This expression captures much of the vision of mathematics education research carried out at Pepperdine University and supported by the US Department of Education and the National Science Foundation (NSF). Additionally, in summer, 2011, TechSmith Corporation and Long Beach Unified School District formally supported the expansion of this effort. The research challenges assumptions both about professional development and about digital repositories of learning objects. Our work is based on the conjecture that enabling teachers to exercise collaborative creativity through teams that produce digital media could yield surprising and powerful results in the quest to accelerate and deepen mathematics learning in high stakes accountability environments.
One of the most important findings is that when they are furnished a space that "gives permission" and tools to be creative in curriculum production, teachers become engrossed and absorbed, acquiring important and productive new skills while functioning at the outer edges of their existing skills. This high performance activity fits classical definitions of functioning "in the zone" or in a "flow state"; has become a routine, observable phenomenon in working with teachers.
The project not only focuses directly on teacher creativity, but, with recent additional support from NSF, also focuses on the process of drawing peer tutor students into the teaching community by engaging them in the effort to build by a cadre of student tutors working alongside their teachers. Together, in collaboration with Pepperdine University’s mathematics department, and drawing deeply on the methodology of Japanese lesson study, Los Angeles mathematics teachers and student tutors are creating a growing digital collection or repository of digital media reflecting the curriculum and standards of the four year high school sequence of standards that students are expected to master in high school. This project also engages teachers, students, and university faculty in Mexico, Uganda, and Kenya.
This repository development is also fundamentally participatory and both teacher –centric and student-centric. Combined with the lesson study methodology, it relies on the collaborative, reflective and generative work of teachers for the substance of professional development in ways that elude even current reform practices. This approach to use lesson study to produce a living repository of creative mathematics lessons has two immediate and significant “surface” outcomes: a) finding practical means for teacher teams to build and exercise creativity through digital media is inherently rewarding and meaningful; it elevates the sense of professionalism and identity of teachers. Additionally, b) the repository becomes a dynamic and powerful resource that students come to use frequently to form robust mathematical knowledge, in contrast to many digital libraries. Beyond these two immediate benefits, it is becoming clear that more subtle and powerful teacher changes “beneath the hood” take place. The level of teacher sophistication both about cognitive pathways in mathematical development and about mathematics itself escalates significantly.
For further information, please contact Eric Hamilton, Associate Dean of Education, Pepperdine University.
Here is the repository of instructional videos teachers and their students are producing, keyed to the California State Mathematics Standards.
Under support from the National Science Foundation and the US Department of Education, we are carrying out research on teacher creativty and on cyberplatforms for learning that may bring radically transformed experiences in mathematics and science education.
This research is carried out by Pepperdine University in collaboration with Animo Leadership Academy Charter High School and teachers from the Los Angeles Alliance of charter schools.