Destiny Turner and Dr. Candice Ridlon, Department of Mathematics Education
In 2000, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) developed a set of principles and standards to guide mathematics teaching in grades K-12. These principles outline pedagogy that encourages students to discover and understand math on a conceptual level. These monumental standards are widely recognized, but unfortunately, are not as widely implemented in actual classrooms. Most often, this problem is addressed through short-term professional development workshops.
For my ORCA project, I investigated the beliefs and attitudes of two groups of practicing elementary school teachers towards teaching mathematics. One group received a two-year professional development course designed and taught by the Mathematics Initiative Committee of the BYU-Public School Partnership. I analyzed the effects of a long-term professional development course on the beliefs and teaching practices of inservice teachers as compared to the changes made by teachers who did not receive the professional development class. My interest in this project developed as I wanted to help administrators and teacher educators to understand the role that professional development plays in educational reform.
In order to measure a change in beliefs about mathematics pedagogy, I administered the Integrating Mathematics and Pedagogy (IMAP) Beliefs Survey to both sets of teachers at the beginning and end of the two years. To measure changes in actual practice, I observed each teacher teaching a math lesson to his or her students periodically throughout the course of the project.
My main task included scoring the IMAP Beliefs Survey. This consisted of individually scoring each test and then meeting with a partner to compare scores and agree on a single score. This part of the project was difficult because the tests could be very subjective, due to the fact that nearly all the questions were free response. In order to ensure validity of the scores, we both underwent a great deal of training on how to properly score the answers to the survey.
The next step in this project will be to analyze the data collected on these inservice teachers in order to determine whether or not their beliefs and attitudes changed and how much they were altered. An ANOVA test will be used to check for a statistically significant change.
Besides determining the beliefs and attitudes held by the teachers, I also had to evaluate their actual teaching practices. To do this, I visited Wasatch School District every four months for observations. I evaluated a math lesson using a rubric developed by the Mathematics Initiative Committee of the BYU- PSP to rate the extent to which desired behaviors were seen in the math lesson. These behaviors were determined by the guidelines set forth in the NCTM principles and standards. This evaluation could also be very subjective; therefore, many precautions were taken to keep the observations consistent and as objective as possible. The rubric was reviewed and reworked many times before it was finally used to observe the teachers. Also, a partner observed with me and we compared scores at the end in order to give each teacher a fair observation.
While working on this project I encountered several obstacles. One frustration was the inconsistent participation of the inservice teachers. Of the many teachers that started the professional development program, several did not complete the full two years. At the end of the project, I had less data than I had anticipated because of the decrease in participants, which will make analyzing the data more difficult. It was also difficult to work with the schedules of the busy teachers when planning observations and testing times. As these problems arose, I attempted to accommodate the teachers as best as I could in order to make the project a success.
I presented my project in the form of a poster at a BYU research forum in April of 2006. In order to participate in this event, I created a poster explaining my project and the work I had completed. At the forum, I answered questions about my project.
This project offered me a learning experience that has greatly enhanced my years at BYU and better prepared me for my current career in teaching. My ORCA project complemented my elementary education classes by supplementing the courses in good classroom practice with actual research and current issues in education. It allowed me to recognize the importance of continuing professional development for myself as an educator.
At the close of my project, I was hired as an intern at a school that is just starting to participate in this same professional development program that I have been researching through my ORCA project. It is exciting to receive the training that I have come to believe is so important for educators. As a second-grade teacher, I am able to implement a standards-based pedagogy in my classroom as a result of the change in my beliefs and attitudes about mathematics teaching.