Academic journal article Interdisciplinary Journal of e-Skills and Lifelong Learning

Nurturing a Community of Practice through a Collaborative Design of Lesson Plans on a Wiki System

Academic journal article Interdisciplinary Journal of e-Skills and Lifelong Learning

Nurturing a Community of Practice through a Collaborative Design of Lesson Plans on a Wiki System

Article excerpt

Introduction

In Israel, a secondary school mathematics teacher has to prepare for about 20 lessons every week. As each school year lasts for about 30 weeks, it implies that these teachers have to prepare for about 600 lessons a year. Even if the teacher re-teaches the same topic over and again, it is usually not a mere repetition as revisit of the lesson plan usually takes place, adapting it to the current class in view of previous implementation.

Because in Israel the mathematics curriculum is a national one, the very same topic is taught in hundreds of mathematics classes around the country every week (in small variances, of course). Unfortunately, the educational system does not offer teachers means for sharing the preparation or mechanisms for providing feedback following the implementation. As a result, teachers seldom share their knowledge and practical experience with their colleagues. If done, it is usually limited to an oral discussion with few peers, without keeping records. Consequently, teachers usually keep re-teaching a topic in another class or in another year in quite the same way they did it previously, reflecting merely on their own experience. Needless to say there is hardly any preservation of accumulated professional knowledge for the sake of the community.

The rapid development of the internet and particularly the increasing use of Wikipedia inspired us to consider a Wiki system as a suitable platform for preserving, accumulating, and continuously improving mathematics teachers' practical knowledge, through collaborative efforts, aiming at empowering the mathematics teachers' community of practice. Thus, the goal of the present study was to examine a process of collaborative efforts to create practical knowledge.

Literature Background

The Practice of Teaching and Community of Practice

It is widely agreed that the critical factor in successful implementation of changes in the education system is the teachers' professional level, in particular teachers' flexibility and ability to translate innovative ideas into practice (e.g., Borko, 2004; Day & Leitch, 2007). However, by its very nature teaching is a complex practice, as teachers should possess pedagogical content knowledge (Shulman, 1987), as well as knowledge of learning theories, teenage psychology, classroom management, and more. Specifically to the teaching of mathematics, Hill, Rowan, & Ball (2005) refer to the need of having mathematical knowledge for teaching, which means "mathematical knowledge used to carry out the work of teaching mathematics", including "explaining terms and concepts to students, interpreting students' statements and solutions, judging and correcting textbook treatments of particular topics, using representations accurately in the classroom, and providing students with examples of mathematical concepts, algorithms, or proofs" (p. 373). In designing lesson plans, teachers should consider and integrate all these types of knowledge.

Despite the complexity of the profession, usually, teachers work in isolation. They work in separate classrooms with separate students, teach separate lessons, and are often completely unaware of what their peers do (Carroll et al., 2003). They make their own advanced planning decisions and solve on their own pedagogical problems that rise on the spot in their classes, with limited consultation and feedback from their colleagues. When collaboration does occur, it is usually restricted to an exchange of daily pedagogical anecdotes (Burbank & Kauchak, 2003), and therefore "as a profession, teaching is often described as highly individualistic" (p. 500).

The past decade has seen increasing demand to improve school mathematics (e.g., the NCTM Standards, in the USA (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2000); the National Strategy Standards, in England (Department for Education, 2011); The Education Reform Agenda, in Australia (Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, 2011); Goals for the 2009/10-2011/12 School Years, in Israel (Pass, 2009)). …

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