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Hill to Conduct NSF Teaching Study

In January 2015, Professor Heather Hill will launch her newest study, the Mathematics Teachers and Teaching Survey, focusing on middle school mathematics instruction.

With the aid of technology in the classroom, Professor Heather Hill’s newest study, the Mathematics Teachers and Teaching Survey, will be able to track and collect data on middle school mathematics instruction, providing key insight into teachers’ mathematical knowledge, the curriculum, and the nature of mathematics instruction being offered to students. The $2.9 million study is funded by the National Science Foundation.

Beginning in January 2015, Hill, along with the Center for Education Policy Research Senior Project Manager Barb Gilbert and Instructional Specialist Daniel McGinn, will observe teaching using Samsung tablets placed in 460 middle school classrooms around the country. Hill said with all the efforts being made to revise math instruction, especially for policies like Common Core, this is an ideal time to enact such a study.

“We are spending all this energy to improve the quality of teaching but have no systematic way to gauge what that teaching looks like,” Hill said. “By observing a nationally representative sample, we can better inform policymakers about where we stand.”

Using the Samsung tablet and the Swivl, a robotic mobile accessory, allows for mathematics teachers to easily be tracked within the classroom without the aid of a researcher on site. Although this isn’t the first time Hill and team have used such technology to collect data, it is the first large-scale research project using Android tablets. As part of the data collection, Hill and team have partnered with the University of Michigan to help train teachers and staff to use the technology. Then, each teacher is responsible for recording specific lessons to be included in the data collection. Gilbert called the data collection method an “out-of-the-box solution created to do what we need to do.” A 24-hour help desk will be available to assist any teachers who run into a problem with the technology.

By the end of data collection, they anticipate thousands of hours of footage, which will be reviewed and coded.

“It will provide a view into middle school mathematics classrooms across the U.S.” Gilbert says, noting that it will also allow future studies to compare change over time. 

Hill says that she has long dreamed of conducting this type of study similar to the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, a video study conducted more than 15 years ago that shaped instructional policies across the country.

Findings for the study are anticipated by late 2016. 


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