Academic journal article Adult Learning

The Impact of a Professional Development Model on ABE Teachers' Instructional Practice: Teachers Investigating Adult Numeracy

Academic journal article Adult Learning

The Impact of a Professional Development Model on ABE Teachers' Instructional Practice: Teachers Investigating Adult Numeracy

Article excerpt

Twenty-two adult education teachers in Ohio silently arrange and rearrange themselves in a line until they are able to identify the teacher who stands at the median of their collective heights. Four Kansas adult educators save the cucumber slices from their lunches to create a demonstration of fractional division for their colleagues. In Rhode Island, twenty-four teachers look at their own or each others' clothing labels, write the countries of origin on "sticky" notes, and arrange the notes in bar graphs on the board. All these teachers and similar groups in Arizona, Louisiana, and Massachusetts were engaged in mathematical activity as part of TIAN professional development institutes.

Teachers Investigating Adult Numeracy (TIAN) is a collaborative project of the Center for Literacy Studies at the University of Tennessee and the Technical Education Research Centers, Inc. (TERC) in Cambridge, MA. Funded primarily by a grant from the National Science Foundation, the project has developed and tested a model for in-service professional learning that engages adult education teachers in considering how to implement purposeful and effective mathematics instructional approaches. In this article we explain the project's perspective on sound mathematics learning and teaching, describe the professional development model created to support teachers' growth in that arena, and finally present some data about teacher-participants indicating positive shifts in instructional practice.

TIAN's vision for effective mathematics or numeracy instruction in adult education (ABE, pre-GED, and GED) classrooms is based on an understanding of mathematics proficiency that assumes adults will use math in their lives (home, work, civic spheres) as well as to prepare for needed tests and courses for college and careers.

Mathematical proficiency includes, but is more than, fluency with procedures; effective math learning and teaching must also attend to conceptual understanding, strategic competence, adaptive reasoning, and a productive disposition (National Research Council, 2001). The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) has defined Process Standards of Reasoning, Communication, Problem-solving, Connections, and Representation along with their Content Standards for the teaching of number and operations, statistics and probability, geometry, measurement, and algebra at all grades along the K-12 curriculum (NCTM, 2000). TIAN believes these standards are relevant to the instruction of adult learners. We agree with the Adult Numeracy Network's addition of "relevance" as an additional standard and that, "A high quality mathematics curriculum for adult learners should include the concepts of number, data, geometry, and algebra at all levels of learning so that students can develop and connect mathematical ideas" (Adult Numeracy Network, 2005, para. 1).

TIAN has developed a professional development model that prepares teachers to provide the kind of instruction that supports adults as they learn mathematics for both immediate academic needs, for example, passing the GED test and for the mathematics they encounter in their lives as citizens, workers, and family members. Our goals have been (a) to increase and deepen teachers' mathematical content knowledge; (b) to increase the number and range of teachers' instructional approaches; (c) to increase teachers' knowledge and use of state mathematics content standards; and (d) to increase states' capacity to provide quality mathematics instruction.

In this article, we focus on teachers' instructional approaches and the ways TIAN worked with teachers to help them to better meet students' needs and goals. Our goal is for teachers who participate in TIAN to implement instruction that: (a) focuses on conceptual understanding and problem solving; (b) involves students using communication to organize and consolidate mathematical thinking; and (c) provides opportunities for students to connect mathematics to their lives, goals, and experiences. …

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