Jo Boaler’s plenary at PME-NA

The 34th annual conference of the North American Chapter of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education (PME-NA 2012) takes place in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The conference started today – Thursday afternoon – with a plenary lecture of Jo Boaler. Boaler is professor of mathematics education at Stanford University, and she is one of the most prominent researchers in our field of research. The topic for her plenary lecture was: “Scaling up innovation: using research to make a difference”.

The two main foci of her talk was on research design and the communication of research results. Our aim is for research to have more impact. A question then is how to conduct research so as to have more impact on practice?

An interesting observation that she made: researchers who are critical about teaching as telling, often do the exact same thing when communicating the results of their research to teachers. We need to translate our research results into “records of practice”, as argued by Ball and Cohen (1999). In her presentation, she showed us a couple of video records. These records were discussed, and she pointed at the potential of such records in order to change practice.

When it comes to communicating research, she her own experiences with talking to politicians, writing books for a broader public, contacting the press etc. Through her experiences from radio interviews etc., she learned about how many people have bad experiences with mathematics.

Towards the end of her talk, she connected these ideas about communicating research with her own experiences from the attacks that had been made on herself and her research over the years (see e.g. this link for more about this). This became a very personal talk in which she not only shared her own bad experiences, but also shared a lot of interesting thoughts about the question she posed in the beginning of her talk: how can we design and communicate our research in order for it to make more impact?

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