Do the Learning Materials for Mathematics and Science Studies in Middle Schools Lead Students to High Levels of Excellence? – Mapping and Analysis
The Trump Foundation will commission several experts to map and analyze existing teaching materials and learn how teachers use them in the field
The foundation’s roadmap for middle schools assumes that the national curriculum encourages teachers to lead their students to high levels of knowledge, skill and expertise. Therefore, we expect to find among the many textbooks and tasks that teachers use, such learning materials that challenge students and push them to excel. Specifically, we seek to identify these learning objects that combine advanced mathematics and its applications in the sciences. We look for the educational material that prepares students to the five-unit track in high school and to the high proficiency levels of the PISA exam.
In discussing this issue with the foundation’s Advisory Council, expert practitioners who joined the meeting reported on a wide range of materials of diverse quality. They stressed that the level of material should not only align with the level of students, but also to that of the teachers. Some of them interpreted the goals of the curriculum to focus more on procedural fluency and less on deep understanding and transfer of knowledge. Others claimed that there is a quality gap between the level of materials which are being used by teachers in excellence tracks vs. regular classes, and in the center of Israel vs. the periphery.
Therefore, at the threshold of working with teachers on these issues, we believe it would be essential to map and evaluate existing materials. This analysis is important to help us better understand how materials are being used, and to be able to assess if and what kinds of content development we should encourage. To do so, we propose to commission several experts for a study that would seek to address the following questions:
- Which textbooks, tasks and other learning objects are being used by mathematics and science teachers in excellence tracks in middle schools?
- Are teaching materials different in excellence tracks and regular classes, and in the center of Israel and the periphery?
- How do teachers use these materials with their students and in what order, do they use it in class, in small groups, as diagnostic tasks and/or as homework assignments?
- Which of these materials challenge the students to advanced levels of mathematics and to mathematics-based science, aligned with preparing to five units and 5-6 levels on PISA?
The study will include the following stages: two questionnaires among middle school mathematics and science teachers to learn what content they use and how, two mapping reports by experts to map and analyze the existing material in mathematics and in science, and a review of the findings by a group of teachers. Two workshops, one for mathematics and one for science, with 60 teachers will be convened to discuss the conclusions and to offer in-depth insights. The final review and recommendations will be edited in a report, which will be fully available online.
* The text presented above shows the grant as approved by the Foundation Board / Grant 324