Academic journal article Middle Grades Research Journal

Teachers' Evaluations and Use of Web-Based Curriculum Resources in Relation to the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics

Academic journal article Middle Grades Research Journal

Teachers' Evaluations and Use of Web-Based Curriculum Resources in Relation to the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

The nature and role of mathematics curriculum materials in the United States is shifting, not only because of the transition to the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, CCSSM (National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers, 2010), but also because of the number of resources that are readily available via the Internet. Textbooks are no longer the lone driving force behind the curriculum being taught; instead the CCSSM are seen as establishing the learning goals, and teachers increasingly find themselves searching online for the primary resources they will use to meet those goals (Davis, Choppin, Roth McDuffie, & Drake, 2013). This means that individual teachers have more responsibility for, and more influence over, what gets taught. It also means that much depends on the teachers' ability to find, recognize, and use potentially effective materials.

Making curricular decisions is not new for teachers. They have long adapted, modified, and supplemented the curriculum materials provided by their districts (Remillard, 2005), using strategies like omitting, adapting, or replacing activities and lessons (e.g., Drake & Sherin, 2009). Roth McDuffie and Mather (2009) describe three influences on curricular reasoning: students' learning needs, state standards, and the curriculum materials themselves. Curricular reasoning is critical in situations where teachers are drawing substantially from a range of different resources, like those that can be found with a simple Internet search. To what extent are these influences guiding teachers' curricular decisions when they look at such search results? How do they decide whether and how to use a particular resource?

In this article, we share data from a professional development project designed to help fifth- and sixth-grade teachers interpret and understand the CCSSM, and to support them in their implementation of the standards. The teachers were teaching in a large urban district that was heavily invested in making the transition to the CCSSM. Because district leaders did not believe that currently available textbooks were aligned with the CCSSM, they internally developed several curriculum modules for the teachers to use as primary materials for teaching the CCSSM. However, the modules did not cover all of the standards, which meant that implementing the entirety of the CCSSM would require additional supplementation with outside resources.

In this article, we report on two aspects of teachers' curricular practices. First, we share data about what resources teachers reported using in relation to each of the CCSSM standards for their grade level, focusing on the extent to which they supplemented their instruction with Internet resources. Then, we share data on the criteria teachers referenced as they evaluated a variety of web-based curriculum resources during an activity within the professional development. In this analysis, we attend to the relationship between the teachers' evaluations of resources and the criteria they used to justify their evaluations. The larger aim of this work is to better understand the nature of curricular reasoning and use this understanding to make conjectures about the kinds of support teachers might need to build capacity to find, select, and use appropriate resources to support student learning in relation to the CCSSM.

LITERATURE REVIEW AND FRAMEWORK

What is meant by the term "curriculum" can vary widely. In this article, we use the term curriculum resources to refer to any externally produced resource with which both teachers and students interact in order to teach/learn mathematical content. This definition draws on Remillard, Herbel-Eisenmann, and Lloyd's (2009) definition of curriculum materials as "specific print materials with which teachers and students have physical contact" (p. xvii) with two additional caveats. Because we are interested in exploring specifically how teachers find and use resources that they find on the Internet, we exclude from our definition materials that are created by the teacher, and we include nonmaterial resources such as virtual manipulatives, videos, and websites. …

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