Sunday, September 28, 2014

Grand Challenges for the MTBOS

Earlier this year NCTM asked folks to fill out a survey to help identify "Grand Challenges in Math Education." This was sort of funny (a survey?) but also sort of fun. I found a bunch of blogged responses interesting. (this this this this)

Anyway: I like this game. Let's play it for math teachers on the internet!

What are grand challenges facing math education that math teachers on the internet might set their eyes on? These challenges should be neither too narrow ("Create a central repository for AP Stats worksheets") or too huge ("Change the way math teachers across the country teach"). A grand challenge should have an impact on the profession beyond the internet.

Fun game, right? OK I go first.

A Grand Challenge for the Math Teacher Internet

Discover, describe and validate paths toward improving teaching beyond the conventional paths toward teacher-improvement.

If the question is "How do teachers get good at teaching?", the answer is typically "Ed-school, professional development and departmental collaboration." While the conventional paths can be great, they are basically a no-go for lots of teachers. Teacher-prep programs are of wildly uneven quality and teachers face a variety of constraints in their own schools.

How can teachers get good at teaching on our own initiative? Without supportive colleagues or mentorships or high-quality professional training?

One thing that's true about math teachers on the internet is that they're motivated to improve. That's often why they're online in the first place. This opens up a whole host of other questions: What sort of teacher activities make a difference for one's teaching? What activities don't? Does talking about teaching on twitter help one's teaching? Does blogging? There are different styles of blogging -- are some more likely to lead to classroom improvement than others?

This is a big and juicy question, one fit for a grand challenge. It's also one that the math teacher internet could tackle. Blogs and tweets leave a record that can be analyzed for signs of improvement or changed thinking about teaching. Grad students and researchers could partner with teachers to analyze instruction and suggest directions. It could unify a lot of the work that goes on toward professional learning on the internet, uniting TMC, the Global Math Department, twitter chats and blogs in one common effort.

(It's a fantasy, sure, but that's what the game's all about, right?)

Questions:
  1. Forgetting its feasibility, is this a worthwhile goal?
  2. What's your grand challenge?

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