story by Claire Miller
College of Education & Human Development Assistant Professor Ben Shapiro – together with Ilana Horn from Vanderbilt University, Brette Garner from the University of Denver and Darryl Yong from Harvey Mudd College – received a $2.6 million award from the National Science Foundation to study how mathematics teachers monitor group work in their classrooms.
The grant project, entitled, “Teaching Amidst Uncertainty: Developing Mathematics Teachers’ Groupwork Monitoring Practices” or “Project TAU,” aims to better understand how teachers can encourage productive and equitable mathematics conversation among their students.
The project will also use new kinds of visualization tools developed by Shapiro and CEHD doctoral student Sierra Gilliam to support teacher preparation programs and professional development for mathematics teachers as they monitor group discussions.
“This project is informed by decades of research showing that students learn best and instruction is more inclusive when students have opportunities to talk about mathematics. Yet, there remains contradictory guidance on issues of teacher involvement: For example, should teachers stand back to support student autonomy or involve themselves frequently?” the Project TAU team explained. “As a result of this project, teachers and researchers will be able to better connect teachers’ monitoring choices to students’ peer-to-peer math talk.”
The research team will recruit 12-16 experienced mathematics teachers from Math for America Los Angeles (MfA LA) to participate in a two-year professional development series on guiding small groups of students through conversations about mathematics content. MfA LA teachers serve approximately 14,000 students per year, most of whom come from minoritized backgrounds.
Shapiro and Gilliam will focus their efforts on working with teachers to create dynamic maps of how teachers and students move across classroom lessons in relation to classroom video data.
“We’re expanding new kinds of dynamic visualization methods for teachers to see and reflect on how their physical movement and use of space are important components to responsive and equitable mathematics teaching,” Shapiro explained. “We hope this project contributes to better understandings of teaching as a situated social and material practice, which has implications for the physical design of classrooms and responsive teaching practices.”