The Center for Technology and School Change partnered with the Education Development Center (EDC) and Bank Street College of Education in a multi-year, IES-funded study of the Math for All (MfA) professional development program. MfA aims to provide teachers with knowledge and strategies around adapting mathematics lessons for a wide range of diverse learners. The Center conducted and analyzed over 100 interviews with participating Chicago Public School teachers and administrators as part of a larger, quasi-experimental effort to gauge the efficacy of MfA. This type of qualitative analysis allows researchers to transcend the specific to better understand the overarching conceptual themes of a given experience or intervention (Saldana, 2016). In the case of MfA, the qualitative interview data enabled researchers to contextualize the quantitative data in ways that helped project partners better understand causal factors.
In the final interview report, completed this past summer, researchers found that program aligned with schools’ stated goals of addressing the needs of their diverse learners. Teachers particularly appreciated the program’s neurodevelopmental framework; they found this aspect of the program mapped onto their beliefs about teaching and learning and put some of their ideas into a meaningful theoretical context. Schools experienced some structural challenges in supporting the program’s ongoing learning opportunities (i.e. limited time to collaborate around and revisit lesson plans). Ultimately, two big ideas emerged from the data: (1) Mathematics teachers are open to more theoretical scaffolding of their mathematical (and teaching) practice. (2) In core content areas such as mathematics and ELA, teachers are often introduced to numerous approaches and perspectives in a given year; helping building leaders and teachers make sense of how a particular innovation fits into their ongoing work is key for building a sense of coherence and developing a commitment to sustainability.
The U.S. Department of Education recently awarded an Education Innovation and Research grant to project partners for continued study of MFA's sustainability and expansion. Starting October 1, 2018, partners will scale up implementation research across the state of Illinois, with the Center poised to continue its qualitative contributions.
Saldana, J. (2016). The coding manual for qualitative researchers. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.