Community building in mathematics professional development
Brown, Rachael Eriksen
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This study considers the practicality of creating a mathematical community of practice among mathematics middle school teachers in a 14-week PD experience. The concept of creating a community of practice is a recent idea in education. Many professional developers and teachers have experiences that indicate developing some level of community in the classes they teach leads to greater student success. There is little written, however, about what demands are placed on the facilitator who attempts to create a community of practice. In addition, little is written about the possibility of a community of practice developing in a short period of time – though the time frame of this PD is consistent with many PD experiences in the United States. In this study, the design of the PD included focus on mathematics content knowledge and active engagement in high cognitive demand tasks with rational number concepts. Both are common recommendations for effective PD. This study found that a community of practice could be developed in this setting. Although no data were collected on the path of the community after the PD, this study provides an example of success of community of practice development within a PD setting with a facilitator intent on not only improving teachers’ understanding of rational numbers but attempting to cultivate a community. This study found that development of a community of practice facilitated mathematics learning in this PD.