Why read research?
"I’d like to read some research but I have no idea where to start"
It is important for us to develop our own views about the most effective way to teach mathematics. Having said that, we all want to benefit from the views of others and to 'stand on the shoulders' of those that have gone before us and thought about the same issues that we have.
Reading research is a valuable part of continuing professional development; reading what other people have written about an area of mathematics education that you are interested in can give you a fresh insight into that topic and also provide a different perspective from which to reflect upon your own practice.
It is said that there has been more written about mathematics education than any other subject and yet it is often difficult for practising teachers to:
This is what the following NCETM Research Study Modules are intended to do.
- get access to this body of research;
- know where to start;
- be supported in making sense of it.
The Research Study Modules
Each study module is based on a particular research paper and is written to support you in thinking about the ideas and findings it contains, reflecting on your own views and practice and considering implications for your developing practice.
How might you use this material?
Each study module can be worked on individually but you may find it more useful to work on the module within a small group. This could be as part of a mathematics meeting or school-based professional development session. As you work on the module you may want to record your ideas in your personal learning space, or contribute to the discussion thread on the NCETM portal.
Where could you start?
"Theory without practice is sterile; practice without theory is blind "
The research articles featured in these Study Modules have been chosen to provide variety in terms of subject content and authorship, and should appeal to teachers working in all phases of education. If you are familiar with the resources produced by the (then) DfES Standards Unit Improving Learning in mathematics you might like to start by working on the module based on Malcolm Swan’s article ‘A designer speaks: Designing a multiple representation learning experience in secondary algebra’. Alternatively the article ‘Pre-service primary teachers’ concepts of creativity in mathematics’ by David Bolden, Tony Harries and Douglas Newton may give you an opportunity to think about creativity in the classroom. Wherever you start, these study modules have the potential to provide you with an interesting way to engage with research.
What Next? and Further activities
In the end, the worth of these Study Modules and the research papers they are based around, is the extent to which they prompt some thoughts and actions in you.
It has been said that 'Activity is not enough, it is the sense we make of it that matters' (1) and so it is for our own professional learning. So we suggest that you take the time during and after working on a study module to;
- Reflect on what you have got from the article and what you think you would like to do in your own classroom as a result;
- If you can, commit to writing your thoughts and proposed actions as a way of really sorting out what you think and of committing to practical action. (2)
Often one area of interest and development leads to others and there is a wealth of further resources on the NCETM portal that you might want to follow up. Here are some suggestions:
- Read some of the reports written by teachers who have applied for various Teacher Enquiry Funded Projects
- Read about the work of primary teacher, Caroline Ainsworth and her work with Cuisenaire rods in the Teacher as researcher: teaching as researching microsite
- Use the Research Gateway and Research Articles and Papers sections of the NCETM portal to find further research articles
- Explore the Mathemapedia as a source of stimulus for your own teacher enquiry as well as indications to other published research.
1. Ros Driver - The Pupil as Scientist, OU Press
2.'My Learning Journal' in the NCETM 'Personal Learning Space' is ideal for this.You can even make audio entries if you wish.