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Processes and Pathways: How do Mathematics and Science Partnerships Measure and Promote Growth in Teacher Content Knowledge

Abstract

This study examines processes for measuring growth in teachers' mathematics and science content knowledge in the National Science Foundation's Math and Science Partnership (NSF MSP) Program. The evidence of growth in teachers' content knowledge was examined with respect to the pathways provided by the partnerships in the MSP Program to impact knowledge growth. Data gathered in this study were obtained from site visits to each of the Math and Science Partnerships (MSPs), presentations by the MSPs at an annual NSF MSP conference, and secondary source documents from each MSP, including self- report surveys, annual reports, and evaluation reports. These data were used to develop a framework of processes for measuring growth and pathways promoting growth used by the partnerships.

The results indicated that the most common process for measuring growth in teachers' mathematics and science content knowledge was pre-post testing of teachers, including 218 pre-post test reports on 12,952 K-12 mathematics and science teachers. Overall, the findings show that 78 percent of teachers that were pre-post tested in science and 63 percent of teachers that were pre-post tested in mathematics reported statistically significant gains in content knowledge. The most common measurement instrument used for pre-post testing in mathematics was the Learning Mathematics for Teaching instrument (Hill & Ball, 2004; Hill, Rowan, & Ball, 2005), which was used in 31percent of the pre-post testing for mathematics.

There were two main pathways used by the MSPs to promote growth in teacher content knowledge: Content Explicit and Content Embedded. Content Explicit pathways included traditional workshops and university activity, where the learning of content was an explicit part of the activity; Content Embedded pathways included activities embedded in the work of groups, the work of leaders, and the work of individual teachers, where the learning of content was embedded within an activity. The interrelationships among the processes and pathways were a critical mediating factor in the collection of evidence on growth in teachers' content knowledge. For example, when the learning of content was embedded in an activity, it was a challenge for the MSPs to design a process for measuring growth in teacher content knowledge for the activity. The findings indicate that when MSPs design pathways for influencing growth in teacher content knowledge, the use of embedded pathways poses a particular dilemma. Because there is such prevalent use of content-embedded pathways to promote growth in teacher content knowledge in the NSF MSP Program, there may be large numbers of teachers for whom growth in mathematics and science content knowledge is underreported, complicated to document, or not measured at all.

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