The Research Division of the AIMS Center is organized into four teams, of which three teams are presently focused on research related to how children come to know number. Our ultimate goal is to translate that research into classroom practice.
The theory base underlying the research we are following is what might be called a Piagetian Constructivist understanding of how children, and adults for that matter, “come to know”. As a Center we want each member of the research division to have a deep understanding of this theory, not only because this is the theory base for the research we are currently looking at, but because this is the lens through which we view all research. All of the tasks that we design for translating what we learn will be informed by this Piagetian Constructivist understanding of how children come to know.
As Director of Research I have many responsibilities, such as learning how recent neuroscience research fits into the work we are doing. Perhaps the one that is most immediate is to facilitate the ongoing growth of knowledge of constructivism by the research team members. I’ve had personal knowledge of Piaget’s work and have known some of his theory for many years. I designed a Piagetian study for my own dissertation (a couple of decades ago!). What I hope for each of us working in the research division of the AIMS Center is that we develop a deep knowledge of Piaget’s constructivism so that we speak the language, are able apply the theory, and are readily able to view any research we are reading through the lens of this theory. That’s a tall order and, while we’re beginning to speak the language, there is much more to learn and at a much deeper level.
As I’ve considered this responsibility and have worked at my own “coming to know” more deeply, I realized that each of the three teams spend hours each week reading together, studying together, and going out to schools together to reenact research. I felt the need for someone to come alongside of me – someone to read with, someone to talk to about what I am reading, someone to help me begin to write about what we are coming to know more deeply. Together I wanted to begin to think about how it can be communicated and how we might help others come to know more deeply.
Melinda Riccardi, one of our research associates who recently completed her MA in Mathematics Education, and who is a voracious reader and eager learner, has agreed to join me to form a fourth team that we are calling Constructivism and More. Instead of feeling alone in my task, I now have the wonderful problem of trying to keep up with Mel, as she reads and we talk and we begin to figure out how to communicate and facilitate this construction by colleagues, other research associates, and graduate students. One day I hope that we have the opportunity to inservice teachers toward a deeper constructivist understanding of how children come to know.