“The aim is much humbler.”

In attempting to help others by an account of one’s own failures and successes, one runs the risk of assuming an appearance of authority and even dogmatism. Especially is this likely to be the case where brevity is essential. If I am unlucky enough at times to appear in this objectionable guise, I sincerely assure the reader it is merely appearance. I have myself fallen into too many pitfalls in the path of the teacher to feel at all inclined to domatize; yet, as I believe that (with much effort!) I have climbed out again, I may hope to warn others of their existence, and, if some still struggle in the pits, I may perchance help them to get out. No attempt is made to manufacture an infallible specific for perfecting mathematical education: the aim is much humbler. I hope that this account will lead others to test the value of my suggestions. I should like, too, to see others relating their experience. With a large amount of evidence thus collected from teachers of all ages and kinds of experience, there would be reasonable hope of deducing therefrom a body of principles, bearing up the teaching of mathematics, which might really merit the title of educational science.

From: Benchara Branford, A Study of Mathematical Education (1908)

Teacher research. Why didn’t this happen?

 

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5 thoughts on ““The aim is much humbler.”

    1. An interesting, really thought-provoking comment for me. Here are some questions I immediately had.

      If teacher research is happening now through blogging, then what exactly are we researching? Is everyone who blogs researching? If yes, then whose research is the most exciting and interesting, right now? If no, then what constitutes teacher research? Are there groups of researchers attacking similar problems? Are people building on each other’s ideas? Is sharing a lesson that went well the same as researching? Is reflecting on a lesson the same as researching?

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  1. I don’t know what the threshold is for “research” or “meriting the title of educational science” (well maybe I do but I’m not sure how important it is). But,

    “to test the value of my suggestions. I should like, too, to see others relating their experience. With a large amount of evidence thus collected from teachers of all ages and kinds of experience, there would be reasonable hope of deducing therefrom a body of principles”

    sure sounds like what we’re doing. “A body of principles…”
    Nix the tricks? Pseudocontext? Lab before lecture?

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    1. Nix the tricks? Pseudocontext? Lab before lecture?

      What’s ‘Lab before lecture’? Is that some blogger party that I missed?

      I drafted a few contrarian responses to your comment before realizing that I have no desire to draw lines between research and blogging. Yes, blogger people are producing principles, especially captured in the projects or concepts you mentioned.

      Why am I unsatisfied, then?

      Maybe this: if you asked a blogger to talk about what they were looking into in their teaching, could we answer?

      My sense is, “no.” Instead, we have essentially spontaneous reactions to the things that are happening in our classroom for the most part. And are the questions that we’re looking into made explicit? Is there a shared sense of “working on something together”? Are there groups of people who are working on things together over a long time?

      I think there are, but these groups are mostly in the background. And, by far, the most prominent long-term collaborations are curricular. (Three Acts, Desmos) Not to knock em, but these are people who for the most part are no longer in classrooms, so it doesn’t quite count as teacher research.

      Dan, you posted about problem solving a bit ago. I know that Avery Pickford and Anna Blinstein and Carl Oliver are also interested in problem solving. But do you have shared questions that you’re attacking? Do you build on each others’ ideas in a way that we can articulate?

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