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Collaborative Action Research

Professional Learning: Collaborative Action Research In each of the three school boards, teacher-researcher teams engaged in a process of collaborative action research ( to explore the teaching and learning of fractions. Collaborative action research is a dynamic form of professional learning that engages educators and researchers in learning together by investigating areas of mutual interest. This occurred over the course of three to five release days (four to seven sessions) and involved a blend of in-class and out-of-class learning over a four-month period.

During the initial session, the teams explored different relationships represented and different actions implied by a fraction (see Math for Teaching: Ways We Use Fractions resource). Teams also identified questions and dilemmas for further exploration. An interesting framework for thinking about these dilemmas is provided by the four categories below (Windschitl, 2002). These examples are drawn from the teams in this fractions action research project.

Conceptual Dilemmas (Why?)

How might cyclical, iterative fractions instruction deepen students' conceptual understanding of fractions? Also, will this provide time for students to build connections beyond fractions to other strands? Other subjects? Both in and out of the classroom.

Why are fractions important? Do students even need to know about them?

Do all students need to use visual organizers/representations?

Should I modify my teaching to include the use of a variety of manipulatives?

Pedagogical Dilemmas (How?)

How might teaching with the big ideas aid students in developing and refining conceptual understanding?

How can I engage students in communicating their understanding of fractions rather than just retell their steps?

How/when do we push students to use new and/or unfamiliar representations? How do we develop flexibility?

How do we help children justify their reasoning for representation of fractions?

How can I structure my lessons so that I have time to hear and understand the explanations and reasoning of my students?

Cultural Dilemmas

How can I transition students from a more traditional math experience where the focus has been on getting the right answer to a community of learners engaged in math talk with a focus on reasoning and proving?

How can I engage my colleagues in this type of professional learning?

Political Dilemmas

How can I balance the need to meet the reporting requirements with this type of cyclical learning focused on fractions?

My board has outlined the timing and sequencing of the strands for each grade to align with their assessments. Teaching outside of that may create difficulties for my students on the assessments.

Exploring Student and Teacher Fraction Understanding >>

Fractions(Content) Student Learning Instructional Decisions Teacher Professional Learning