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Mediating discourse in a professional learning community: how a researchpractice partnership can promote reflection on one’s own practice through “math talk” discourse

2.6 Dialogue and the co-construction of knowledge
Paper in a Symposium (Symp)
4:50 PM, Wednesday 30 Aug 2017 (30 minutes)
In response to the need to create innovative and effective classroom practices that are informed by current research in the learning sciences, researchers, teachers and pedagogical consultants have combined expertise toward collaboratively codesigning environments for teacher professional development. These research-practice partnerships (RPP’s, Coburn & Penuel, 2016; Johnson et al., 2016) and design-based research (Collins et al., 2004; Penuel et al., 2011) have begun to explore how participants become active members of a professional learning community (PLC) through reflection and collaborative design (Voogt et al., 2015). One avenue that has been explored but is still in need of empirical data concerns the manner in which PLC’s can use collective reflection around videos of classroom practice to improve teachers’ use of discourse interactions in mathematics classrooms. Accordingly, this paper proposes to explore discourse interactions around the topic of dialogic approaches in mathematics classrooms within a PLC. Additionally, we will examine how videos from classroom activities may mediate deeper reflection on one’s practice. The theoretical underpinnings of our research closely follow the legacy of Vygotsky (1978) in examining the (co)construction of knowledge through social interactions and draw on research-practice partnerships (RPP’s), design-based research, as well as Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (Engeström & Sannino, 2010). This approach looks at both classroom dialogue and teacher reflection to critically think about how to appropriately and relevantly integrate discourse in mathematics teaching practice. Indeed, classroom dialogue gives students access to the sociocultural practices of mathematics (Brown & Hirst, 2007; Knuth & Peressini, 2001; Leinhardt, & Steele, 2005). Ball and colleagues (2009), as well as others, remind us how mathematics education fosters a culture of mathematical reasoning, a highly valued competency in today’s society (e.g. justifying one’s reasoning, communicating with clarity, precision and economy of expression). As participants work to collectively build common objectives through discourse interactions, tensions arise when they are confronted with the challenge of identifying axes of improvement in their current practice. Following the extensive research on expansive learning processes, in particular the design of change for learning in professional practice, Virkkunen and Newnham (2013) describe dynamic processes as sets of dualities and tensions existing within the ways that participants question, analyze, and re-create existing models of practices, as well as within the examination, implementation and the reflection upon transformed practice (idem.). The Change Laboratory embodies an iterative process of change and reflection that requires participants to emotionally accept and intellectually analyze mirror data presented to them in the form of video clips, for instance (ibid, p. 22). Within the context of our project, these iterative processes can be described as follows: 1) the co-design of discourse-promoting methods in mathematics education; 2) the implementation of discourse strategies within classrooms; 3) the collaborative interpretation of video captures of the implemented strategies through reflective practice for knowledge building; and 4) the re-design of discourse intervention methods in light of interpretive phase. This paper proposal draws its data from a PLC that was formed in 2013. An average of 10 teachers per year (elementary and secondary mathematics teachers) along with pedagogical consultants and researchers have already begun meetings focusing on reflective practice within PLC’s. We will continue to focus on how members collaboratively participate in deeper dialogic processes through collective reflection. As part of this overarching objective, this study seeks to understand better the diverse and potentially innovative ways discourse can be mediated by PLC members through the use of videos of classroom practice. To do this, we specifically focus on teachers’ conversations and discussions centered on a specific theme, “math talk” (Cooke & Adams, 1998; Wagganer, 2015) and address the following questions: How is discourse around math talk mediated, or can be mediated, within a PLC through the use of videos of classroom practice? How can a zone of proximal development (ZPD) be created in a PLC through the use of video clips, for teachers’ continued professional development? We will utilize existing video data for our study (classroom practice as well as face-to-face meetings with PLC members). A purposeful sampling of the video clips will be transcribed and analyzed according to a qualitative framework designed to respond to our research questions. The video content transcriptions will be coded then analyzed using a qualitative version of Kersting’s (2010) rubric for analyzing teachers’ criticality in mathematics course preparation combined with Boschman and colleagues’ (2014) discourse analysis methods. These two complementary approaches will allow us to deepen our understanding of collective interactions amongst research-practice partnership members within the specific context of mathematics teaching. From these analyses, we will endeavor to extend our understanding of the tensions and possible contradictions that arise within and amongst the complex activity systems that the various PLC members represent. By collectively addressing these tensions through “mirror data” (e.g. video clips of classroom practice, reflective group discussions), we may better address the challenges of learning through professional learning communities. It is our hope that our paper will contribute to a better understanding of how research-practice partnership members become active members of a professional learning community through reflection and collaborative co-design. This includes the manner in which the professional learning community participants collaboratively create and share expertise in math discourse interactions as well as the way teachers and consultants acquire useful knowledge and strategies for implementing discourse methods within mathematics classrooms.
McGill University
McGill University
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