An Up-Close Look at Student-Centered Math Teaching: A Study of Highly Regarded High School Teachers and Their Students
The American Institutes for Research (AIR) conducted a study of highly regarded high school math teachers to expand the research on student-centered instruction. The researchers used a case study approach to provide rich descriptions of how the student-centered mathematics approach plays out in several classrooms. They also looked across a larger sample of classrooms to determine the effects of varying degrees of student-centeredness on students’ engagement with learning and their problem-solving skills. The study found a range of instructional approaches that provided opportunities for students to engage meaningfully with mathematics. It also “showed positive, significant relationships between the study’s measure of student-centered practices and students’ engagement and problem-solving skills, suggesting that the benefits of having a highly regarded mathematics teacher may be even greater if the teacher is more student-centered in his or her approach” (p. 36). The paper concludes with “three concrete implications for policymakers and practitioners who are interested in promoting student-centered instruction in mathematics” (p. 37).
This resource focuses on teaching and instruction rather than standards and assessment; nonetheless, it has useful lessons for Common Core mathematics instruction. The research questions are clearly stated and well answered. The mixed-methods approach is generally acceptable, although the small number of participating teachers, in addition to the use of public charter and magnet schools as well as private schools, limits the generalizability of this study. Communications quality is excellent, including the design and writing; the latter contains a fair number of research and statistical terms, but the document is generally easy to understand. Potential users may find the summary sections the most informative, but many of the actual teaching examples should be useful, especially for student-centered teachers.