Molly Lynn Watt and Daniel Lynn Watt draw on 15 years of experience in collaborative action research: as teachers in their own classrooms, participants in study groups, and facilitators of action research groups. In this chapter, they report on professional development for teaching mathematics, specifically the Logo Action Research Collaborative (LARC) "initiated in 1986 as an exploratory effort to support teachers using Logo in building professional cultures for studying and assessing Logo learning in order to deepen their understandings and improve their practice" (49).
Logo is a computer-based learning environment developed to "simultaneously foster the learning of important concepts of mathematics and computer science and the learning of generalizable problem-solving skills" (52).
The heart of this chapter comprises two studies, illustrating how two teachers were able to raise troubling issues about teaching and learning in their own practices... [and] how the collaborative processes supported the entire group in understanding the data presented, how teachers developed strategies to support the students in question, and, most importantly, how studying one student's work in rich detail led both teachers to revise their teaching practices" (53).
In the first study, a teacher struggles to understand one student whose understanding of Logo appears to be "stalled" and who seems to ignore his help. By bringing his samples of Kathy's work to his research group for analysis, he is able to "gain essential insights about the knowledge Kathy was using and thereby build from her strengths to support her to think more powerfully and systematically about her work" (53-54). The chapter includes samples from student's work and the teacher's observations, as well as a description of the group's analytical process.
The second study describes how the collaborative research group provided another teacher assistance when one of her student's Logo knowledge surpassed her own.
The chapter concludes with a process for "collaborative assessment of student work" developed by the LARC as "formal method for collaborative assessment of student work in order to make teaching decisions that fit" (69). The Wat's point out that the formality of the process is necessary for moving the conversation, particularly in establishing the authority for the person chairing the collaborative assessment. They suggest that the process may be adapted by groups for their own uses.
Roles of presenter, chair, and recorder are clearly defined. The authors provide guidelines for participation, for example, "Each student whose work is presented is discussed as if the student or the student's parents were present and within the scope of the specific teaching/learning dilemma raised" (71).
The format calls for four steps, each guided by questions:
Notes for facilitating each step are provided.
- What knowledge is [student] using?
- What potentially useful knowledge is [student] not using?
- If you were [student's] teacher, what is one teaching intervention you would now take? How would you do it, and why?
- Notes and discussion: What aspects of content knowledge and pedagogy came up in this case? As educators, what do we want to learn more about as a result of considering this case?