Preliminary Findings

Some tentative observations on our early experiences and data
Beatty, Ian D.

These findings are all very preliminary and tentative, and are as of August 2008.

When example content is used in PD, teachers tend to focus overly on superficial features.

Teachers seem to have surprising (to us, anyway) difficulty separating the intended pedagogic message from the context in which it is presented. Many become distressed if too many examples are given in a subject they care little about, or if they perceive the level to be too high for their students. Math teachers say there is too much science, and science teachers say there is too much math. Many don't understand that the questions modeled during PD are designed for them, not necessarily for their students.

Technology can be an impediment to FA practice.

CRS technology is intended to enhance practice of FA, but initially, using it presents a barrier. Further, teachers' initial facility with the hardware and software significantly impacts their learning curve for question development and implementation of the TEFA approach.

[I've been most focused on] getting the technology to work. Check TV, program, pass out clickers, check if everybody's unit is working then ask a question. Talking with kids is easy.

Teachers follow a predictable general trajectory of skills development and focus of attention.

Teachers concentrate on technology first, then progress to question design. Next, they work on managing whole-class discussion, and eventually on interpreting student responses. Integrating TEFA with other constraints and aspects of teaching is an area of focus that develops throughout the "trajectory".

The toughest part for me is designing questions... I think the course is definitely addressing the issue...

Individual teachers choose widely different details of TEFA practice to focus on.

Two teachers became very attentive to the amount of time they waited after asking a question. One became interested in the nature of questions. Another invented new ways of managing the classroom discussion. Yet another wrestled with tension between structure and control vs. unstructured discussion.

There's always that moment of ta-da! And you look at it and you think 'Wow!'... And on the fly, mentally, you say 'well now how do I handle this?'

In student surveys, some teachers have improved and some have not, but overall ratings have stayed about the same.

Based on three rounds of student surveys of cadre 1, teachers vary widely in how they have changed during the first year of PD. Early results suggest that the classroom environment created by this cadre of teachers has not changed significantly yet --- but they are not controlled for student population, subject, course level, etc.

I've been very pleased with [TEFA] as a way of diagnosing preconceptions or misconceptions. And I like it very much for that.

Middle school teachers have lower expectations for students than high school teachers, hindering TEFA adoption.

The teachers in cadre 1 include middle and high school math and science teachers. In general, the middle school teachers had much lower expectations for their students' ability to participate in TEFA and engage in quality discussions.

Reflection leads to improvement.

The teachers who were most successful with the approach during the first year seem to be those who were most self-reflective. When TEFA wasn't working as well as they'd hoped, they focused on their own beliefs and actions, and on what they could do differently. Those who were less successful with TEFA tended to attribute difficulties to students' abilities and attitudes, parents' attitudes, etc.

[Participation in the PD] does make me more reflective... I do reflect more often [about] what I'm doing and how well it connects with the kids, without a doubt it does force me to look at myself more closely.