Research in Education

Collaborative Inquiry and Learning in Mathematics (CIL-M)

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CATHERINE BRUCE: C.I.L.M. stands for Collaborative Inquiry and Learning in Mathematics. And it's a Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat Initiative where a vertical slice of teachers, consultants, superintendents are working together in co-terminus Boards to co-plan and co-teach math lessons and implement those in their classrooms.

NARRATION: Partners in the CILM project included:  Trent University, OISE (Ontario Institute for Studies in Education), the Ministry of Education's Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat (LNS), 24 Ontario English language district school boards and 9 Ontario French language district school boards.

CATHERINE: So the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat wanted to see what kinds of outcomes were being produced through the project. And they wanted to do that in as objective a way as possible. So they hired some external researchers to be involved. And that is myself and Dr. John Ross. So we're working together with the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat to evaluate the effectiveness of the project.

JOHN ROSS: Each group had a distinctive responsibility. The Ministry of Education was the funder and provider of the content of the program. The school districts were responsible for assisting their teachers in accessing the in-service program. And the universities were responsible for the conduct of the evaluation.

JUDITH TAYLOR: We had to make time for each other and we were learning as we went so we had to clarify some of the terms.

For example, co-teaching has been a very important part of this project. But initially in the first year there was a lot of discussion about what does co-teaching involve?

NARRATION: The planning component involves participating teachers creating long-range plans, determining lead-up lessons, and developing engaging lessons where co-teachers can bring added value to the classes. The co-teachers role in the classroom is to simply observe and record results, as the teacher conducts the lesson. Later, the co-teacher and host teacher will discuss the class activities and results achieved in a debrief session. Adjustments to the lesson are initiated and later the host teacher will act as the co-teacher for the others class.

SHARRON ROSEN: Co-teaching has really created a spark within John Wanless and as far as my own teaching goes. So co-teaching has one, allowed a stepping stone, an opening for teachers to go into each other's classroom, for discussion to begin. Grappling about concepts and really to work together as a team.

SHARRON IN CLASS: So, here's the question we have for you today. Jack has eight full boxes of crayons…

COREY BIRNBAUM: It forces me to think a little bit more analytically and critically about my own practice, and I think that's…you know…we're in a very reflective profession. I think we do need to think critically about what we do and keep changing and keep adapting and adjusting with what our students need us to do.

SHARRON: By having someone with me and discussing that and debriefing, it allowed me to further my own knowledge and my own ability to risk-take as a teacher, and then therefore I learned a lot more in the process.

COREY: Obviously in an ideal world, we would be able to have one teacher come as a co-teacher and visit another class and work collaboratively with that host teacher, but obviously logistically that leaves one class that doesn't have a teacher and needs coverage.

RICHARD STEIN: In terms of creatively moving things around to allow the teachers to be in the same room at the same time takes a bit of shuffling. But it can be done.

You have to be flexible. And in order to allow teachers to have that you need to make sure that they understand, and they buy in. And I believe that the teachers here have bought in and therefore we're making it work.

NARRATION: The CIL-M project has laid the foundation for deprivatizing teacher practice and establishing a culture of collaboration.

Participating teachers reported:
– positive impact on their teaching practice;

– increased confidence in their ability to engage students;

– and increased confidence in delivering effective instructional strategies.

Students reported:

– that the program had a positive effect on their motivation in mathematics; and

– students in participating schools scored higher on the post-test than on the pre-test in almost every district.

CATHERINE: And as you develop those trusting relationships over time a lot more opens up in terms of what's possible. So once an agency or a group of teachers or educators or researchers meet together and start building that relationship, my number one suggestion is – stay with it. Stay as long as you can together and build the partnership over time.

RICHARD: The greatest benefit that I see with this collaboration is that teachers are looking at their practice, at their job, as a professional. Taking more of an academic view of learning how to be better teachers. And in doing so causes students to be better achievers.

JUDITH: And that's what's important to teachers. They want to find out what will work in context with this group of students. How can I help them? And to have the perspective of the researchers it's very helpful in finding out those things that are worth pursuing and going deeper with.

JOHN: We know that teachers who are confident about their ability to teach will set higher goals for themselves and their students. And will persist through those goals in order to get higher student achievement.

SHARRON: As far as teachers go, whether you're a new teacher or whether you've been teaching for 30 years, open your door. Let other teachers in and share what you're learning and what you still want to learn.

COREY: The impact has been really positive on my students in particular. They truly enjoy having someone else come in, having another co-teacher come in.

I think they've enjoyed seeing the modeling of communication, the modeling of teamwork, the modeling of collaboration because we as teachers expect that of our students.

JUDITH: We're all working to create a research environment in which everyone asks questions. This collaborative partnership that we had with Dr. Ross and Dr. Bruce enabled us to bring the perspective of academic researchers to that inquiry stance. So there was a respectful learning between practice and research that really resulted in better classrooms for students.