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Making Sense of Reform in Mathematics Education : : The Impact on Practice by Interactions Between Teachers' Beliefs, Reform Policy and Collaboration

  • Author(s): Javier, Laura R.
  • et al.

The United States is undergoing another large-scale reform as an attempt to improve education. The goal of this study was to investigate the sense that mathematics high school teachers make of this new reform, Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM). Using the sensemaking theoretical framework, I investigated how teachers interpret, adopt, and enact this national education reform. Furthermore, I studied how the interactions of internal and external factors affected the practice of teacher leaders. This mixed-method study consisted of two phases. For Phase One, all mathematics teachers in one district were invited to participate. Five teachers who were identified as teacher leaders at their schools and supporters of CCSSM were selected for Phase Two. Both qualitative and quantitative methods were used to analyze the different data sources. The results of the study indicate that interactions between teachers' internal and external factors mediate teacher sensemaking of reform and that multi-agent models can be used to investigate the connections among key factors. Moreover, teachers' beliefs, experience, and collaboration (formal and informal) played an important role in their sensemaking processes affecting their teaching. The results indicated there is both congruence and misalignment on how teachers perceive the goals of CCSSM. In addition, collaboration was one of the most influential factors in affecting their instruction. These teachers made sense of standards, lessons, and assessments in interaction with their colleagues. Finally, the results from this study inform policy officials and district leaders that they need to pay attention to how teacher collaboration and Professional Development (PD) is structured as they take into account teachers' experiences and beliefs. PD needs to be differentiated for teachers based on their individual needs. Recommendations for PD include: how to teach the Mathematical Practice Standards, how to teach students to be effective communicators (orally and in writing), and how to incorporate collaborative work into their practice. Another recommendation is to evaluate the effectiveness of the structure for teacher collaboration. Both formal and informal collaboration are key factors as teachers implement new reforms. Providing teachers enough time to collaborate with colleagues will help teachers enact this new reform

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