24 SES 06 JS, Cultural Approach in Mathematics Education
Joint Paper Session NW 24 and NW 27
This paper examines a two-year initiative by policymakers, practitioners and researchers to enhance mathematics teaching and learning in Ontario, Canada. The initiative focused on the province’s Grade 9 Applied Mathematics course. In Ontario, students completing “Applied” courses are eligible for workplace or college programs while those completing “Academic” courses can apply for university admission. School data and provincial test results (EQAO, 2016) suggest that students in the Applied Mathematics course are not meeting course expectations as well as students in the Academic course. The magnitude of this achievement gap has drawn the attention of the Ontario Ministry of Education (OME), the mathematics education community and the public for more than a decade (Koch & Watters, 2013; OSSTF, 2009; People for Education, 2013; Reith, 2003). Accordingly, the OME provided funding to a provincial mathematics education association to work with researchers to plan and implement a professional learning initiative to help address this concern. As university-based researchers, we worked with a steering committee from the participating organizations to design and facilitate this initiative and we conducted research as the initiative unfolded.
The initiative began with selecting ten school teams in nine school divisions across the province. Each team included a school administrator, a school or district mathematics leader, two or three Grade 9 mathematics teachers, and a special education teacher. Each team determined the focus and process of their inquiry. Teams were given funds to meet for one day per month for two years. A member of the research team attended the team meetings and provided resources and other forms of support. Funds were also provided for the school teams and the researchers to come together at a central location to share their learning at several multi-team events. The initiative culminated with two conferences where the school teams and researchers shared their learning with teams from more than 100 other schools across the province. Many elements of the initiative were planned from the outset, while other aspects emerged as the project unfolded. Throughout the initiative, the research team documented the experiences of each school team, thereby creating ten case studies. The researchers also documented the events where teams came together to share their learning. Analysis of this data provides a rich description of each team’s goals, inquiry process, and learning and reveals how participants enhanced their understanding of mathematics teaching through collaborative inquiry.
In light of the Network 24 Special Call at ECER 2017, we will focus our presentation on what our research reveals about collaborative partnerships among researchers, practitioners and policymakers when this initiative is considered from the perspective of complexity thinking. Complexity thinking can inform educational change in many ways (Lemke & Sabelli, 2008; Mason, 2008; St. Julien, 2005). A key feature of complex systems is their capacity to continually adapt to changing circumstances (Davis & Sumara, 2006). This capacity stems from the way individual elements of the system interact and generate new phenomena. Complex systems become more generative as the number of interactions between elements increases, thus creating momentum and the potential for change. Our objective in this paper is to contribute to understandings of collaborative partnerships in mathematics education by modeling the professional learning and research components of the Grade 9 Applied Mathematics initiative as a complex network. We identify the conditions for emergence (Davis & Sumara, 2006) that were present, the interactions that took place and the unanticipated moments of emergence that occurred. This approach enables us to understand the momentum that can be created by moments of emergence and to consider the impact this momentum can have within and beyond Ontario’s Grade 9 Applied Mathematics course.
Davis, B., & Sumara, D. (2006). Complexity and education: Inquiries into learning, teaching and research. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Education Quality & Accountability Office [EQAO]. (2016). Provincial Secondary School Report 2016. Retrieved from: http://www.eqao.com/en/assessments/results/assessment-docs-secondary/provincial-report-secondary-school-board-results-2016.pdf Koch, M.J. & Watters, B. (2013). Teachers’ interpretations of province-wide assessment results in the context of a streamed high school mathematics course. Paper presented at the Canadian Society for the Study of Education Annual Meeting, Victoria, BC, Canada. Lemke, J. L., & Sabelli, N. H. (2008). Complex systems and educational change: Towards a new research agenda. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 40(1), 118-129. Mason, M. (2008). What is complexity theory and what are its implications for educational change? Educational Philosophy and Theory, 40(1), 35-49. doi:10.1111/j.1469-5812.2007.00413.x Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation. (2009, Sept. 21). EQAO Grade 9 Assessment of Math test results show worrisome achievement gaps. Marketwire. People for Education. (2013). Mind the gap: Inequality in Ontario’s schools. Retrieved from http://www.peopleforeducation.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/annual-report-2013-WEB.pdf Reith, B. (2003). What's wrong with these figures? Provincial results of the Grade 9 Assessment of Mathematics 2003-2003. Update, 31. St. Julien, J. (2005). Complexity: Developing a more useful analytic for education. In W. E. Doll Jr., M. J. Fleener, D. Trueit & J. St. Julien (Eds.), Chaos, complexity, curriculum, and culture (pp. 101-116). New York, NY: Peter Lang. Stake, R. E. (2006). Multiple case study analysis. NY: The Guilford Press. Yin, R. K. (2009). Case study research: Design and methods (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
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