Promoting student collaboration

Megan E. Staples wrote an article called: “Promoting student collaboration in a detracked, heterogeneous secondary mathematics classroom“. The article was published online in Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education on Wednesday. Here is the abstract of the article:

Detracking and heterogeneous groupwork are two educational practices that have been shown to have promise for affording all students needed learning opportunities to develop mathematical proficiency. However, teachers face significant pedagogical challenges in organizing productive groupwork in these settings. This study offers an analysis of one teacher’s role in creating a classroom system that supported student collaboration within groups in a detracked, heterogeneous geometry classroom. The analysis focuses on four categories of the teacher’s work that created a set of affordances to support within group collaborative practices and links the teacher’s work with principles of complex systems.

Several researchers have addressed the issue of collaboration and group work, and Staples analyzes the role of one teacher in this respect. Staples observed 39 lessons in the study, and data was collected through field notes, reflective memos, and 26 lessons were also video-taped. She also conducted interviews with most of the students and the teacher, and she collected curriculum documents, etc. During the data analysis, four categories emerged that were critical for understanding the teacher’s role (p. 8):

  1. Promoting individual and group accountability
  2. Promoting positive sentiment among group members
  3. Supporting student–student exchanges with tools and resources
  4. Supporting student mathematical inquiry in direct interaction with groups

These categories are used as point of departure for the organization and presentations of the results in the article.

The classroom is a complex system, and this is something Staples discuss a lot in the article. Understanding this complexity and being able to analyze it, is something she emphasizes as being important for both future and current teachers.

And interesting article. In the theoretical foundations, she refers (among others) to the works of researchers like E. Cohen and J. Boaler.

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