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Doctoral Dissertation Announcement
Candidate: Nesrin Cengiz
Doctor of Philosophy
Title: What Allows Teachers to Extend Student Thinking During Whole Group Discussions?
Dr. Theresa J. Grant, Co-chair
Dr. Kate Kline, Co-Chair
Dr. Laura Van Zoest
Dr. Ok-Kyeong Kim
Dr. Carol Crumbaugh
Date: Thursday, August 2, 2007 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
6625 Everett Tower
Research indicates that extending students’ mathematical thinking and helping them to move beyond their initial observations and solutions during whole-group discussions is challenging, even for the most experienced teachers. To better understand this phenomenon, the teaching of six experienced elementary school teachers, who had been teaching a standards-based curriculum for several years and had participated in a multi-year professional development project focused on that curriculum, is explored in this study. In particular, two issues are addressed: what it looks like to extend student thinking during whole group discussions and how teachers’ beliefs and knowledge support them in their efforts to extend student thinking.
Classrooms were observed as teachers taught an investigation (several connected lessons) on numbers and operations. Segments of whole-group discussions that had the potential to extend student thinking were analyzed to gain insight into the focus issues. Semi-structured interviews, taken before, during, and after teaching the investigation, were conducted to gain insight into the teachers’ thinking processes relevant to their actions and to understand the relationship between teachers’ knowledge/beliefs and their instructional actions.
All six teachers that participated in this study created opportunities to extend student thinking during whole group discussions by engaging students in problematizing mathematics, mathematical reflection, and mathematical reasoning. In creating these discussions, teachers utilized a variety of instructional actions. Some of the least frequently occurring instructional actions, such as providing counterspeculation and making connections among representations and contexts, may be some of the most effective instructional actions as they were found in some of the most powerful episodes.
The evidence from this study also suggests that the teachers’ beliefs about valued instructional actions were closely related to the prevalent instructional actions that took place during the extending episodes. However, the presence of tensions about their role during whole-group discussions seemed to weaken some teachers’ ability to extend student thinking. This suggests that it may be necessary to have a reasonably harmonious vision in order to enact these instructional actions in the classroom. Finally, the extent to which the teachers’ knowledge was developed had a clear impact on the powerfulness of the extending episodes.