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Investigation of the identity trajectories of mathematics instructors participating in an inquiry-oriented professional development initiative

Ireland, Josiah
The enactment of a large-scale, long-term professional development initiative designed to enhance participants’ knowledge base by influencing their identity trajectories as mathematics instructors is complex. Effectively influencing participants’ trajectories could be enhanced by understanding the nature of participants’ goal structures, priorities, and commitments. The focus of my research is to reveal features of participants’ distal goals as mathematics instructors by eliciting their contributions and takeaways from their participation in MIP activities and by uncovering their interpretations of three elements of mathematical inquiry.
I collected data primarily from conducting semi-structured interviews with MIP participants. I interviewed eight participants who had participated on one of the Collaborative Research and Development Teams (CoRDs). I asked them to discuss their contributions and takeaways from their involvement in MIP activities and to describe their vision for future collaborations among mathematics faculty. In addition to these interviews, I also conducted two exploratory case studies. The focus of these case studies was to reveal participants’ identity trajectories by uncovering their interpretations of three elements of mathematical inquiry and the nature and purpose of conducting a conceptual analysis. I analyzed these interviews in different ways but my approach centrally relied on generating open codes from the transcripts and organizing them into categories.
One finding from my analysis of the eight interviews was that participants valued opportunities to collaborate to share experiences and struggles with other colleagues. This result reveals the importance of providing opportunities to continue cultivating a community of practice among MIP participants. Both case studies revealed instructors’ commitments to support students’ engagement in productive mathematical practices by engaging in critical thinking and problem-solving activities. Considering the focus of the MIP is to support faculty to critically evaluate the nature of the meanings they intend students to construct, there is need to perturb and extend MIP participants’ knowledge base. Participants need to recognize (1) the differences between supporting students’ engagement in productive mathematical practices and supporting students’ construction of productive meanings and (2) the affordances of the latter.