduced essentialism, had no effect on it, and where it backfired. Then, the project will use stimulated recall methods to interview the teachers and students in those classrooms to make sense of factors that contributed to these outcomes. The project will use this information to develop the final version of the HGL interventions and PDI materials. By the end of year four, the project will have trained an additional 90-100 teachers to use HGL interventions, reaching an additional 10,800-12,000 students, in at least 33 different states.

Developing the Pedagogical Skills and Science Expertise of Teachers in Underserved Rural Settings

The project will develop and research an innovative model for rural science teacher professional development via technology-mediated lesson study (TMLS). This approach supports translating professional learning into classroom practice by developing a technology-based, social support system among rural teachers.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2101383
Funding Period: 
Wed, 09/01/2021 to Sun, 08/31/2025
Full Description: 

Rural science teachers are often isolated and have few opportunities for meaningful collaboration with fellow teachers, an important source of professional learning. The project will develop and research an innovative model for rural science teacher professional development via technology-mediated lesson study (TMLS). This approach supports translating professional learning into classroom practice by developing a technology-based, social support system among rural teachers. The project will host summer workshops for high school biology and chemistry teachers from four rural Utah regions to learn about 3D science teaching. (3D science teaching incorporates core ideas science disciplines, science research practices, and concepts cutting across disciplines to help students meet performance expectations by engaging with authentic science phenomena.) In the workshops, participants will collaborate with the project team and teachers of the same subject from the same region of the state to co-design 3D science lessons that align with state and national education standards. Building on relationships developed during the workshops, the regional teacher teams will engage in a novel form of professional learning: technology-mediated lesson study. (Lesson study is an instructional inquiry model where teachers work face-to-face in small collaborative groups to craft, deliver, observe, and refine teaching practice.) This project will develop capacity for science teaching for 88 rural science teachers in four regions of the state, who will reach approximately 10,000 rural Utah students each year. Many of the students are members of the sovereign Ute, Paiute, Goshute, Navajo (Diné), and Shoshone Nations. The science lesson plans participants design will be made available to all Utah teachers, and shared with a national audience through a website that shares peer-reviewed science lesson plans. Project research and resources will be further disseminated through conference presentations and publications in peer-reviewed and practitioner journals.

The project will research how TMLS supports teachers in the process of translating professional learning into practice and investigate the impact of changing teachers’ social support network to include teachers of the same subject from other rural schools. The project will study the effects of co-design activities and TMLS cycles on teachers’ changing capacity, practice, and social support system using mixed-methods research. Changes in capacity and practice will be examined qualitatively through interviews, video observations of classroom teaching, and TMLS meetings. The effects of TMLS on teachers’ social support system will be analyzed quantitatively using social network analysis to identify individuals who act as information hubs for 3D science teaching. These teachers will be interviewed to better understand their social interactions. Using design-based implementation research, the project will iteratively improve the professional learning experience collaboratively with the science teacher leaders who participate in the project.

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.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2100784
Funding Period: 
Sun, 08/01/2021 to Thu, 07/31/2025
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.

Supporting Teacher Customizations of Curriculum Materials for Equitable Student Sensemaking in Secondary Science (Collaborative Researcher: Reiser)

This project is developing and researching customization tools to support teachers’ instructional shifts to achieve equitable sensemaking in middle school science classrooms. These tools will help teachers to better notice and leverage the ideas and experiences of non-dominant students to support all students in equitable sensemaking.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2101377
Funding Period: 
Thu, 07/01/2021 to Mon, 06/30/2025
Full Description: 

This project is developing and researching tools to support teachers’ instructional shifts to achieve equitable sensemaking in middle school science classrooms. Sensemaking involves students building and using science ideas to address questions and problems they identify, rather than solely learning about the science others have done. Despite it being a central goal of recent national policy documents, such meaningful engagement with science knowledge building remains elusive in many classrooms. Students from non-dominant communities frequently do not see themselves as “science people” because their ways of knowing and experiences are often not valued in science classrooms. Professional learning grounded in teachers’ use of innovative high quality curriculum materials can help teachers learn to teach in new ways. Yet teachers need guidance to customize curriculum materials to fit their own local contexts and leverage students’ ideas and experiences while maintaining the goals of recent policy documents. This project is researching and developing customization tools to support teachers in their principled use and adaptation of materials for their classrooms. These customization tools will help teachers to better notice and leverage the ideas and experiences of non-dominant students to support all students in equitable sensemaking. During the project, 74 teachers from diverse schools will participate in professional learning using these customization tools. After testing, the customization tools and illustrative cases will be disseminated broadly to support teachers enacting any science curriculum in leveraging the ideas and experiences that students bring into the classroom. In addition, the research results in the form of design principles will inform future design of curriculum materials and professional learning resources for science.

A key element in science education reform efforts includes shifting the epistemic and power structures in the classroom so that teachers and students work together to build knowledge. Research shows that shifts in science teaching are challenging for teachers. Researchers and practitioners have collaborated to develop curriculum materials that begin to support teachers in this work. But teachers need to interpret these materials and customize the tasks and strategies for their own context as they work with their own students. Curriculum enactment is not prescriptive, but rather a “participatory relationship” between the teacher, curriculum materials, students and context, where teachers interpret the materials and the goals of the reform, and customize them to adapt the tasks and activity structures to meet the needs and leverage the resources of their students. The field needs to better understand how teachers learn from and navigate this participatory relationship and what supports can aid in this work. This project will include design-based research examining teachers’ customization processes and the development of tools to support teachers in adapting curriculum materials for their specific school context to facilitate equitable science sensemaking for all students, where all students engage in ambitious science knowledge building. The major components of the research program will include: (1) Empirical study of teachers’ customization processes; (2) Theoretical model of teacher thinking and learning that underlies customization of curriculum materials; (3) Tools to support principled customization consistent with the goals of the reform; and (4) Empirical study of how tools influence teachers’ customization processes. The project is addressing the urgent need for scalable support for teacher learning for recent shifts in science education in relation to both a vision of figuring out and equity.

Supporting Teacher Customizations of Curriculum Materials for Equitable Student Sensemaking in Secondary Science (Collaborative Researcher: McNeill)

This project is developing and researching customization tools to support teachers’ instructional shifts to achieve equitable sensemaking in middle school science classrooms. These tools will help teachers to better notice and leverage the ideas and experiences of non-dominant students to support all students in equitable sensemaking.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2101384
Funding Period: 
Thu, 07/01/2021 to Mon, 06/30/2025
Full Description: 

This project is developing and researching tools to support teachers’ instructional shifts to achieve equitable sensemaking in middle school science classrooms. Sensemaking involves students building and using science ideas to address questions and problems they identify, rather than solely learning about the science others have done. Despite it being a central goal of recent national policy documents, such meaningful engagement with science knowledge building remains elusive in many classrooms. Students from non-dominant communities frequently do not see themselves as “science people” because their ways of knowing and experiences are often not valued in science classrooms. Professional learning grounded in teachers’ use of innovative high quality curriculum materials can help teachers learn to teach in new ways. Yet teachers need guidance to customize curriculum materials to fit their own local contexts and leverage students’ ideas and experiences while maintaining the goals of recent policy documents. This project is researching and developing customization tools to support teachers in their principled use and adaptation of materials for their classrooms. These customization tools will help teachers to better notice and leverage the ideas and experiences of non-dominant students to support all students in equitable sensemaking. During the project, 74 teachers from diverse schools will participate in professional learning using these customization tools. After testing, the customization tools and illustrative cases will be disseminated broadly to support teachers enacting any science curriculum in leveraging the ideas and experiences that students bring into the classroom. In addition, the research results in the form of design principles will inform future design of curriculum materials and professional learning resources for science.

A key element in science education reform efforts includes shifting the epistemic and power structures in the classroom so that teachers and students work together to build knowledge. Research shows that shifts in science teaching are challenging for teachers. Researchers and practitioners have collaborated to develop curriculum materials that begin to support teachers in this work. But teachers need to interpret these materials and customize the tasks and strategies for their own context as they work with their own students. Curriculum enactment is not prescriptive, but rather a “participatory relationship” between the teacher, curriculum materials, students and context, where teachers interpret the materials and the goals of the reform, and customize them to adapt the tasks and activity structures to meet the needs and leverage the resources of their students. The field needs to better understand how teachers learn from and navigate this participatory relationship and what supports can aid in this work. This project will include design-based research examining teachers’ customization processes and the development of tools to support teachers in adapting curriculum materials for their specific school context to facilitate equitable science sensemaking for all students, where all students engage in ambitious science knowledge building. The major components of the research program will include: (1) Empirical study of teachers’ customization processes; (2) Theoretical model of teacher thinking and learning that underlies customization of curriculum materials; (3) Tools to support principled customization consistent with the goals of the reform; and (4) Empirical study of how tools influence teachers’ customization processes. The project is addressing the urgent need for scalable support for teacher learning for recent shifts in science education in relation to both a vision of figuring out and equity.

Supporting High School Students and Teachers with a Digital, Localizable, Climate Education Experience

This partnership of BSCS Science Learning, Oregon Public Broadcasting, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration advances curriculum materials development for high quality units that are intentionally designed for adaptation by teachers for their local context. The project will create a base unit on carbon cycling as a foundation for understanding how and why the Earth's climate is changing, and it will study the process of localizing the unit for teachers to implement across varied contexts to incorporate local phenomena, problems, and solutions.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2100808
Funding Period: 
Thu, 07/01/2021 to Mon, 06/30/2025
Full Description: 

Teachers regularly adapt curriculum materials to localize for their school or community context, yet curriculum materials are not always created to support this localization. Developing materials that are intentionally designed for localization has potential to support rich science learning across different contexts, especially for a topic like climate change where global change can have varied local effects. This partnership of BSCS Science Learning, Oregon Public Broadcasting, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration advances curriculum materials development for high quality units that are intentionally designed for adaptation by teachers for their local context. It will develop and test a design process bringing together national designers and teachers across the country. Teachers will be supported through professional learning to adapt from the base unit to create a local learning experience for their students. The project will create a base unit on carbon cycling as a foundation for understanding how and why the Earth's climate is changing, and it will study the process of localizing the unit for teachers to implement across varied contexts to incorporate local phenomena, problems, and solutions. The unit will be fully digital with rich visual experiences, simulations, and computer models that incorporate real-time data and the addition of localized data sets. These data-based learning experiences will support students in reasoning with data to ask and answer questions about phenomena. Research will study the unit development and localization process, the supports appropriate for teachers and students, and the impact on classroom practice.

The project will adopt an iterative design process to create a Storyline base unit, aligned to Next Generation Science Standards, for localization, piloting, and an implementation study with 40 teachers. To support teacher learning, the project adopts the STeLLA teacher professional learning model. To support student learning, the project addresses climate change content knowledge with a focus on socioscientific issues and students’ sense of agency with environmental science. The project will research how the educative features in the unit and the professional development impact teachers’ practice, including their content knowledge, comfort for teaching a socioscientific issue, and their ability to productively localize materials from a base unit. The study uses a cohort-control quasi-experimental design to examine the impact of the unit and professional learning experience on dimensions of students' sense of agency with environmental science. The study will also include exploratory analyses to examine whether all students benefit from the unit. It uses a pre-post design to examine impacts on teacher knowledge and practice.

Supporting Instructional Decision Making: The Potential of Automatically Scored Three-Dimensional Assessment System (Collaborative Research: Zhai)

This project will study the utility of a machine learning-based assessment system for supporting middle school science teachers in making instructional decisions based on automatically generated student reports (AutoRs). The assessments target three-dimensional (3D) science learning by requiring students to integrate scientific practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas to make sense of phenomena or solve complex problems.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2101104
Funding Period: 
Wed, 09/01/2021 to Sun, 08/31/2025
Full Description: 
This project will study the utility of a machine learning-based assessment system for supporting middle school science teachers in making instructional decisions based on automatically generated student reports (AutoRs). The assessments target three-dimensional (3D) science learning by requiring students to integrate scientific practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas to make sense of phenomena or solve complex problems. Led by collaborators from University of Georgia, Michigan State University, University of Illinois at Chicago, and WestEd, the project team will develop computer scoring algorithms, a suite of AutoRs, and an array of pedagogical content knowledge supports (PCKSs). These products will assist middle school science teachers in the use of 3D assessments, making informative instructional changes, and improve students’ 3D learning. The project will generate knowledge about teachers’ uses of 3D assessments and examine the potential of automatically scored 3D assessments.
 
The project will achieve the research goals using a mixed-methods design in three phases. Phase I: Develop AutoRs. Machine scoring models for the 3D assessment tasks will be developed using existing data. To support teachers’ interpretation and use of automatic scores, the project team will develop AutoRs and examine how teachers make use of these initial reports. Based on observations and feedback from teachers, AutoRs will be refined using an iterative procedure so that teachers can use them with more efficiency and productivity. Phase II: Develop and test PCKSs. Findings from Phase I, the literature, and interviews with experienced teachers will be employed to develop PCKSs. The project will provide professional learning with teachers on how to use the AutoRs and PCKSs. The project will research how teachers use AutoRs and PCKSs to make instructional decisions. The findings will be used to refine the PCKSs. Phase III: Classroom implementation. In this phase a study will be conducted with a new group of teachers to explore the effectiveness and usability of AutoRs and PCKSs in terms of supporting teachers’ instructional decisions and students’ 3D learning. This project will create knowledge about and formulate a theory of how teachers interpret and attend to students’ performance on 3D assessments, providing critical information on how to support teachers’ responsive instructional decision making. The collaborative team will widely disseminate various products, such as 3D assessment scoring algorithms, AutoRs, PCKSs, and the corresponding professional development programs, and publications to facilitate 3D instruction and learning.

CAREER: Partnering with Teachers and Students to Engage in Mathematical Inquiry about Relevant Social Issues

This project team partners with the mathematics department of one urban public charter high school that serves 65% students of color (most of whom identify as African American). At the school, 70% of all students qualify for free or reduced lunch, and 25% of the students have Individualized Education Plans.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2042975
Funding Period: 
Sat, 05/01/2021 to Thu, 04/30/2026
Full Description: 

Despite efforts to address racial, gender, income-level and other kinds of inequities, disparities persist throughout society in educational, occupational, financial, and healthcare services and opportunities. To work toward societal equity, mathematics teachers have shown increased interest in both improving students’ achievement and supporting students’ ability to use mathematics to analyze these inequities to create change. For instance, a mathematics task may use rate, ratio, and proportion to explore the gender wage gap, and then use functions to explore disparities in earnings over time. Few resources, such as textbooks, coaching protocols, or video examples of classroom teaching, however, exist to support mathematics teachers’ efforts to teach the mathematics content while investigating relevant social issues. In addition, research indicates several dilemmas teachers face in maintaining the cognitive demand of the task, addressing state standards, and improving student agency through such investigations. Research is needed to understand how teachers learn to adapt and implement mathematics tasks that facilitate students’ mathematics learning and investigation of social issues. This project team partners with the mathematics department of one urban public charter high school that serves 65% students of color (most of whom identify as African American). At the school, 70% of all students qualify for free or reduced lunch, and 25% of the students have Individualized Education Plans. This project investigates: 1) how mathematics teachers learn to teach the mathematics content through investigation of relevant social issues, 2) how teachers negotiate classroom dilemmas related to this approach, and 3) how students feel about mathematics and their ability to enact change toward an equitable society. The professional development will be co-designed with mathematics teacher leaders from the school and the research team and will last three years. Teachers will invite students to become advisory board members to center students’ voices and solicit feedback about the relevance of the social issues embedded in the tasks. Classroom videos will be captured to share on a project website for use by mathematics teacher educators and professional development providers. The website will also host mathematics tasks designed through this project for teachers’ use in their own classrooms.

This qualitative, participatory design study partners with the mathematics department to investigate the following research questions: (1) How do teachers learn to adapt mathematics tasks to make them cognitively demanding and socially relevant for their students? How do contextual factors (e.g., specific school context/location/history, student backgrounds, teacher backgrounds, such as race and class) influence teacher learning? (2) What dilemmas become salient and how do teachers negotiate them while implementing the tasks? (3) How do these tasks improve students’ attitudes about mathematics and feelings of empowerment?  In the first year, the research team and two mathematics teacher leaders from the school will co-design the professional development experience focused on designing and implementing mathematics tasks grounded in issues that are socially relevant to students. In years 2-4, the mathematics department will engage in this professional development, with continual input from teacher participants. Participants will create student advisory boards who will offer feedback to teachers about the relevance of the mathematics tasks. Participants will video tape their own classrooms to share brief vignettes (5-8 minutes long) that highlight dilemmas and/or successes for video club sessions as part of the professional development series. Video club sessions offer opportunities to discuss challenges and successes with colleagues and offer peer support. These video clips will also become video case studies, along with the mathematics task and teacher reflections, for use by mathematics teacher educators and professional development providers through a project website. In addition, years 3-4 the project team will develop four detailed classroom case studies, accompanied with coaching support from the research team. To answer research questions 1 and 2 regarding teacher learning and dilemmas, teachers’ perspectives will be captured through professional development artifacts, coaching debriefs, teachers’ written reflections, and one-on-one semi structured interviews. To answer research question 3 regarding student agency and attitudes about mathematics, student sentiments will be explored through student work, open-ended surveys, and focus group interviews with eight focal students per classroom case study. A project website will share mathematics tasks and video cases with the broader community of mathematics educators. Through distribution of such materials, the project aims to offer much-needed resources and supports for mathematics teachers to use cognitively demanding and socially relevant mathematics tasks with their students. The project will also publish peer-reviewed research articles to share findings with the field.

Improving Professional Development in Mathematics by Understanding the Mechanisms that Translate Teacher Learning into Student Learning

This project explores the mechanisms by which teachers translate what they learn from professional development into their teaching practice. The goal of this project is to study how the knowledge and skills teachers acquire during professional development (PD) translate into more conceptually oriented mathematics teaching and, in turn, into increased student learning.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2100617
Funding Period: 
Wed, 09/01/2021 to Sun, 08/31/2025
Full Description: 

A great deal is known about the effects of mathematics teacher professional development on teachers' mathematical knowledge for teaching. While some professional development programs show meaningful changes in teacher knowledge, these changes do not always translate into changes in teacher practice. This project explores the mechanisms by which teachers translate what they learn from professional development into their teaching practice. The goal of this project is to study how the knowledge and skills teachers acquire during professional development (PD) translate into more conceptually oriented mathematics teaching and, in turn, into increased student learning. The project builds on a promising video-based PD that engages teachers in analyzing videos of classroom mathematics teaching. Previous research indicates that teachers who can analyze teaching by focusing on the nature of the mathematical learning opportunities experienced by students often teach more effectively. The researchers aim to better understand the path teachers follow as they develop this professional competency and translate it into more ambitious teaching that supports richer student learning. The lack of understanding of how a PD program can reach students is a significant barrier to improving the effectiveness of PD. To build this understanding, the researchers aim to test and refine an implementation theory that specifies the obstacles teachers face as they apply their learning to their classroom teaching and the contextual supports that help teachers surmount these obstacles. Lessons learned from understanding the factors that impact the effects of PD will help educators design PD programs that maximize the translation of teacher learning into student learning.

The project will recruit and support a cohort of teachers, grades 4–5 (n=40) and grades 6–7 (n=40) for three years to trace growth in teacher learning, changes in teaching practices, and increases in student learning. The PD will be provided throughout the year for three consecutive years. The researchers will focus on two mathematics topics with a third topic assessed to measure transfer effects. Several cycles of lesson analysis will occur each year, with small grade-alike curriculum-alike groups assisted by trained coaches to help teachers translate their growing analysis skills into planning, implementing, and reflecting on their own lessons. Additional days will be allocated each year to assist the larger groups of teachers in developing pedagogical content knowledge for analyzing teaching. The research focuses on the following questions: 1) What are the relationships between teacher learning from PD, classroom teaching, and student learning, how do hypothesized mediating variables affect these relationships, and how do these relationships change as teachers become more competent at analyzing teaching?; and 2) How do teachers describe the obstacles and supports they believe affect their learning and teaching, and how do these obstacles and supports deepen and broaden the implementation theory? Multi-level modeling will be used to address the first question, taking into account for the nested nature of the data, in order to test a model that hypothesizes direct and indirect relationships between teacher learning and teaching practice and, in turn, teaching practice and student learning. Teachers will take assessments each year, for each mathematics topic, on the analysis of teaching skills, on the use of teaching practices, and on students’ learning. Cluster analysis will be used to explore the extent to which the relationship between learning to analyze the mathematics of a lesson, teaching quality, and student achievement may be different for different teachers based on measured characteristics. Longitudinal analysis will be used to examine the theoretical relationships among variables in the hypothesized path model. Teachers’ mathematical knowledge for teaching, lesson planning, and textbook curricular material use will be examined as possible mediating variables between teacher learning and teaching practice. To address the second research question, participants will engage in annual interviews about the factors they are obstacles to doing this work and about the supports within and outside of the PD that ameliorate these obstacles. Quantitative analyses will test the relationships between the obstacles and supports with teacher learning and classroom teaching. Through qualitative analyses, the obstacles and supports to translating professional learning into practice will be further articulated. These obstacles and supports, along with the professional development model, will be disseminated to the field.

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