Program: Curriculum and Instruction (Mathematics)
Project: Examining Cognitively Challenging Mathematics Tasks in Elementary Grades
Can you give me a brief overview of what this project is about?
This project will examine how novice teachers select mathematics tasks and plan for their implementation, in order to understand how these activities are associated with ambitious instruction. Ambitious instruction is the enactment of rigorous mathematics tasks that promote conceptual understanding and meaningful discourse. The project is part of a larger National Science Foundation (NSF) study called “A Study of Elements of Teacher Preparation Programs that Interact with Candidates’ Characteristics to Support Novice Elementary Teachers to Enact Ambitious Mathematics Instruction.” With an in-depth examination of instructional themes across multiple classrooms, we will highlight the ways in which teachers plan mathematics instruction, how and why novice elementary teachers select and implement mathematics tasks, and how planning and implementation are associated with ambitious instruction.
Why are you passionate about this area of research?
Before enrolling as an Ed.D. student at UVA, I worked as a mathematics educator and instructional coach with the Academy for Urban School Leadership and Chicago Public Schools. I saw firsthand the impact that purposeful planning and specific teaching practices had on ambitious instruction with both pre-service and novice teachers. As a research assistant to the larger NSF study here at UVA, I have an opportunity to further unpack how novice teachers plan and implement mathematics instruction, which will be a key influencer of my work in curriculum development after graduation.
Where did the idea for this particular project come from?
Despite the fact that novice teachers are still developing their skills, they are equally accountable for raising student performance as experienced teachers. For that reason, novice teachers are an attractive focus of study because their success influences not only student progress, but also the likelihood that they will remain in the field of education. While the larger NSF study examines how novice elementary teachers practice teaching mathematics, little is understood about the nature of their planning. Even less is understood about how characteristics of planning are associated with the implementation of ambitious instruction. An unexplored avenue of the larger study is how novice teachers’ planning may be associated with their implementation of ambitious math instruction.
How did you decide to submit a proposal to the Curry IDEA competition?
As a novice in grant writing, I saw that the Curry IDEA competition provided me an opportunity to practice my skill set and receive feedback from peers and professors. Additionally, last spring I took Peter Youngs’s course “Special Topics in Qualitative Methods: Case Study Research,” where we learned about writing proposals. The competition gave me an opportunity to transfer my learning from the course into what is now my capstone research project.
What other people and organizations will be involved?
Susan Mintz serves as both my advisor and a chair of my capstone committee. As part of the larger NSF study, I am mentored by Peter Youngs, who will co-chair my capstone committee. Robert Berry, who is also the current president of the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics, will serve as a co-chair on my capstone committee.
What goals do you have for this project?
I hope that this project provides a positive narrative of enacting ambitious instruction in order to advance the discussion on early career teachers’ capabilities. Additionally, I believe that the processes of research set forth in the grant can only enhance my skill set post-graduation.
How will the IDEA grant help you achieve those goals?
The IDEA grant has made it possible to provide funds to participants and a means of traveling across the state of Virginia throughout the study. The grant also inspires me to present my results at conferences like the Curry Research Conference and the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics Research Conference in the 2018-2019 school year.