- Year 2023
- NSF Noyce Award # 1950217
- First Name Matthew
- Last Name Campbell
- Discipline Mathematics
Joanna Burt-Kinderman, Pocahontas County (WV) Schools; Ela Celikbas and Jessica Deshler, West Virginia University
The M3T project responds to multiple needs—specific to its regional context; the state of mathematics education in its schools and students; and a widespread lack of teacher agency, voice, and leadership in instructional improvement efforts. Wholly situated within the regional context of Appalachia, approximately two-thirds of students in West Virginia (WV) attend schools in towns or rural areas, and over 50% of WV schools are designated schoolwide Title I, with schools in every district benefiting from Title I funds. The challenges faced by the state and region are coupled with cultural richness also attributed to WV and Appalachia, such as a connectedness of people and place. WV has lower than average rates of college enrollment and completion, particularly in STEM degrees. This is especially true among women and individuals from low-income and geographically-isolated contexts. WV ranks low in terms of teachers’ sense of professional agency, control, and autonomy—a key issue related to teacher attrition. Also notable are the public school employee work stoppages across WV in 2018 and 2019 that gained national attention and were seen as a catalyst for other teacher labor movements at that time. These events highlighted clear capacity for actionable networking among WV’s teachers, as well as deep commitments to education.
The M3T project is guided by a set of evaluation questions (in coordination with our external evaluators) and a set of research questions pursued by project investigators. There are four evaluation questions related to: (1) the key features of the program, (2) Fellows’ perceptions of the program, (3) other stakeholders’ (e.g., administrators) perceptions of the program, and (4) the connection between participation in M3T and students’ mathematics achievement and engagement in the “doing of mathematics”. There are three broad research questions that guide our inquiries around the work of this project: (1) How do MTFs’ identities of themselves as math teachers and math teacher leaders evolve over the course of the project? (2) How do systemic (school-, district-, and/or state-level) factors foster or hinder the development of a culture of mathematics teacher leadership, defined by teacher agency and voice in improvement efforts and professional development? (3) How do MTFs and other participating teachers make sense of and make claims about student learning and instructional improvement based on data?
M3T is the evolution of a successful model of collaborative, teacher-led improvement of math teaching and learning started in Pocahontas County, WV more than a decade ago. M3T Fellows serve as the main participants and contributors in a statewide “networked improvement community” (NIC) leading efforts to improve math teaching and learning across WV. NICs serve as a form of partnership at the nexus of research and practice to iteratively define and address local problems, resulting in context-rich solutions that can be shared with broader audiences. NICs are focused on a well-specified common aim and use tools of improvement science to unpack problem spaces, detail a theory of improvement, test and refine change ideas, and monitor short- and long-term improvement. NICs have provided the structure for powerful efforts to improve mathematics instruction and mathematics teacher education. We are interested in building on and contributing to the scholarship and practice on NICs, with a focus on improvement in mathematics classrooms as well as developing teacher leadership and agency in communities with a wide variety of stakeholders. This is intended to disrupt prevalent issues of status and other structural issues also distract from improvement efforts in school contexts, such as administrators who do not provide opportunities for teachers to contribute or lead and a lack of a shared vision or set of practices.
Over the course of the project, we will track progress toward project goals and outcomes related to Fellows, participating teachers, administrators, and students using quantitative and qualitative data as part of formative and summative external evaluation, as well as a project research plan. Data have included surveys and interviews with all stakeholders, Fellows’ journaling, and a social network survey. Outcomes from this work also include actionable ideas related to math teaching, teacher leadership, and statewide partnerships, embedded in practice and emerging from the NIC. Evaluation efforts from the first two years of the project have shown early outcomes related to Fellows’ positive perceptions of the program and their growth contributing to and leading a NIC. Positive perceptions have also been found in participating teachers (in local teams) and administrators. Fellows in have shown various forms of development of teacher leadership identities as they recruited and facilitated their local teams.
West Virginia faces issues with declining teacher recruitment, increased teacher turnover, under-certified teachers, and low student achievement, particularly in math. These issues are compounded by issues of high poverty, low educational attainment, and geographic isolation in rural communities. However, the state’s rich cultural attributes of collaboration and self-reliance makes the proposed statewide effort an aspiration within reach. In addition to the direct support of more than 40 MTFs and the positive impact on their students over six years, the project will impact many times more teachers who interact with MTFs, in some cases to become leaders themselves. M3T will support the development of a sustainable model of teacher and teacher leader development to improve math teaching and learning across WV. Positive impacts will include: teacher quality and retention and student achievement and interest in math. Findings and resources emerging from M3T will be shared with project stakeholders and will be disseminated through state and national organizations and scholarly and practitioner publications.