The relationship between teacher pedagogical content knowledge and student understanding of integer operations
The purpose of this study was to determine whether a professional development (PD) for teachers focused on improving teacher pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) related to operations with integers would improve teacher PCK and if there was a relationship between their level of PCK and the change in the understanding of their students as measured by pre- and posttest of teacher and student knowledge. The study was conducted summer 2010 in a large urban school district on two campuses providing a district funded annual summer intervention, called Jumpstart. This program was for grade 8 students who did not pass the state assessment (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills), but would be promoted to high school in the Fall 2010 due to a decision made by the Grade Placement Committee. The Jumpstart program involved 22 teachers and 341 students. For purposes of this study, changes were made to the PD and typical curriculum for a unit on integer operations to promote teacher and student conceptual understanding through a process of mathematical discussion called argumentation. The teachers and students explored a comprehensive representation for integer operations called a vector number line model using the Texas Instruments TI-73 calculator Numln application. During PD, teachers engaged in argumentation to make claims about strategies to use to understand integer operations and to explain their understanding of how different representations are connected. The results showed statistically significant growth in teacher PCK following the professional development and statistically significant growth in student understanding from pre- to posttest compared to the students who participated in the program the previous year. The findings also showed that there was a statistically significant association between teacher posttest PCK and student improvement in understanding even when controlling for years of teaching experience, teacher pretest knowledge, and student pretest score. This adds to the research base additional evidence that professional development focused on teacher pedagogical content knowledge can have a positive effect on student achievement, even with just a short period of PD (6 hours in this case).