The University of Montana
Department of Mathematical Sciences

Technical report #24/2010

Teachers as stakeholders of mathematics education research: Projects from Southern Norway

Simon Goodchild
University of Agder, Norway

Bharath Sriraman
The University of Montana


Abstract

Reports from the mathematics teaching developmental research projects that have been conducted in the southern part of Norway over the past six years. The projects have been established on principles of community and inquiry, in which didacticians from the university and teachers from schools and kindergartens have collaborated to improve the quality of teaching and learning mathematics, and to research the developmental processes. Developmental activity has been based on reports and experience of action research, design research, Japanese lesson study and learning study. Theoretically the projects have been developed, and data analysed from sociocultural perspectives, particularly communities of practice theory and cultural historical activity theory. The projects have pursued developmental research in which teachers and didacticians collaborate in a co-learning agreement with the intended outcome to develop communities of inquiry within schools and the project.

The projects have resulted in the development of school teams of mathematics teachers collaborating more closely in their practice. Teachers claim their practice has been transformed, and that the approaches to teaching and learning promoted through the projects have helped them to address fundamental tensions in their practice. However, outcomes from the projects are also consistent with reports from other curriculum and development activity: development takes place slowly: it is evolutionary rather than transformative; it marks an extrapolation of practice rather than a radical expansion of action possibilities; new tasks are adapted to existing practice rather than taken as an opportunity for practice to be adapted given the new possibilities opened by the tasks. The pace of development is understandable given the forces favouring alignment to the reproduction of practice: a national curriculum and textbook schemes, high-stakes examinations, expectations of students, parents, school leaders and authorities, teachers’ deep and decisive personal experience in a culture of practice, teachers’ workloads. Inquiry, it appears, is still seen mostly as an approach to and within mathematics, rather than, additionally, an approach to developing individual and collective agency in the practice of teaching and learning mathematics. In future projects it is, perhaps, necessary to emphasise more that inquiry is about experimenting and creativity in teaching as well as curiosity in learning.

Keywords: teacher development; school development; communities of practice; Norway mathematics education

AMS Subject Classification: 97

Abstract of paper to be presented at Banff International Research Station, December 5-10, 2010.