Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Herbst and Monte-Sano awarded five-year grants by James S. McDonnell Foundation


Two teams—one led by Patricio Herbst and another led by Chauncey Monte-Sano—were awarded grants by the James S. McDonnell Foundation for their projects in the area of Understanding Teacher Change and Teachers as Learners in K-12 Classrooms. These projects also involve SOE faculty Chandra Alston, Mary Schleppegrell, and Edward Silver, SOE research scientist Amanda Milewski, and doctoral candidate Sarah Thomson. The University of Michigan was the only institution to receive two of the ten grants in this new grants program—situated within the Understanding Human Cognition program area.

The James S. McDonnell Foundation announced their intention to fund research on the science of teaching in 2017. The Teachers as Learners grant program emphasizes a cognitive science perspective on teachers as learners—including a focus on the cognitive constraints that guide teacher thinking and change in attitudes, knowledge, skills and behaviors. The foundation believes that a greater understanding of teachers as learners in the context of the many influences on teacher change across career trajectories will advance the implementation of policies aimed at evidence-based reforms.

The five-year project led by Patricio Herbst is titled “Managing students’ contributions to mathematical work in whole class discussions in high school: How do teachers decide what to do?” A teacher’s orchestration of classroom discourse in high school mathematics, especially as it concerns the management of students’ multiple solutions, requires actions that need to be informed by the specific mathematics being taught. The team reconciles situated and cognitive perspectives in examining teachers’ decision making as they steer classroom discussions in high school algebra and geometry. Building on earlier work mapping the environments for instructional decisions, this project inquires into how teachers process information from those environments to elicit and manage students’ contributions to classroom discourse. How do sociotechnical resources such as the norms of instructional situations and the professional obligations of teaching inform teachers’ perception, cognition, and emotion when they handle those contributions?

Further, the project explores how decision making can be improved by melding practitioners’ and researchers’ knowledge in the context of exploring decisions in specific mathematics lessons. The researchers will perform a series of studies of practice improvement by instantiating elements of the cycle of research to practice proposed by RAND. These include design and study of lessons, engagement of experienced and novice teachers in the StoryCircles process of lesson development, and observations of groups of teachers’ engagement in simulations of teaching built over the explorations by the StoryCircles. Artifacts collectively produced by teachers and researchers contribute to a repository of knowledge of the profession and serve to disseminate the work for professional development and teacher education, thus showcasing how to improve the connection from research to practice.

The research team is composed of nine members:
• Project Manager: Patricio Herbst, University of Michigan
• Daniel Chazan, University of Maryland, College Park
• Amanda Milewski, University of Michigan
• Edward Silver, University of Michigan
• Jon Star, Harvard University
• Kevin Kildea, East Detroit High School, MI
• Craig Huhn, Holt High School, MI
• Michele Macke, Pioneer High School, Ann Arbor
• Marty Schnepp, Holt High School

The project led by Chauncey Monte-Sano is titled “Teachers Learning to Facilitate Communication and Reasoning Through Inquiry with History and Social Science Sources.” Her team will study teachers’ learning as they implement an inquiry-oriented social studies curriculum that supports middle school students’ growth in reasoning through talk and writing with sources in two contexts. Such Inquiry Teaching (IT) calls for complex modes of communication and challenging instructional practices that differ from norms. The researchers use a cognitive science perspective to understand what knowledge, beliefs, attitudes, and skills are associated with teachers’ uptake of core instructional practices that support students’ communication and argument writing.

Over five years, they will design and refine professional development based on conjectures about salient features of the learning environment and how those function to support teacher learning in context. They will develop and validate measures of teacher thinking and classroom enactment, pilot these with 30 teachers, and then study 20 teachers over three years in a new context. In both sites the team will study a representative group of 6-8 teachers as they learn to enact social studies IT. They hypothesize that teachers’ uptake of IT is guided by their metacognitive thinking about the disciplinary tasks, how their diverse students engage with the tasks, and how their instruction can support students, as well as their skills in doing disciplinary work and enacting instructional practices. They will explore teachers’ thinking, how it relates to enactment of core practices, and how their thinking and instructional practices change over time as they engage in cycles of professional development and enactment. This will enable the team to create and share robust models of professional development with the social studies community.

The research team is composed of 11 members:
• Project Manager: Chauncey Monte-Sano, University of Michigan
• Mary Schleppegrell, University of Michigan
• Chandra Alston, University of Michigan
• Anne Britt, Northern Illinois University
• Amanda Durik, Northern Illinois University
• Ruth Chung Wei, Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning, and Equity (SCALE)
• Jeff Kabat, Scarlett Middle School
• Kay Wade, Ann Arbor Public Schools
• Gerald Vazquez, Scarlett Middle School
• Lee Ann Dickinson-Kelley, Ann Arbor Public Schools
• Sarah Thomson, University of Michigan

Patricio Herbst is Professor; Chair, Educational Studies; Professor, Department of Mathematics, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts

Chauncey B. Monte-Sano is Associate Professor

Mary J. Schleppegrell is Professor

Chandra L. Alston is Assistant Professor

Amanda Milewski is Assistant Research Scientist

Edward A. Silver is William A. Brownell Collegiate Professor, School of Education; Professor, Department of Mathematics, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts; Senior Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies

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