This descriptive study will systematically track key instructional indicators in middle school mathematics classrooms, specifically, teachers' mathematical knowledge, the curriculum in place, and the nature of mathematics instruction offered to students.
For the past 25 years, three major goals have animated U.S. educational policy: developing more knowledgeable teachers, implementing more challenging curricula, and fostering more ambitious instruction in classrooms. Yet despite volumes of policy guidance, on-the-ground effort, and research over the past decades, few comprehensive and representative portraits of teacher and teaching quality in U.S. classrooms exist. Instead, most research into these topics has been conducted with small or nonrepresentative samples, with the result that it is difficult to ascertain what, if any, progress has been made toward the three goals. Unlike student achievement, which the National Assessment of Educational Progress has tracked for almost 50 years, the classroom experiences of the typical U.S. student remain obscure.
To address this issue, the 4-year descriptive study will begin by systematically tracking key instructional indicators in middle school mathematics classrooms, specifically, teachers' mathematical knowledge, the curriculum in place, and the nature of mathematics instruction offered to students. To initiate this line of research, the research team will collect data in 2015 from a national representative sample of 600 U.S. middle school mathematics teachers. A written survey will build on one conducted in 2005-06, allowing for the comparison over time of teachers' curriculum use and mathematical knowledge. The research team will also record and score videos of instruction from a subset of these teachers, enabling both a description of current instruction and a comparison to lessons captured during the 1999 TIMSS video study. Both the survey and video datasets can serve as referents for future studies of instruction, for instance, studies investigating whether student participation in the development of mathematical ideas has changed over time. The research team will use both old and new technologies to complete the study. The mail survey will consist of existing items that tap teachers' mathematical knowledge for teaching, or the professional knowledge teachers draw upon in providing mathematics instruction to children. To conduct the video study, they will mail tablets for teachers to record their own instruction, and guidance on taping will be provided via YouTube video. The lessons that result will be scored using the Mathematical Quality of Instruction (MQI) instrument. The MQI measures key dimensions of mathematics classrooms, including the proportion of class time spent on mathematical tasks, the mathematical integrity of lesson content, and the nature of student participation in the development of mathematical ideas. Video and data from the survey will be made available to other researchers for scoring with other methods and observation instruments. Teachers, parents and students will be asked to consent to their classroom videos being made available. The study is largely descriptive, as are many others of its kind. However, describing the range of U.S. instruction can have a profound effect on the field, much as the TIMSS video studies did over a decade ago. Establishing methodologies for studying teachers and teaching at scale will contribute to efforts to evaluate and monitor progress toward broad-reaching national goals.