Examining the influence of learner-centered professional development on elementary mathematics teachers' instructional practices, espoused practices and evidence of student learning
Polly, Andrew Bret
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This study examined the extent to which two elementary teachers’ classroom practices were aligned with their intentions, self-reported implementation, and the practices emphasized during ongoing learner-centered professional development (LCPD) program designed to the support the integration of learner-centered mathematical tasks and associated pedagogies. Evidence of student activity associated with enactments was also examined. Data were collected related to intended (i.e., what they planned to do), enacted (i.e., what they were observed doing), and espoused practices (i.e., what they believed they did). Teachers were observed when they indicated their intent to implement practices consistent with the professional development instructional practices and were interviewed to identify their intended and espoused practices. Task enactments were taken directly from professional development activities (direct adoption), co-planned with project personnel, or independently planned by the teacher-participants. The Video Analysis Tool (VAT) was used to code instances of the six professional development instructional practices (i.e., tasks, questions, algorithms, technology, student communication, and mathematical representations) using a scale that codified the extent to which they implemented the pedagogies. Interview data were analyzed using the same instructional practices as primary codes. Findings indicated that the majority of enactments did not align with the professional development instructional practices. Enactments and instructional practices were more consistent with the professional development pedagogies when professional developers scaffolded the tasks, but even highly scaffolded tasks were often implemented didactically. Evidence also suggested that instruction became increasingly learner-centered as the professional development progressed. Latter enactments included more learner-centered attributes than at the beginning of the study, though relatively few were observed. Learner-centered enactments included more student-generated mathematical representations, communication about mathematical thinking and sharing of mathematical work through various representations (e.g., using manipulatives, tables, computations). Further research is needed to examine the influence of on-site support during teachers’ enactments, changes in teacher practice, and the alignment among intentions, self-reports, and actual practices. Design experiments might better refine and modify professional development programs using ongoing, real-time evidence of teacher and student performance. Finally, research is needed to further explore and establish links among teacher learning, classroom implementations, and student learning.