Collaborative Teacher Inquiry as a Tool for Building Theory on the Development and Use of Rich Mathematical Tasks

Jun. 21, 2010

Source: Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 13(3):201–221. (June, 2010)
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article describes the collaborative inquiry activity of a group of high school mathematics teachers interested in increasing student engagement and problem solving in the classroom.

Research Questions

The authors address the following questions:

How do personal and group theories of learning and instruction develop from collaboratively planning and subsequently analyzing mathematical task implementation and student work?
What kinds of teacher interactions are important in the construction of these theories? How does theory building impact classroom practice?

Setting and participants
The Partnership for Reform in Secondary Science and Mathematics (PRiSSM) was a 3-
year professional development (PD) project involving 175 mathematics and science teachers in six school districts.

The participants were eight teachers of the Integrated 2 (Rubinstein et al. 1995) mathematics course. The participants were members at the professional learning communities at Madrid, an American high school.

A case study approach (Merriam 1998) was used to interpret and convey the individual and collective actions of the Madrid professional learning communities (PLC) during the third year of the PRiSSM project.


Several broad implications can be made from this case.
First, the results show specific and direct links between teacher inquiry and classroom practice.

Second, the case provides specific information on how an inquiry context is linked to the way teachers interact, form theories, and make use of student work. Specifically, the teacher interactions presented opportunities for teachers to hear others’ similar or dissimilar conjectures and assessments of appropriate scaffolding, and then negotiate personal and collective theories around these issues.

Third, the case illustrates why teachers struggle with meaningfully analyzing student work or incorporating their analysis into their instructional perspective. While this result differed from teacher to teacher, the evidence suggests that facilitation and differing views of instruction and assessment presented the biggest challenges to the group.

Updated: Dec. 03, 2010