Teachers are incredibly busy. They need to be the experts on a variety of curricular topics, especially in the elementary years, and for a variety of learners. Most teachers have earned a bachelor’s degree and spent additional time studying pedagogy and curriculum to earn their teaching credential. Further, they have all the wisdom gained from their time in the classroom. It is highly unlikely that they spend their afternoons and evenings also reading current educational research that is relative to their practice. Most professional learning is provided to teachers during their staff development time and relates to implementing curriculum and instruction trends or site policies. However, professional learning should not stop, and does not stop, once we begin teaching. Our children deserve teachers who are consistently making themselves into experts. Formal professional learning is a vital part of any teacher’s career.
Educational research is constantly examining new ways of understanding and employing factors that shape educational outcomes. Researchers are adding to the field on a daily basis. How does this research reach the classroom teacher? According to Makel and Plucker (2014), less than one percent of that research ever reaches the classroom teacher.
According to the July/August 2007 Harvard Business Review, “experts are made, not born.” The AIMS Center for Math and Science Education Research Division acts as an agent making sure that applicable research reaches classroom teachers. Our charge is to develop teachers’ professional learning around viable and reliable educational research related to how children come to know and understand their number concepts. We believe that understanding how children construct number in kindergarten and grade 1 benefits teachers and students by offering a fair and equitable mathematics experience that continues to support students while they progress as learners. While teachers aren’t necessarily the only math experts in the room (students bring a level of personal expertise as well), they are the instructional experts. They are not born teachers, but through education, experience, and professional learning, experts are made.
Last fall, I witnessed the journey of two teacher/researchers as they returned to the classroom (see Grace Florez and Beverly Ford’s blog posts) to experience the challenges and rewards of applying their research into student adaptive pedagogy. Both of these individuals were former classroom teachers, each with a Master of Arts in Education and years of experience studying student adaptive pedagogy as described by Dr. Leslie P Steffe. Student adaptive pedagogy (SAP) is a research-based method of teaching in which instruction is guided by what students know already and the ways in which they perceive given situations. It requires that a teacher build a deep understanding of each student’s knowledge and is able to ask questions or create situations that both support the student’s current understanding and challenge that understanding in ways that will expand it.
Next fall we will begin a pilot program with approximately a dozen teachers. We will combine the knowledge and insight we have gained with the knowledge and insight of full time K-1 classroom teachers. While the details are not completely laid out yet, we will use this spring to reflect on lessons learned and to prepare the program that will be used in the fall. I believe that this venture will produce meaningful and viable ways of using job-embedded professional learning.
What were some of your most valuable forms of professional learning?
How do children come to understand a concept? More specifically, how do they develop a concept of number? This is the underlying question to the work we do at the AIMS Center for Math and Science Education. In seeking the answer to this question, we have been reading research around cognition. Needless to say, we… Continue Reading
Before Christmas our team developed a game to work with students on building the concept of equal size groups. We named the game “The Great Wall.” Students are given the task of building the Great Wall of China for the emperor. They are directed to build sections of the wall, each a certain number of… Continue Reading
Every once in a while, something will happen at work that makes me miss the classroom and the kids that I taught. It’s like a craving at times, but today I feel more like the athlete on the bench that wants a shot at winning the game. Here I am on the sidelines, wanting to… Continue Reading
In my last blog entry, I described three goals suggested by Dr. Les Steffe which support introducing subtraction as take away. Yet, there is a belief among some math teachers that thinking of subtraction as take away interferes with future mathematical development. They argue that using the words “take away” should be eliminated completely from… Continue Reading
In my last blog entry I talked about laying the foundation for fractions in K-2 by thinking about the standard for measurement 1.MD.2 as foundational for the conceptual understanding of fractions. In this entry, I am going to talk about what it means for a student to coordinate units. The word coordinate, when used as… Continue Reading
I am very excited that Dr. Leslie P. Steffe is going to be the speaker at this month’s AIMS colloquia on January 22. The Research Division of the AIMS Center has chosen to deeply study Dr. Steffe’s work so that we can share it with teachers here in the Central San Joaquin Valley. While Dr.… Continue Reading
I would like to take a small detour for this entry and use the start of the new year reflect on the previous year. Reflecting on the past as a teacher can help us to think about what we might consider for the future. So what were the top lessons learned at AIMS in 2017?… Continue Reading
As the Fall semester comes to a close, we are preparing for Spring at our school sites. Next on the list for our team is fractions. I am so excited to begin working with students to understand how they think about fractions and what we as teachers can do to give them opportunities to increase… Continue Reading
Why is subtraction hard? This question can be heard from many young children, but often even from adults. Whenever adults do mental math, they tend to have an easier time with addition, multiplication, and simple division than with subtraction. For the past three months we have been engaging young children in subtraction situations while considering… Continue Reading