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Design Research With Educational Systems: Investigating and Supporting Improvements in the Quality of Mathematics Teaching and Learning at Scale


by Paul Cobb, Kara Jackson, Thomas M. Smith, Michael Sorum & Erin Henrick — 2013

This chapter describes a partnership with four urban districts that aimed to develop an empirically grounded theory of action for improving the quality of mathematics instruction at scale. Each year, we conducted a data collection, analysis, and feedback cycle in each district that involved documenting the district’s improvement strategies, collecting and analyzing data to assess how these strategies were being implemented, reporting the findings to the district, and making recommendations about how the strategies might be revised. We distinguish between two distinct levels


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This article originally appeared as NSSE Yearbook Vol 112. No. 2.


Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 115 Number 14, 2013, p. 320-349
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 18351, Date Accessed: 10/19/2017 2:28:03 PM

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About the Author
  • Paul Cobb
    Vanderbilt University
    E-mail Author
    PAUL COBB is a professor of mathematics education at Vanderbilt University. His research focuses on improving the quality of mathematics teaching and, thus, student learning on a large scale, and on issues of equity in students’ access to significant mathematical ideas. Recent publications include “Towards an empirically grounded theory of action for improving the quality of mathematics teaching at scale” (2011, Mathematics Teacher Education and Development) with Kara Jackson and “Analyzing educational policies as designs for supporting learning” (2012, Journal of the Learning Sciences) with Kara Jackson.
  • Kara Jackson
    University of Washington
    E-mail Author
    KARA JACKSON is an assistant professor at the University of Washington, Seattle. Her research focuses on identifying forms of practice that enable all learners to participate in rigorous mathematics and on supporting teachers’ development of these forms of practice. Recent publications include “Exploring relationships between setting up complex tasks and opportunities to learn in concluding whole-class discussions in middle-grades mathematics instruction” (2013, Journal for Research in Mathematics Education) with Anne Garrison, Jonee Wilson, Lynsey Gibbons, and Emily Shahan and “Approaching participation in school-based mathematics as a cross-setting phenomenon” (2011, Journal of the Learning Sciences).
  • Thomas Smith
    Vanderbilt University
    E-mail Author
    THOMAS M. SMITH is associate professor in the Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations in Peabody College of Vanderbilt University and the Director of the National Center on Scaling Up Effective Schools. His research focuses on identifying supports and barriers to improving teaching and learning at the scale of large urban school districts. His recent publications include “Evaluating Math Recovery: Assessing the Causal Impact of a Diagnostic Tutoring Program on Student Achievement” (2013, American Educational Research Journal), with Paul Cobb, Dale Farran, David Cordray, and Charles Munter, “Explaining the gap in charter and traditional public school teacher turnover rates” (2012, Economics of Education Review) with David Stuit, and “Teacher participation in content-focused professional development & the role of state policy” (2011, Teachers College Record) with Kristie J.R. Phillips and Laura Desimone.
  • Michael Sorum
    Fort Worth Independent School District
    E-mail Author
    MICHAEL SORUM is the deputy superintendent for Leadership, Learning and Student Support Services in the Fort Worth Independent School District. Sorum has worked for twenty-four years in urban school districts as a teacher and administrator. His passion lies in leading teams of educators to design, implement, and evaluate systemic reforms that are intended to positively improve learning for urban children. He believes that DBIR work, such as the MIST project, holds great promise for designing and implementing contextually appropriate solutions to complex problems.
  • Erin Henrick
    Vanderbilt University
    E-mail Author
    ERIN HENRICK is a program manager in the Department of Teaching and Learning at Vanderbilt University. Her research interests include (a) developing and refining a method to conduct design research at the level of a large school district, (b) developing and sustaining district–researcher collaborative partnerships that support improvements in the quality of teaching, and (c) clarifying effective project management of large education research studies.
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