Research in Education


Curriculum Implementation Intermediate Math (CIIM)

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CHRIS SUURTAMM: The goal of the partnership was really to understand the multiple perspectives of the mathematics curriculum in grade 7 to 10 as well as to understand the supports and challenges that teachers have in terms of being able to implement that curriculum.

MYRNA INGALLS: This partnership came about when we were revising the mathematics curriculum rather significantly from what it had been previously. We were asking teachers to teach mathematics in a very different way from what they themselves had learned. That meant that we needed to gather some evidence of how was the implementation going for teachers, what were some of the struggles, challenges, how were some of those being overcome and what further supports could we offer to make sure that the intended curriculum is the taught curriculum.

NARRATION: Originating with the Ontario Ministry of Education's Advisory Panel on Connecting Practice and Research in Mathematics Education. Research partners included provincial organizations such as:
The Ontario Association for Mathematics Education,
The Ontario Mathematics Coordinators Association,
Education officers at the ministry, Advisory Panel members,
The research team at the University of Ottawa.
What they hoped to achieve was to bring practitioner and policy-maker voices to research as well as to have research be useful to the field.

CHRIS: The role of the partnership really is that we know that teachers can't do this alone. They can't make changes to practice alone necessarily. And researchers also have a voice in terms of the sorts of experiences they have.

MYRNA: We had a multi-faceted set of relationships at work, system level leaders in the boards, the researchers, as well as myself at the ministry and other ministry folks and it was a whole research team at the University of Ottawa that worked on this.

MARTHA KOCH: Well, because it was a large collaborative project and there were a number of partners, there were I think initially some challenges and throughout in terms of understanding the different contexts that everybody comes from.

CHRIS: And so what that means is that people are working under different constraints. So, for instance, ministries of education, policy makers want answers fairly quickly and university researchers – I don't mean that they tend to take their time but it does take time to do the research and really be comfortable with the kinds of findings and the kinds of results that you're willing to report.

BARBARA GRAVES: So not only did we collect the data from the teachers whom we were interested in, but we had in very short time access to many of them to say, this is what we found and how does this resonate with you? Because, just because we found it and we understand it this way doesn't mean from the practitioner perspective that's how it works. And it was, I would say it was magical.

ARLENE CORRIGAN: Some of the key findings from the CIIM data indicated that teachers required textbooks and teachers would benefit from collaborating, time to collaborate with their peers.

And I must say that our teachers felt the very same way. So I think that the CIIM data just reminded them that this collaborative part is very key to their practice.

NARRATION: Collaborative research respects the various contexts and demands that researchers, policymakers and practitioners face and the research is context sensitive.

MARTHA: The greatest overall benefit is probably that it gives us a richer understanding of the kinds of research questions we're looking at – we get in the classrooms and understand what is happening, we appreciate those different perspectives. That makes the research better.

MYRNA: It's very invigorating to work in a collaborative system whereby we know we're all working in the same direction, reaching higher, trying to do that and help each other and learn along the way but to have that collaboration really happen is rather rare.

CHRIS: I think probably initially the most important thing when you're contemplating a research partnership is to get the participants together and have some discussions before you even begin, as well as having multiple partners participate in terms of talking about the design of the project to a certain extent, asking for feedback on the design of some of your instruments.

MYRNA: I think one of my most important learnings is to trust the people who are working very closely, trying to work in the same direction of improved achievement for all students and to listen when they see a connection.

CHRIS: I really think that some of our best moments in this project were when we were sharing data with the participants themselves. So, for instance, we presented at a large ministry symposium shortly after the questionnaire data came out.  And I remember being in a room that was filled with people. And when we started to show some of our first slides in terms of the questionnaire data there were people in the back standing on chairs to have a look at what that data was saying. I think the partnership worked because really as researchers we really do respect multiple perspectives. We also do know that changing teacher practice or implementing new ideas in how one teaches mathematics is not something very simple. It's quite complex. It challenges teachers' beliefs. It challenges sort of people's confidence, their security in how they go about doing things. And we were very careful with that and very respectful in terms of that.

BARBARA: I think we know practically and theoretically collectives are just much more effective if you really want to make some sort of social change, and that is certainly one of the things that this curriculum is about.

ARLENE: I think that we have learned that the research really can inform our practice, inform our everyday practice. We've learned that we can trust it, we can rely on it, that we can have a relationship with it and it really will make a difference in terms of how we might perform in our classrooms or things that we might consider in our classrooms.