PROJECT CO-DIRECTORS : Jerry P. Becker, Southern Illinois University Carbondale; Michael Koenig, Belleville, IL
Developing Elementary and Middle School Mathematics Professionals
OVERVIEW: This project aimed to enhance the mathematics knowledge and instructional skills of teachers of kindergarten through grade 8 from 12 school districts in and around Belleville, Illinois. Participants attended a summer institute and academic-year meetings to learn the Japanese open approach to teaching mathematics, which stresses multiple ways to solve a problem, multiple solutions, and students' own formulation of problems. The heart of the approach is providing an opportunity for students to use their own natural mathematical thinking abilities.
STRATEGIES: Each summer, a new group of teachers attended an intensive four-week institute led by a Southern Illinois University (SIUC) faculty member and master teachers (two each from grade span K-2, 3-5, and 6-8). Institute leaders modeled instructional techniques that reflected the Japanese open approach. The leaders modeled how to: 1) present a problem, 2) ensure that students understand what they are expected to do, 3) purposefully observe students' problem solving solutions and record them on the chalkboard for all to see, 4) discuss and compare students' solutions, and 5) summarize the lesson. They also demonstrated an assessment method that was integrated into the lessons. Participants assessed work for fluency, a quantitative measure that reflects the number of correct ways a student solved a problem or how many correct answers were offered; flexibility, the number of different mathematical ideas used; originality, a measure of insightful observations; and elegance, the extent to which the student expressed thinking in mathematical notation.
Participants also were introduced to new mathematics concepts and learned to use manipulatives and materials from several nationally available curricula. They received materials from the Middle Grades Mathematics Project (Michigan State University) and Everyday Mathematics (University of Chicago School Mathematics Project). Participants also received The Open-Ended Approach: A New Proposal for Teaching Mathematics (available from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics), a publication on Japanese mathematical instruction and curriculum development. Participants worked in grade-level collaborative groups to share experiences and collaborate in implementing project materials. In addition, they attended seminars with teachers of various grade levels to discuss local and national mathematics standards, view videotapes of effective teaching techniques, and discuss mathematics education research. Lastly, participants developed lesson plans to pilot-test in the classroom.
During the following academic year, participants met monthly to review institute activities and discuss issues that had arisen in using project materials. The SIUC faculty member and master teachers visited participants in their classrooms to teach demonstration lessons and observe lessons. Participants also were encouraged to conduct family nights, in which parents and students worked together on mathematics problems using the techniques introduced by the project. Many participants developed take-home kits for parents that contained additional activities and materials for them to use with their children.
Participants attended a two-week institute during their second summer. They continued their instructional training, worked together at revising lesson plans that they had pilot-tested, and developed new lesson plans. The three-year project was concluded in the summer of 1999 with a one-day professional conference that focused on what was learned in the project.
IMPACT: Three hundred teachers participated. A faculty member from Northern Kentucky University evaluated the project each of the first two years. The project made changes in its design in response to the evaluator's recommendations. Data were collected to assess changes in participants' problem-solving skilIs, instructional techniques, and attitudes toward and beliefs about mathematics using a comparison group of non-participants, pre- and post-tests, classroom observations, participant interviews and opinionnaires, and analyses of portfolios and lesson plans. Evaluations indicate that teachers' instructional skills, attitudes, and beliefs about mathematics significantly improved following their participation. Results from the Illinois Goals Assessment Program (IGAP) showed that students of teachers in the main district in the project showed significant achievement gains, far above those predicted by the Illinois State Board of Education, at each grade level tested. The project found that teachers need assistance in creating new lesson plans and integrating project materials into their textbook-dependent curricula. It also found that teachers need more time to discuss content and instructional issues with each other during school hours. The project attempted to raise awareness of this "Time for Teachers" issue by facilitating discussions at professional conferences and widely disseminating such information on the internet.
*************************************************** Jerry P. Becker Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction Southern Illinois University Carbondale, IL 62901-4610 USA Fax: (618) 453-4244 Phone: (618) 453-4241 (office) (618) 457-8903 (home) E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org