Combining Research and Professional Development

CRDG mathematics researchers Melfried Olson and Fay Zenigami continued to work with teachers at Kapālama Elementary School in Kapālama Algebra Readiness in the Elementary School (KARES), a project that combines research using the Lesson Study (LS) model with a school-wide professional development program for all teachers. Lesson Study, a model first developed in Japan, guides teachers in planning lessons with a focus on students and their understanding, a very different approach from one that starts with what the teacher does to teach the mathematics. In Lesson Study, teams of teachers collaborate to plan research lessons that become the basis for inquiry about their practice.

In a series of CRDG-facilitated workdays in the summer, Kapālama teachers collaborated in grade-level groups to design and develop educative curriculum materials (ECM) in preparation for the development of research lessons. Educative curriculum materials are curriculum materials intended to promote teacher learning in addition to student learning. Rather than merely providing “guidelines” for teacher actions, ECM can provide teachers with insights about the ideas underlying the tasks and choices made for student activities. Educative materials should educate teachers while promoting their autonomy.

In the fall, CRDG researchers worked with each grade-level team as they researched, planned, and taught their first LS lesson of the year. On articulation days, one teacher taught the lesson as designed while the rest of the grade level team and CRDG researchers observed and took notes on student behaviors and class discussions. Following a debriefing focused on the mathematical content of the planned lesson and evidence of student learning, a second teacher from the team taught the revised lesson. Through this collaborative process under CRDG guidance, the Kapālama teachers developed an understanding of the importance of selecting appropriate and challenging tasks; learned to develop lessons built around those tasks by considering various misconceptions students might have; learned to value the children’s thinking; learned that “wrong answers” have value; and learned to sequence the shared thinking of children. Through Lesson Study, CRDG researchers assisted Kapālama teachers to be more public with their teaching and reflective about their pedagogical practices.

The CRDG team is currently gathering data regarding changes in student achievement and teachers’ instructional practices. Student mathematics scores on the Hawai‘i State Assessment have increased during the project, and the external state Math Science Partnership evaluator has made visits to the school to conduct classroom observations. Quoting from the report, “…the percentages of classrooms aligned with how people learn jumped 35 percentage points…these gains are impressive and these results significantly outperform what we typically see in classrooms.” These and similar results indicate that the project has been successful. Project teachers, along with CRDG researchers, have presented findings from this combined research and professional development project at national meetings of mathematics education.