What Do We Know About Deepening Mathematics/Science Teacher Knowledge and How Well Do We Know It?
Authors: Iris Weiss, Joan Pasley, Daniel Heck

3. Design, Data & Analysis
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3. Design, Data & Analysis
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  1. Review of the empirical literature

The MSP KMD project has looked at the evidence that more in-depth teacher content knowledge is associated with higher quality classroom practice and enhanced student learning. The project also examined the evidence in support of each of a number of teacher enhancement strategies for particular purposes, e.g., the impact of engaging teachers with challenging mathematics problems on their understanding of mathematics as a way of knowing.

An extensive review of the empirical literature on deepening the content knowledge of mathematics and science teachers yielded close to 2,000 articles. Many of these articles were eliminated because the study did not include a specific measure of teacher content knowledge. Others were in fact not studies (e.g., they were advocacy pieces) and/or dealt solely with pre-service teachers. The end result was that only 70 studies in mathematics and 76 in science were identified for further analysis, some with multiple parts and/or multiple publications.

Each of these studies was reviewed using a set of standards of evidence for empirical research developed by the KMD project, drawing from numerous writings about research rigor, quality, and reporting, including efforts to address quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methodologies. A panel of mathematics and science education researchers, research methodologists, and mathematics and science education leaders assisted the KMD staff in the development and review of the standards of evidence to help ensure not only their quality, but also their broader utility.

  1. Collection of practice-based insights

In addition to the evidence from empirical studies, the MSP KMD project sought to collect and codify the practice-based insights of experienced professional development providers, and to compare and contrast this "wisdom of practice" with findings from the empirical literature.

Two main strategies were used to gather practice-based insights in the area of deepening teacher content knowledge. The first was interviews with Principal Investigators of a number of NSF-supported MSP projects. The second was an online panel discussion with individuals who have extensive and varied experience in professional development design and implementation.

Initial interviews were conducted with a sample of 27 MSP projects targeting teachers of mathematics and/or science across the entire K-12 spectrum. These interviews focused on how the MSPs are working to deepen teacher content knowledge, what strategies they have found successful, and their evidence of success.

The on-line panel involved the identification of a group of individuals, including MSP project leaders, with broad experience in efforts to deepen teacher content knowledge, either as designers/providers of professional development and/or as observers of professional development initiatives (i.e., as evaluators or researchers). Panel members were presented with various statements about professional development practice and asked to react to these statements. The online panel discussion involved four rounds of questions. The analysis of panelists' responses in each round informed the questions that were asked in subsequent rounds.

All practice-based data collected were coded by type of content knowledge addressed (e.g., disciplinary content, mathematics/science as ways of knowing, pedagogical content knowledge) and professional development strategy. In addition, any condition for effective practice that was specified in the data was noted accordingly. Separate summaries of these analyses were written for insights related to deepening teachers' disciplinary content knowledge, ways of knowing in the discipline, and pedagogical content knowledge.