Source: Mathematics Teacher Education and Development, Vol 16, No. 2, 2014.
This article reports on two approaches to teacher professional learning in which the use of challenging tasks was the focus. In the first case, two full days of professional learning were followed by the opportunity to teach up to ten challenging tasks. In the second case, teachers observed three lessons built around challenging tasks taught by members of the project team.
In both cases, teachers completed questionnaires about their perceptions of promising strategies for encouraging persistence on challenging tasks, prior to any professional learning input and following the teaching of the tasks and the observation of the lessons, respectively. Both groups also participated in focus group discussions about their experiences and insights that had emerged. Data from written responses and focus group discussions were analysed for themes.
The findings revealed that there was considerable similarity in teachers' suggestions prior to the two professional learning experiences, but also interesting differences afterwards. This article describes the professional learning approaches, illustrates the kinds of tasks involved, and discusses similarities and differences in the data within and between the two groups of teachers. It also discusses affordances and limitations of the two professional learning approaches.