Facilitating Active Learning and Collaboration in Online Mathematics Content Courses for Secondary Teachers

Facilitating Active Learning and Collaboration in Online Mathematics Content Courses for Secondary Teachers

Michelle Homp (University of Nebraska – Lincoln, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5557-5.ch008

Abstract

This chapter reviews teachers' perceptions of the collaborative learning experiences when enrolled in an online course to determine strategies for engaging teachers in active learning and meaningful collaboration in an online learning environment. A survey was designed to solicit feedback from mathematics teachers of Grades 6-12 who have completed online mathematics content courses at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln (UNL) for professional development or for graduate credit. The survey specifically addresses the teachers' perceptions of the collaborative learning experiences during their online course. Combined with feedback from numerous course evaluations and the experiences of several online mathematics instructors from UNL's Department of Mathematics, results of the survey are utilized to determine strategies for engaging teachers in active learning and meaningful collaboration in an online learning environment.
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Background

The primary goal of courses in UNL’s MAT program is to strengthen 6-12 teachers’ mathematics content knowledge for teaching. Though there are many aspects of educational systems which are important to students’ education, research shows the single most important variable is the quality of the instruction received by the students (Wenglensky, 2002; National Math Advisory Panel, 2008). In light of this, teachers need ongoing professional development throughout their careers in order to continue to improve their capacity to be effective teachers of mathematics (Conference Board of Mathematical Sciences [CBMS], 2012). In particular, professional development coursework that focuses on the mathematics teachers teach is especially important for maintaining relevancy to their professional lives (CBMS, 2012). Along with participant feedback, research on constructivist instructional approaches and the value of engaging students in active group work (Good & Brophy, 2004; Richardson, 2003) confirmed MAT program coordinators’ beliefs that these components of the in-person courses are worth replicating in their online counterparts. Furthermore, collaborative properties of online learning have been found to be well-adapted to deep approaches to learning (Garrison & Cleveland-Innes, 2005). This chapter will discuss strategies for engaging teachers in active and collaborative learning which have been found to be successful in UNL’s professional development mathematics content courses for secondary (6-12) teachers.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Collaborative Discussion: Experiences where students use an online platform to interact with peers by posting thoughts or comments in response to a given topic or in response to comments made by classmates; participation is assessed individually.

Revisiting Week N-1 Section: A collection of tasks designed to reengage students with content from previous assignments for purposes of reflection, addressing misconceptions or sharing students’ thinking strategies.

Collaborative Task: An assignment in which one or more students must work together to contribute to and complete a common product; a single grade is assessed for the entire group.

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