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IES Grant

Title: Linear Functions for Teaching: An Efficacy Study of Learning and Teaching Linear Functions
Center: NCER Year: 2010
Principal Investigator: Schneider, Steve Awardee: WestEd
Program: Effective Teachers and Effective Teaching      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years Award Amount: $2,959,275
Goal: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R305A100047

Purpose: The proposed study aims to investigate the efficacy of professional development in algebra both to improve teachers' mathematics understanding as well as mathematics teaching practices and to increase students' resulting algebra proficiency, learning and achievement. Empirical studies have offered evidence for the potential efficacy of the professional development to be tested in this study, Learning and Teaching Linear Functions (LTLF). The growth of this intervention offers a context in which it is now possible to study the impact of the professional development intervention when delivered by trained PD providers, rather than by the LTLF developers and researchers.

Project Activities: The team will carry out a randomized experimental design to test the effects of this intervention. Targeting schools serving high numbers of students who are traditionally underrepresented in mathematics, including English learners, African American and Latino students, as well as students from low socioeconomic groups, the team plans to investigate the extent to which algebra teaching strategies may differentially impact various subgroups.

Products: Products will include evidence as to the effectiveness of an existing professional development program to improve teacher performance in ways that are linked to increases in middle school student learning and achievement in algebra and a narrowing of the achievement gap. Peer-reviewed publications will also be produced.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The study will take place in middle schools that serve populations of students historically underrepresented in higher education. San Diego City Schools and the San Mateo County of Office of Education have agreed to recruit teachers for participation in the study.

Sample: The target population will be algebra teachers and their students in public middle schools in California.

Intervention: The proposed study builds on the work of the Video Cases for Mathematics Professional Development Project out of San Diego State University Foundation, which developed a series of professional development materials using video cases. These materials, Learning and Teaching Linear Functions (LTLF), are designed to enable teachers to deepen their understanding of ways to conceptualize and represent algebra content within their teaching practice.

Research Design and Methods: The team will use a randomized experimental design to test the benefits of LTLF. The team will also carry out a qualitative study of a smaller sample of teachers utilizing classroom observations and interviews in order to validate and explain quantitative findings and to identify factors that influence the success of the pedagogical approach. Study data sources and the application of multi-level methodologies will enable us to trace the link from professional development for teachers to changes in their classroom practices and student learning in algebra, and to examine the ways in which student- and teacher-level variables influence performance.

Key Measures: Measures of students' opportunity to learn, teachers' mathematics content knowledge, and multiple measures of student learning will be collected. In addition, an innovative measure of instructional practice based on the analysis of classroom artifacts will be used.

Data Analytic Strategy: The team will use multi-level models to test the causal impact of content focused professional development on teacher practice and student learning.

** This project was submitted to and funded under Teacher Quality: Mathematics and Science Education in FY 2010.