What Do Primary Teachers Take Away From Mathematics Professional Development?: Examining Teachers' Use of Formative Assessment

What Do Primary Teachers Take Away From Mathematics Professional Development?: Examining Teachers' Use of Formative Assessment

Christie Martin (University of South Carolina at Columbus, USA), Drew Polly (University of North Carolina at Charlotte, USA), Chuang Wang (University of North Carolina at Charlotte, USA), Richard G. Lambert (University of North Carolina at Charlotte, USA) and David Pugalee (University of North Carolina at Charlotte, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8583-1.ch019

Abstract

This chapter shares the findings from a year-long professional development (PD) experience, Assessment Practices to Support Mathematics Learning and Understanding for Students (APLUS). The project provided over 80 hours of professional development to primary teachers regarding their use of an internet-based formative assessment system for their students' mathematics achievement. This inductive study used purposeful sampling to explicitly compare data for high fidelity and low fidelity teacher-participants in the professional development project. High fidelity teachers expressed beliefs that formative assessment supported their mathematics teaching, improved their students' learning, and was feasible to carry out in their classrooms. Low fidelity teachers conveyed challenges that prevented them from engaging in the program as intended. Implications for future online professional development designs are to create more activities that foster deeper analysis and reflection, identify high fidelity teachers that could serve as mentors, and provide support for low fidelity teachers.
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Introduction

In an effort to support teachers’ mathematics instruction, professional development programs are commonly viewed as a mechanism to positively support teachers and also improve student achievement (Borko, 2004; Loucks-Horsley et al., 2010). Mathematics professional development projects are most effective when they simultaneously can support teachers’ development of knowledge related to content and pedagogy as well as how students develop an understanding of fundamental mathematics concepts. One of the high-leverage teaching practices that has gained attention in the literature is formative assessment, specifically examining students’ mathematical thinking, analyzing data, and then making sound instructional decisions based on that information (Hattie, 2012; Wiliam, 2007a; Wiliam, 2007b). Teachers who are able to effectively carry out a formative assessment process have been empirically linked to gains in their students’ mathematics achievement (Polly et al., 2014; Wiliam & Thompson, 2007).

This chapter presents a study in which we analyzed participants who completed a professional development project designed to support primary school teachers’ use of an internet-based mathematics formative assessment system to support their mathematics teaching. Teachers participated in an 80-hour learning experience and data was collected on their use of the assessment system, their responses to reflection prompts, and their students’ scores in the formative assessment system.

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