UIC Activities 2007-2008
University of Illinois at
The professional development model at UIC-CEMELA involves working with small groups of teachers to maximize dialogue among all participants, develop a community of inquirers for improving instructional practice, and defines teachers as researchers who collaborate with university representatives. This model is based on the belief that teacher research maximizes sustainability of instructional change. It also takes into account that language is political and instructional decisions in mathematics, whether curricular or pedagogic, inherently involve language, and therefore, have political significance and consequences. During the academic year 2006-07, UIC worked with nine teachers from its partner school (Whittier Elementary School) in a teacher inquiry group that met on a monthly basis. The group analyzed student data using a rigorous protocol that teachers who worked with UIC created for their own inquiry activities. The same set of teachers was invited to share their inquiry methods at the CEMELA School 2007 hosted by UIC. However, due to changes in the schoolís teaching assignments and conflicts in their schedules, the use of teacher inquiry as a form of professional development was no longer feasible. Also, it was found that research questions about the challenges teachers face as they integrate reformed-based mathematics instruction with first and second language development could best be explored by working one-on-one with teachers using a lesson study format.
Currently, UIC-CEMELA utilizes a modified lesson study model that involves two fellows who are working with small groups of 2-3 teachers each. The lesson study model complements teacher inquiry, yet allows for more intensive work with individual teachers on particular issues of instruction. This work is on-going and only preliminary data have been gathered. However, UIC fellows have been in communication with UA fellows to discuss the process of lesson studies, and thus, fellows are gaining experience in this area of research and professional development. Also preliminary insights from this work complement the research being carried out in the afterschool context in that UIC researchers are able to observe afterschool students in their regular classroom context and make comparisons between the two contexts; and teachers are engaging with the fellows around how we are doing mathematics in the afterschool so they might use the same ideas and approaches.
The Undergraduate Students (UGs)There are approximately 10-12 undergraduate students (UGs) that work with UIC-CEMELA each semester, many of whom return from previous semesters. All of them are Latina/o and fluent Spanish/English bilinguals. The UGs play a vital role in the siteís research activities and after school programming. Closely guided by the fellows, they work with Los Rayos de CEMELA students in small groups as both facilitators and researchers. They are encouraged by the fellows to interact with students as more experienced peers, rather than like tutors or teachers. Over time, the UGs have developed sibling-like relationships with the students and often draw from their linguistic and cultural resources to mediate the studentsí mathematical engagements. As researchers, the UGs take descriptive and reflective field-notes of their interactions with the students. In their observations and note-taking, they focus on their language use as well as the studentsí, the studentsí interests and use of mathematical strategies, and their assistance strategies. Their field-notes are then reviewed and discussed in weekly meetings with the fellows and are used as additional forms of data for the site. The meetings are conducted in Spanish/English, are facilitated by one or more fellows, and last for approximately two hours. Discussions in the meetings also revolve around planning for future after-school activities, practicing using Spanish to solve mathematics that students will receive, and discussing pedagogical and content specific issues as they relate to these tasks. It should be noted that this work helps students financially and gives them experiences most would not have otherwise. Some of the students have asked the fellows informally about what it is like to do graduate work. The fact that they ask this question is highly significant and suggests CEMELA is helping to encourage Latina/o undergraduate students to pursue advanced degrees. Overall, it has been found that Latina/o pre-service teachers and doctoral students/faculty can form networks of learning support, networks that are usually missing in typical pre-service teachersí experiences. Undergraduate students who work in the after school facilitating the development of young students gain much more intimate and relevant experience in teaching than they do in their regular field experiences. One undergraduate student who is currently majoring in secondary social science stated that based on her experience in the after school she is now considering teaching elementary students instead. This activity has been so successful that principal investigators, Dr. Razfar and Dr. Khisty, are in the process of putting forth a proposal to the College of Education to create a new course or series of courses based on the model used for the after school work.
Parent Research Activities (Family Outreach)Research related to parents at UIC-CEMELA has focused on their involvement in the Los Rayos de CEMELA After School Mathematics Program. Their participation has evolved according to the after-school activities developed each semester. It also addresses the research parameters set up initially by the CEMELA Parent Research Group which aims to investigate how mathematical learning develops within social networks and capitalizes on key resources such as in-school knowledge, out-of-school knowledge, and bilingualism. Research related to parents has taken place in the context of three after school projects:
- During the Community Mathematization Project, six mothers of fourth grades students worked closely with students and fellows in the process of creating digital stories. The mothersí participation consisted of accompanying students and fellows into the neighborhood to conduct informal interviews with employees and business owners in various community establishments (firefighting station, flower shop, beauty salon, and mechanic shop) in order to gain knowledge about how community members use mathematical ideas in their jobs. Utilizing this knowledge, students and parents developed digital stories which represented the mathematization of the practices they observed in the community.
- As part of the Recipes Project, six mothers of fifth grade students participated in the after school. This project targeted fractions and proportional reasoning organized around the theme of cooking recipes. Based on what they knew about their childrenís interests, the mothers provided ideas to explore fractions and proportional reasoning in recipes that they knew their children would be excited to prepare. In this way, they acted as consultants for the programís designers, undergraduate facilitators, and students. They also organized themselves to collaborate with this project by bringing cooking tools, small kitchen appliances, and some hard-to-find ingredients. More importantly, mothers contributed their own out-of-school experience and through their active involvement in the recipe creation they modeled for students how Spanish can be used for learning challenging mathematics.
- The Collaborative Problem Solving Project focused on the perspectives of parents, students, and classroom teachers in regards to problem solving in mathematics. There were a total of 6 mothers of fifth grade students who participated in this after school project. The purpose of the meetings with mothers was to provide them a space where they could re-create contexts that they knew were meaningful for their children, and use these contexts to create mathematical problems in collaboration with their children. They discussed how they go about solving real-life problems, what tools they use, who gets involved and who benefits from solving these problems. They also co-created problems with their children at home, by thinking about problems that arise around the home setting and that involved important mathematical concepts and ideas. Their collaboration also included meeting with two teachers who teach mathematics to our CEMELA students and a delegation of students. During these meetings, the three parties discussed what makes good mathematical problems.