Professional Resources & Inquiry in Mathematics Education for K-8 Teacher Education
The U.S. has ambitious goals for preparing K-8 teachers to excel in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). This project seeks to enhance the knowledge and expertise of college faculty who prepare elementary school teachers to teach mathematics. The project will develop and investigate a series of five professional learning modules for college mathematics faculty. Modules are grounded in the types of mathematical knowledge for teaching that future teachers need to provide successful learning experiences in mathematics for the diversity of students with whom they work. Twenty instructors from 2- and 4-year colleges who teach mathematics courses designed for pre-service elementary teachers will participate. These faculty, working in small teams, will meet regularly online throughout a semester to review readings and video focused on K-8 interactions during mathematics learning time and to share their own efforts to incorporate recommendations from the modules into the college courses they teach. Anchored in materials from Sybilla Beckmann's well-respected text for the mathematical preparation of K-8 teachers, the faculty modules will include (1) the different types of knowledge required of teachers in K-8 classrooms, (2) research-based information on learning environments conducive for pre-service teacher learning (which also serve as models for effective mathematics instruction in the K-8 setting), and (3) effective methods for assessing pre-service teachers to capture both what they know and what they are ready to learn next. The overarching goal of the project is to produce informed and effective college instructors whose students become informed and effective K-8 teachers. This project contributes to the improvement of undergraduate education as it attends to the NSF-IUSE framework which "promotes new and exciting approaches to using research on STEM learning and education to address STEM education challenges across and within institutions."
The project's significance lies in its promise to strengthen the preparation of future teachers while also adding to the limited existing research on the design and implementation of online professional development for college mathematics faculty. Researchers will examine the construct of mathematical knowledge for teaching future teachers (MKT-FT) during the course of the project. Sandwiched between a facilitated online launch (module 1) and an online wrap-up (module 5), three self-paced modules will be designed for use by teams of at least two instructors and include multi-media resources such as video-based segments demonstrating pre-service teacher and K-8 student mathematical thinking. The project will investigate four research questions: (1) Are module materials accessible and useful to mathematics faculty? (2) Does the use of the materials foster knowledge growth for teaching among instructors and among their undergraduate pre-service elementary teacher students? (3) Are the materials used by faculty in a manner consistent with developer intent and aligned with recommendations from research on the professional growth of college instructors? (4) What does the project's pilot survey of faculty allow us to identify regarding needs and challenges to feasibility and fidelity of implementation across institution types? Data collection includes observations and interviews of participating faculty at several 2- and 4- year colleges in addition to measures of their students' knowledge growth using reliable and validated Learning Mathematics for Teaching tools. The knowledge gained from project research will provide a foundation for future research-based development efforts to increase tools and resources available for content area experts who are novice teacher educators.