Synchronous online collaborative professional development for elementary mathematics teachers
Krista Francis, Correspondence regarding this article should be sent to Dr. Krista Francis-Poscente, Faculty of Education, University of Calgary, 2500 University Dr. N.W., Calgary AB T2N 1N4 firstname.lastname@example.org ; Michele Jacobsen, University of Calgary
IRRODL Volume 14, Number 3, ISSN 1492-3831 Publisher: Athabasca University Press
Math is often taught poorly emphasizing rote, procedural methods rather than creativity and problem solving. Alberta Education developed a new mathematics curriculum to transform mathematics teaching to inquiry driven methods. This revised curriculum provides a new vision for mathematics and creates opportunities and requirements for professional learning by teachers. Conventional offsite, after school, or weekend professional development is typically “sit and listen, maybe try on Monday”. Professional development that is embedded, responsive, and personalized is known to be more effective at changing teaching practice. Alberta teachers are geographically dispersed making online professional learning a desirable alternative to on-site workshops. As access to and use of the Internet gains momentum in schools across the country, opportunities for collaborative, online professional development become more viable. The online professional development in this hermeneutic study maps on to the new vision promoted in Alberta’s math curriculum, and addresses the challenge of a distributed teacher population. Thirteen geographically dispersed participants, including 10 teachers, a PhD mathematician, and two mathematics education specialists, collaborated in an online professional learning community to build knowledge for teaching mathematics. This paper describes and interprets the shared experiences of learners within an online, synchronous learning community that focused on discipline rich, focused inquiry with mathematics. Findings show that the nature and quality of the mathematics task impacted the quality and nature of the online interaction. Mathematics problems that incorporated easily drawn symbols and minimal text worked best in the online collaborative space. Members of this learning community discovered how to assert their identity in the online environment.
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