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Building Bridges Promoting Public Practice in School An Action Research Project by Michael E. Sweeney Pepperdine University July 2005


Table of Contents



Research Context


Literature Review


Action Research Question


Cycle 1


Cycle 2


Cycle 3


Final Reflection




Appendix 1


Appendix 2


Appendix 3



Abstract Teaching has traditionally been an isolated practice, conducted by individual teachers and their students behind closed classroom doors. The degree to which teachers, administrators, and other stakeholders view their work as private practice rather than public practice is a problem in schools because it hinders the growth of individual teachers, and limits the degree to which expertise can be shared. The following action research project addresses this issue within the setting of the mathematics department at Mercersburg Academy, a mid-sized, co-educational boarding school in central Pennsylvania. The project seeks to promote teaching as public practice though formative peer observation, peer mentoring, and a lecture series.

Research Context I teach math at Mercersburg Academy, a co-ed, 9-PG boarding school in rural, south central Pennsylvania . Mercersburg is a place that is steeped in tradition, boasting some famous and important alumni and a tradition as a high powered preparatory school. As a school, it has well established systems for doing just about everything and the school tends to run very smoothly. Change happens here, but it happens very slowly and purposefully. At the same time, it is a place that has integrated technology into the classroom at a fairly high level. The school has made some good decisions (faculty laptop program, dual platform network) that make it an exciting place to work. There is funding to support well-thought out plans, and there is an interest in a greater emphasis of effective technology use in the classroom. The math department at Mercersburg is a group of thirteen teachers. The class schedules and course loads of teachers varies from year to year and depends to some degree on the experience of the teacher and that teacher's other duties on campus. There is a math department office where each teacher has a small designated work space. The teachers are, as a group, experienced, bright, and well-prepared to do their jobs. Four of the teachers are new to the department this year, one will be a permanent faculty member, the others are one-year replacement for other math/science teachers. There are a variety of different perspectives on learning and teaching in this group, as one might imagine. The current level of collaboration mostly surrounds conversations in the office about where teachers are in the curriculum, how they teach such and such a topic, etc. I have been observed three times since I started at Mercersburg in the Fall of 2003, each time by the former department head, who is now retired. No one currently at the school has ever observed me teach. I observed several other teachers in my hiring process.


I feel like there is a tremendous opportunity to learn from one another that is currently being missed. If teaching were to become more public, if peer observation were to become commonplace, I think it could be a great professional development opportunity for teachers and lead to better teaching and learning across the department.

Review of Literature Teaching as Public Practice, Formative Peer Observation. Teaching in the United States has traditionally been an isolated practice. Teachers generally conduct their practice behind closed doors in the company of their students. "Teaching is still largely a solo act, observed, appreciated, and evaluated primarily by students. There is little contact among colleagues, classroom doors are seldom opened to each other, and teachers who are members of the same staff in the same school, even in the same grade or discipline, maintain a collusive and almost deliberate ignorance of the work of their peers. (Wallace, p.82, 83) The presence of a visitor in the classroom is generally unwelcome and often cause for panic and nervousness. The basic assumption from all parties involved is that observation equals evaluation. Teacher, students, and generally observer all know the routine. The teacher is being evaluated to see if he/she measures up to some standard of good teaching. Educational literature is filled with articles about good teacher evaluation that generally involves observation and systems at many schools and universities subtly substantiate the idea that observation means evaluation by frequently observing new teachers or teachers that are struggling. In contrast, the literature also contains many articles on a different kind of observation; peer observation for formative rather than evaluative purposes. This type of observation supports the theme of making teaching more of a public endeavor and making teaching a more collaborative, collegial practice. It is the place of this type of peer observation in the educational literature that I will examine here. Little (1982) found that four practices characterized schools with relatively high achievement and extensive staff development. In those schools, teachers talked about their teaching, were observed and critiqued, designed and planned teaching materials together, and taught each other. The relation between staff development and school improvement has been the subject of considerable literature over the past decade and a half (Wallace, p. 82) Many schools around the world, from elementary levels to university are discovering the power of peer observation for formative purposes. In this type of model, teachers observe one another teach lessons. Instead of the normal critique or evaluation letter that might follow, the main purpose of this observation is for the observer and teacher to learn new teaching ideas through seeing them in action, simply watching, and reflecting. This non-threatening type of observation makes visitors a welcome addition to the classroom, encouraging teachers to talk about good teaching.


When teachers observe one another in this fashion they have the opportunity to “glean from a wide variety of sources” (Richardson, p. 14) “Gleaning is a process where one scours a field in hopes of finding a kernel or stalk of grain that was missed in the initial harvest.” ( Richardson, p. 15) While the traditional system of training teachers assumes that experienced teachers have no more to learn about their practice, formative peer observation claims that even a harvested field has a grain or stalk that was missed. Even the most seasoned teacher is likely to pick something up from a new teacher, while being free to ignore techniques that he/she does not find helpful. I this way, formative peerobservation has the ability to encourage career-long learner among teachers. The Japanese educational tradition of Lesson Study is a well establish example of a program that incorporates at its core the idea of peer observation for the purpose of learning and improving teaching and curriculum. “Lesson study is a well defined process of collaborative lesson planning combined with critical analysis of how a lesson unfolds in actual classroom practice.” (Fernandez, p. ) It has been an essential part of Japanese education since the early 1900s. The lesson study process integrates a number of effective professional development strategies, such as peer observation, ongoing collaboration, and looking closely at how students think, both by observing them in the classroom and examining their classwork. (Weeks and Stepanek, p. 1) The Lesson Study process works as follows. Teachers decide on an outcome they would like to see from students. They then collaboratively plan a lesson that aims at achieving that outcome. One of the teachers in the group then presents the lesson to his/her class while the other teachers observe. The teachers then reconvene and discuss what they observed. They make alterations to the original plan based on observations, then another teacher in the group teaches the lesson. The cycle continues. Within this cycle of teaching, observing, and collaborative planning, other key components are imbedded. Through the process of collaborative planning and from the influence of the principal or other administrators, the planning usually incorporates not just content, but reflects a particular learning theory. In Japan, that theory tends to lean toward a hands-on, constructionist approach. “School research themes include, for example, for students to “take initiative as learners,” “be active problem-solvers,” “be active problem-seekers” and “develop individuality” -- all issues central to Japan's current national educational debate.” (Lewis, p. 5) Lessons are also frequently recorded on video tape and shared within and among schools. Because teachers are always working together within the paradigm of Lesson Study, entire departments, schools, and really a nation, ends up teaching in a well-researched effective manner. Contrast that with the model in the United States where you have individual maverick teachers in every school who are doing exciting things working along side of others who teach the way they were taught and the Japanese system starts to look like a system that needs serious consideration from educational leaders in the US. Japanese teachers interviewed by Fernandez report that they can hardly conceive of doing their jobs without this process in place. Certainly a culture of public teaching and collaborative work on lessons must contribute to teachers not feeling the kind of isolation and “every man for himself” atmosphere that is frequently reflected in the feelings


American teachers. There has been a strong call for breaking the pervasive isolation that teachers have endured thus far, and we are seeing a slow but certain move in this direction (Little,1982). In mathematics, a subject that can effectively be compared nation to nation because of the universality of its truths and relevance, Japan is one of the highest scoring nations in the world on standardized, international tests designed to measure understanding. Collaborative planning, the process of lesson study, and teachers observing one another are characteristics of teaching in Japan that result in carefully planned, problem-centered approaches to learning mathematics. In a questionnaire conducted by TIMSS, the Third International Mathematics and Science Study, Japanese mathematics teachers were asked what was the “main thing” they wanted students to learn from their lessons. 73% of teachers responded that they wanted students to learn “to think about things in a new way, such as to see relationships between mathematical ideas” (Stigler and Hiebert, p. 90) In contrast, the most popular response from American math teachers on the same questionnaire had to do with the development of skills. Sixty-one percent of the American math teachers polled said “they wanted the students to be able to perform a procedure, solve a particular kind of problem” (Stigler and Hiebert p. 89). This contrast in what teachers want students to learn highlights a major difference in the way teachers in both countries view their roles and the value of their subject. While American teachers frequently feel like they have to “jazz up” material to make it interesting, apparently believing that learning procedures is boring, Japanese teachers see real value and interest in what they are teaching. The deep, concept oriented view that Japanese teachers share can be seen as the result careful investigation is meant by good teaching and what constitutes a good lesson. The collaborative work done by Japanese teachers has allowed them to see themselves as professionals who carefully craft lessons designed for student understanding in a deep way. In fact, Japanese teachers view themselves as not only contributing to the deep learning of their students, but as contributors to the the field of education in general. It is safe to say that few American teachers in any subject or grade level see making contributions to the field of effective teaching as lying within their domain. “Through the process of improving lessons and sharing with colleagues the knowledge they acquire, something remarkable happens to teachers: They begin viewing themselves as true professionals. They see themselves as contributing to the knowledge base that defines the profession. The following quote from a Japanese teacher in the book, The Teaching Gap, shows how the system of lesson study is so engrained in Japan: “Why do we do research lessons? I don’t think there are any laws. But if we didn’t do research lessons, we wouldn’t be teachers.” (Stigler and Hiebert, p. 127) There are many other cases where teacher collaboration and formative peer-observation have been documented to improve teaching and empower teachers to improve their practice. In her paper on a Teacher Development Programme (TDP) at an Australian university, Maureen Bell describes a cycle of planning lessons, peer observation, and feedback and reflection. ( Bell, p. 32) Teachers choose a colleague from the same


department as their peer observer. The teacher plans a lesson, is observed by the colleague, and receives feedback from the colleague, then works with an educational developer to refine the initial plan. From there, the cycle continues with a revised plan, and additional observation. This program closely resembles the method of doing action research. The idea of combining peer-observation with reflective practice provides a different type of opportunity for learning and progress.

Action Research Question: Inspired by a vision for a work environment where teachers are frequently working in collaborative ways, observing one another, critiquing one another, sharing information, planning lessons, and solving problems, I ask the following question: If I encourage teacher interaction through observation, conversation, mentoring, and planning activities, will the environment in the mathematics department at Mercersburg change to one where teachers view their work as public practice?

Cycle 1 Background:

Mercersburg Academy is a boarding and day school in south-central Pennsylvania. There are about 450 students in the school. The school is very traditional and cut from the classic boarding school cloth: Rigorous classes, extensive course offerings, impressive facilities, diverse student body from 27 states and 22 countries, required meals, evening study hall, faculty that live on campus, etc. It is a college preparatory school and many of its graduates go on to the most prestigious colleges and universities in the country. Admission is quite selective. Classes are small, about 12-16 students per class. For more facts on the school see the fact sheet. (See Appendix 1) I am in my second year teaching mathematics at Mercersburg Academy. I have noticed that, while there is a lively exchange of information and conversation among teachers in the department, teachers basically teach their classes in isolation. There is potential for peers to grow together as teachers by observing one another and helping each other to solve some of the classroom problems that all teachers face.

Overview: The idea to form a peer observation program came from a mathematics faculty meeting conducted in the summer of 2005. The chair of the department suggested that faculty try to observe one another teach a few times in that first marking period and try to make a habit of it throughout the year. She did not outline why she felt that would be an important thing for teachers to do, nor did she put in place a system to insure that it get done, but it inspired me to look into the value in what seemed to be a good idea. Throughout the month of September 2005, no one in the department, to my knowledge, observed a peer teach a class. 7

There are 13 faculty members who teach at least one mathematics course at the school. Teaching faculty at Mercersburg generally teach 4 sections in a 6 period day. The complex schedule used at the school dictates that classes generally meet 4 times a week. It is safe to say that teachers at Mercersburg have more time during the classroom day to observe peers than at your average public school. At the same time, teaching faculty at the school have a host of out of classroom duties that most public school teachers don’t have.

Cycle One Action Cycle one began in November 2005. In response to the lack of follow through on the summer observation initiative, I decided to take the following action: If I begin to observe classes of peer teachers will other teachers reciprocate and observe my classes and/or the classes of others? I decided to take this action and see what would happen in the spirit of supporting my overall research question. Extensive observation notes were taken for the purpose of discussing the classes later with the teacher. These notes would prove to be important in helping me see a next step. It is important to note that these observations were not conducted in the spirit of evaluation. This was made clear to the teacher being observed. I simply asked these teachers if it would be OK for me to observe their classes in support of my research. I mentioned in a department meeting that I was interested in the effect of teachers observing one another in formative, supportive ways and encouraged people to observe my classes and each others classes, providing me with some feedback for each class observed. Between November 15th and December 15th 2005 I observed all or part of 11 math classes taught by 3 different colleagues. Teacher 1 was observed teaching geometry 5 times, Teacher 2 was observed teaching geometry 5 times, and Teacher 3 was observed teaching Algebra 2 one time. I followed up these classes with discussions with the teachers about what I liked, what I thought was good teaching, and what ever the observed teacher wanted to discuss. These were conversations that intentionally focused on what I saw as the positive parts of the lesson. Unless a teacher asked for something more critical, I did not offer advice or criticism in any way. These were good, non-threatening, conversations, ones where teachers gladly offered up their thinking behind using particular teaching techniques and discussing frustrations with students who were a challenge to teach. The idea was observation for the purpose of my own growth and the growth of my colleagues. I always ended these conversations with an invitation to come into my classroom and observe me. These invitations were well received. It is interesting to note that on several occasions, students asked me why I was observing their class. I would usually answer with something like,� I heard that Ms. Jones was doing really good things in here and I wanted to see for myself and learn some new


teaching ideas.” On more than one occasion, the student replied with something like, “No, really why are you observing our class.”

Cycle 1 Analysis Classroom Observations While the content, teaching techniques, and even learning in the classrooms I observed lie outside of the direct scope of this study, there were some interesting similarities noted. I mention these observations because I was quite aware of looking for interesting “next step” possibilities for cycle 2 as I was observing these classes. Most interesting was the way different teachers used technology in the classroom. The geometry classroom is equipped with laptops for every student for the purpose of using The Geometer’s Sketchpad in class. One of the geometry teachers, a teacher who is brand new to Sketchpad, used it very infrequently. When he did use it, Sketchpad was used as a visual aid, replacing drawings that he would ordinarily make on the board. He utilized the dynamic nature of the sketches to illustrate properties that the students had already been exposed to in a different context. The other geometry teacher, one who had been using Sketchpad for five years, had students do sketches following a set of scaffolded questions and directions. The technology was in the hands of students, but the teacher was closely directing the use of the program. In these cases, this was the first time students had been exposed to the subject matter. Analysis of cycle one action The answer to my cycle one question, If I begin to observe classes of peer teachers will other teachers reciprocate and observe my classes and/or the classes of others? was a resounding “No”. Teachers did not begin to observe me or each other when I began to observe other teachers. This lack of action came despite urgings from the department chair and requests from me to get out and observe peers. To my knowledge, only a few minutes of one my classes was observed and there were no other peer to peer truly formative observations. This very short “observation” seemed to be motivated more by the fact that my classroom was right across the hall from the math office and we were doing an activity on the computers that caught the attention of one of the teachers who just popped in for a few minutes. My intention with this action was to gather observation data on the observations that others conducted, but since those things didn’t happen, I’m left with a different question, why not? Teachers seem willing to collaborate, but there seems to be a barrier at the classroom door. What is at the core of this barrier? Can this barrier be overcome? A survey which probed issues of collaboration was conducted. Ten statements having to do with teacher collaboration were presented and respondents were asked to choose


among the four choices; strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, and strongly disagree. Of the 13 members of the math department who teach at least one course, all teachers responded to the survey. Members of the math department responded positively toward the idea of peer collaboration, but stopped short of supporting the idea of viewing teaching as public practice. See survey results in Appendix 2.

Cycle 1 Evaluation Most revealing in this survey were the following results: When asked to respond to the statement: “An important part of being a teacher in the math department is collaborating with peers”, 100% responded with either “strongly agree” or “somewhat agree”, with 84.6% answering “Strongly agree”. When asked to respond to the statement: “Teaching in the math department is a private practice carried out between individual teachers and their respective students”, 38.5% responded with “somewhat agree”, while the rest disagreed. At first glance, these two responses seem contradictory. If collaboration in teaching is important than how could teaching be a private practice carried out between individual teaches and their respective students? If teachers see working together as an important part of their roles then doesn’t that mean that teaching is not just a private practice between individual teachers and their students? My suspicion upon analyzing these results is teachers will productively work together outside of the classroom, but what happens in the classroom, at least for a significant number of teachers, is between individual teachers and their respective students. To further analyze the reasons why teachers resist observing one another, a second survey was prepared and distributed. This survey was shorter and aimed more directly at the idea of formative peer observation. Results point to reasons why teachers resist observing one another and even offer ideas as to how a peer observation program might be instituted. 9 of 13 teachers responded. See Appendix 2 for complete results. In response to the statement: “If you have not observed a math department peer for formative purposes, why not? From the list of potential reasons, select as many as you would like that describe the reasons why you have not observed peers for formative purposes.”, 75% cited “Scheduling/time issues” while only 25% cited “Peer collaboration ends at the classroom door. I collaborate with peers by planning together, but observing is too intrusive”. No one selected “Observing and being observed is uncomfortable” or “Observation falls outside of my job description”.


In response to the statement: “Research suggests that when teachers observe one another, the result is frequently better teaching and deeper student learning. What steps could be taken to get teachers to observe one another on a more regular basis in the math department?”, 60% of respondents suggested that a formal system, an observation schedule of some sort, needed to be developed to get well-intentioned teachers to observe one another while 40% mentioned additional time or release time as necessary ingredients to get teachers to observe each other.

Cycle 1 Reflection Historically, teaching has been a practice that happens behind a closed classroom door, between teachers and students. "Teaching is still largely a solo act, observed, appreciated, and evaluated primarily by students. There is little contact among colleagues, classroom doors are seldom opened to each other, and teachers who are members of the same staff in the same school, even in the same grade or discipline, maintain a collusive and almost deliberate ignorance of the work of their peers.” (Wallace, p.82, 83) While teachers may be willing to collaborate on a host of things outside of the classroom, like planning, discussing strategies, etc. it seems that the sharing ends at the edge of the classroom door. By personally breaking through that barrier, I was anticipating that others would do the same, but it seems like it will take greater organization, more motivation, and greater trust for teachers to enter the classroom of colleagues for the purpose of formative peer observation. The data suggests that formative peer observation could be facilitated by creating a simple scheduling system. In order to observe a class right now, your options are 1)Barge in or 2)Ask a teacher if you can sit in on his/her class. My sense is that option 1 is unacceptable to most and option 2 is uncomfortable for most. The idea of putting up a calendar and having teachers sign up for classroom observations might facilitate this and make it easier for teachers to get into each other’s classes. While this may work, it doesn’t quite fulfill my vision of teaching as public practice. I don’t want teachers to feel obligate to observe each other because there is a schedule on the wall. I want them to want to observe one another because of the mutual benefits that may result. At the same time, while it is not reflected in the data, I sense that there are teachers who don’t want to be observed because of fear or discomfort. As it was for the students who didn’t believe I was observing for formative purposes, for most teachers, observation equals evaluation. It may be viewed as personally and professionally risky by some to be observed. This is a matter of trust that must be considered as well. Little (1982) found that four practices characterized schools with relatively high achievement and extensive staff development. In those schools, teachers talked about their teaching, were observed and critiqued, designed and planned teaching materials together, and taught each other. With these ideas in mind, my journey continues.


Cycle 2 Cycle 2 Question: If I meet weekly with Jim as his mentor on matters of technology and teaching, how will that influence Jim and others in the math department in terms of collaboration and public practice? Background: I first talked with my mentee, Jim, about mentoring in a more intensive way in January 2005. I felt awkward asking him to focus more intentionally on the mentoring relationship, because, in many ways, we already had what most would consider to be a basic mentor/mentee relationship. This was the first time in my life that I entered into a mentoring relationship with someone else in way deeper than helping with the particulars of school policy, teacher pointers, etc. Jim was happy to help me with my graduate work, but I’m not sure he was ready to really be mentored in the most pure sense of the word. I asked him about things that he wanted to work on and talked about things that I thought I could help him with. This was surprisingly easy. He suggested that he would like to incorporate The Geometer’s Sketchpad, a dynamic geometry software program, more fully into his classroom teaching. He knew that I know Sketchpad well. I had observed him teach geometry several times over the past few months and agreed that this would help him to become a more effective and dynamic teacher. My only question was whether a relationship built under such a limited set of goals would constitute a true mentoring relationship. I figured it was a good place to start and we would see where this initial relationship would take us. In Cycle 1, I examined the question of whether teachers in my department would voluntarily observe one another if I began observing my colleagues. The answer was in fact, no. In reflecting on why colleagues did not cross the magic barrier that is the classroom door, a thought that came to mind was that perhaps I really needed to focus on developing a sense of teaching as public practice one teacher at a time. Trust was identified as a possible barrier. My former approach was somewhat anonymous and “musketshot” hoping to influence a group instead of influence individuals. Can working closely with one teacher have an impact on how all teachers in our group work together? At this point the opportunity for me was clear. If I could begin working closely with Jim, helping him to solve the personal, pedagogical, and technological issues in his teaching life, perhaps this could be the start of more public practice, in terms of Jim’s growth and the whole department working more closely together on teaching issues.


Cycle 2 Action Overview: My action was to organize and facilitate weekly meetings with Jim. These would take place in the mathematics office unless a reason came up, along the lines of privacy or otherwise, that would require us to move to an open classroom. The mathematics office at my school is a teacher’s lounge designed for about 12 people to do their daily work. It is across the hall from the math classrooms. Even though technically students are not supposed to be in the office, there are frequently students there working with teachers, making up tests, etc. I intentionally wanted to have our meetings in this semi-public forum. My purpose here was to work with Jim on one level, but the deeper purpose was to see if working together with him would lead to an increase in public practice in general. For the purposes of this research, we will consider public practice to be any form of teachers working together for the purpose of better teaching, curriculum, mathematics learning, or observation. Any activity done together by teachers that would contribute to improving the quality of instruction for students is my definition of public practice. The ultimate form of public practice in teaching for me would be free and frequent peer observation, but collaboration in other ways including curriculum development, lesson planning, assessment planning, working on common mathematics problem, etc. also constitute public practice for the purposes of this research.

Counting Conversations Closely observing these acts of collaboration proved to be too difficult to measure in an unobtrusive way. However, a way to measure the increase or decrease of public practice behaviors can be found by making the not too risky assumption that the more conversation that one is involved in concerning teaching and teacher collaboration, the more it is happening. From February 2nd, 2005 to March 4, 2005, on work days, I decided to count the number of daily conversations I was involved with among math teachers having to do with teaching or mathematics. My assumption is that there is a direct relationship between the number of conversations that I am involved with and the amount of public practice happening in the math office.

Cycle 2 Analysis The following chart shows the number of qualifying conversations per day that I was either directly involved with or peripherally involved with. The regression line shows the trend in the number of conversations per day to be increasing at a rate of about 1 conversation every 5 days.


Qualifying Conversations

Conversations Feb 2nd to March 4th 14 12 10 8



Linear (Series1)

4 2 0 0







While this increase in conversations was encouraging, its connection to my work with Jim was spurious at best. After two weeks of counting conversations I decided that a new piece of data was necessary to determine the relationship between the semi-public mentoring process and the number of conversations that I was recording. I decided to count a new phenomenon that I was noticing that I thought was evidence of the influence of my mentoring work with Jim. I call this phenomenon “piggy-backing�. I noticed that while Jim and I were discussing a student, a thread of curriculum, or teaching ideas in general, others on the periphery would frequently join the conversation, sometimes just adding a comment or opinion, sometimes becoming full participants in the conversation. This seemed to be happening more and more often, an observation that implied to me that our mentoring relationship was having an influence on the rest of the department. I decided to count piggy-backing. To define more carefully, for each instance of joining a qualifying conversation (i.e. a Sketchpad/teaching/mathematics conversation) that Jim and I were having, whether this conversation was part of a scheduled mentoring meeting or not, I counted it. If two people joined in the conversation I counted both. I did not count piggy backing on conversations unless the conversation originated with me and Jim. I counted instances of piggy-backing from February 14th, 2005 to March 4th, 2005, for a total of 15 work days. Below is a find a chart with a linear regression line, representing this phenomenon.


Instances of piggy-backing

Counting "Piggy-Backing" February 14th-March 4th 6 4



Linear (Series1)

0 0






The counting of this piece of data showed the discussions between Jim and me were becoming more interesting and inviting to our peers over this short period of time. I also noticed that there were frequent “piggy-backers”, chief among them, the other two teachers of geometry in our department. This certainly seems reasonable given that our conversations frequently centered on Sketchpad, teaching geometry, and the geometry curriculum. Interestingly, the rate of increase of piggy-backing was almost identical to the rate of increase of conversation over the full period, both increasing by approximately 1 every 5 days.

Cycle 2 Evaluation: In Improving Teacher Practice: Can Policy and Peer Mentoring Help Teachers Do Better? by James Spillane, a small group of elementary school teachers who were able to change their practice in mathematics teaching to align with reform initiatives is studied. In Spillane’s study most teachers who claimed to change their practice did not indeed truly change. He was interested in what was special about the small group that managed to truly teach in a way that matched the reform standards. He concluded that the primary factor associated with these innovative teachers was what he calls their broad “zones of enactment” “The zone of enactment is the space in which teachers apprehend reform and work out its implications for their practice. Some teachers have a very narrow zone of enactment limited to their own individual classrooms and their personal experience and training. Others have zones that include professional colleagues, experts, professional organizations, and others.” (Spillmane, 2001) He concludes that teachers with a broad zone of enactment are more effective in implementing real changes in teaching.


Included in the idea of “zone of enactment” is the power of collaboration and collegial conversation. In discussing the role of peer conversation in teacher change Spillmane writes “These formal and informal discussions also created a powerful incentive for teachers to revise their practice. Teachers developed a sense of obligation to improve practice in specific ways as a result of ongoing conversations with colleagues. In addition, their classrooms became less private. Peer pressure motivated teachers to reform their practice. Mandy . . . [was] just dragging us along. She dragged Kathy and got her involved, and Kathy dragged Charlene, and now we’re all dragging others. I guess because, you know, it was a teacher-initiated kind of thing and teachers are willing to get busy and get involved in it. (Spillmane, 2001)

While Cycle 2 data was gathered for a relatively short period of time, the supposition that mentoring in a semi-public arena can impact the local environment seems to have merit. As the study progressed, it was clear that many of the daily conversations that I was involved with at school relating to teaching could be traced back, either directly or indirectly to a math office conversation with Jim. While I didn’t track this presumably hard to measure piece, my hunch from being in the middle of this is that Jim and I were driving the generation of conversation in the department, conversation about teaching and mathematics.

Cycle 2 Reflection: The traditional American classroom can be an isolating experience for teachers. In my own personal experience in teaching at the high school level I know that I have been thrown to the wolves to a large degree and asked to figure out classroom issues on my own. While administrators in my career have always talked the talk of teamwork, departmental support, etc., my experience is that asking for help in your classroom is view as a sign of weakness or incompetence, observation equals evaluation by superiors, working together to solve pedagogical problems has been the exception rather than the rule. I have worked with several career math teacher who have spent more than 30 years in the classroom who have retired without the real opportunity to pass on what they have learned. The spirit of collaboration, a “we are all in this together” attitude is what has motivated my action research project and it is what drove my action in cycle 2. What is the best, most natural way to get teachers to move beyond their mostly isolated classroom experiences and get them to work together, sharing information, and solving common problems. My work indicates that conversations about teaching among teachers is significant and contagious. Its significance lies in the fact that it is the first step in building an environment of trust. My cycle one research indicated that among the many reasons teachers don’t observe one another is the feeling of awkwardness, intrusiveness, and fear


associated with crossing the border into the classroom of a colleague. A possible method for breaking down these obstructive elements is to group teachers in mentoring relationships, true mentoring relationships that reach beyond the helper role. When teachers talk about teaching they begin to solve problems together. Getting the conversation started involves some mentoring skill, shared workspace, and time.

Cycle 3 Cycle 3 Question If I organize a lecture series featuring math teaching colleagues speaking on topics of mathematical interest will this impact the presenters and those in attendance in terms of how they view themselves, their work, and their roles in the Mercersburg community?

Background Cycles 1 and 2 of my action research project have centered on promoting teaching as public practice. Cycle 1 focused on my observation of teaching colleagues for the purpose of trying to get others to observe one another. Cycle 2 concentrated on a mentoring relationship and its impact on others in the department. Cycle 3 aims to approach the idea of teaching as public practice from a different perspective. In June of 2004 I won a teaching award at my school that entitled me to $500 that had to be spent on the school in some way. One month later when I started graduate school at Pepperdine, it became clear to me that I should spend this money in a way that not only improves the school, but also supports my action research project. After speaking with colleagues about how best to spend the award money I decided to arrange a series of lectures given by colleagues. It is customary at my school for an honorarium like this to be spent on a speaker. I decided it would be a good opportunity to get to know more about the teachers currently at the school and especially to get teachers working together and possibly even teaching in the presence of colleagues.

Cycle 3 Action My action was to organize the event and work with the speakers on their presentations. We worked together, one-on-one and as a group of 4, to craft a vision of what these talks would be all about. We decided to try to aim for talks that would appeal to a broad range of expertise, knowing that both students and faculty would likely attend. We agreed to keep presentations to about 1 hour in length. I also took care of details like promoting the events, reserving the room, arranging furniture, taking care of beverages and snacks, etc.


Three teaching colleagues agreed to speak on topics connected to mathematics as part of the project. One teacher presented a talk on her PhD work having to do with discovering cracks in titanium airplane parts before they become a danger to passengers. Another presented a paper from his undergraduate years on statistics in major league baseball. The last presenter spoke about Knight Tours, a topic in discrete mathematics. For each of these high school mathematics teachers, these were areas of high interest and areas where they had invested a lot of time and intellectual energy. Each of them has a high degree of expertise in these areas, but these are not subject areas that they are asked to teach in the high school curriculum. I wanted the talks to be important to the speakers on a more personal level than the daily math curriculum that they teach. The talks took place after dinner in the a room adjacent to the Ford Dining Hall at Mercersburg Academy on May 17th, May 19th, and May 26th. The talks were well attended, mostly by students, but there were a handful of faculty members at each presentation.

Analysis Those who presented lectures and those who were in attendance were surveyed. There were three presenters and each presenter participated in answering open-ended survey questions. For complete presenter survey questions see appendix 3.

The Presenters I was most interested in the feelings of those who presented lectures. Was the experience a positive one? What did they learn from doing their presentations? Did they feel like collaboration with peers was an important part of the process? A summary of data collected from the presenters is collected below. Feedback from colleagues Each of the 3 presenters expressed that they received general, vague, but positive feedback from teaching colleagues who attended. The presenters interpreted questions from fellow faculty to indicate high interest. They gained an appreciation for “depth of research” and “I liked your PowerPoint” were some of the comments. Presenters were clearly pleased by the attendance of some of their peers and appreciated the support and positive feedback. Feedback from students Again, presenters felt like they received positive feedback from students. Student questions during the presentation and in class the next day were taken by presenters as evidence of a positive learning experience. “Students liked it” said one of the presenters. Preparation time


Each of the presenters reported that they spent much more time preparing for their presentation than a regular class, even though the length of the presentations themselves was similar to the length of a typical class. When asked why, one presenter exclaimed that he “wanted to make a good impression”. Another said he wanted “students who were voluntarily attending to have a good experience”. I sensed that the presenters spent so much time preparing because the material and its presentation were very much a reflection of themselves. What did presenters learn in doing their presentation? This question was interpreted in different ways by the presenters. Some took it to mean, “What did they learn about mathematics or their subject in preparing for the talk?” In these cases the answer was not much. The intent of the question was to determine what these presenters learned in a broader context. One speaker mentioned how she “remembered how much she likes research” and that speaking about her research was “exciting”. Another revealed that the presentation “reinforced his belief that math is important to students” and that “students want to learn new things”. These last two comments highlight the way in which this teacher felt renewed in his work by participating in the process of sharing something that is important to him. Do you feel like your role in the community changed? Do you feel like students see you differently as a result of your presentation? Presenters responded by saying their role in the community was basically unchanged, but they felt like fellow faculty and students respected them and their work more as a result of their talks. “As the talk went on I could sense their view of me changing” said one. Some students now “think I’m more than just a math teacher” said another. Was your presentation a growth experience? “I always think you grow when you share your passion with others” wrote one of the presenters. “I learned I can speak to (teach) my colleagues as well”. Being asked to present was a vote of confidence for one of the presenters who expressed his appreciation, saying he was “pleased colleagues had faith in him”. Do you see potential for a future program of this type at the school? All responses to this question were affirmative. “It’s rejuvenating for a teacher to speak about something important to them”. “It lets you see a personal side to colleagues.” “Students could do presentations as well.”


The Students Students who attended the second and third presentations were surveyed. (I found out after the fact that many of the first set of attendees were required to go by their teacher, a fact that led me to leave them out of the survey process.) In all, the survey was sent to 25 students and 10 responded for a response rate of 40%. For a complete view of the student survey questions a results see Appendix 3. Interest/Appropriateness 90% of respondents report that they found the presentation either interesting or very interesting. 70% reported that the degree of complexity was appropriate. On a question where multiple responses were encouraged, 90% reported that they attended because they have a “strong interest in mathematics”. 70% reported that they attended because they “wanted to support their teacher”. Perception of the presenter 80% reported that their “perception of the presenters level of expertise” increased either substantially or slightly as a result of attending. 80% reported that they have “much more respect” or “more respect” for the presenter as a result of their attendance. 60% feel like their relationship with the presenter improved as a result of attendance. Out of the mouths of babes… Some notable comments from students on open ended questions included the following: What did you enjoy? “I enjoyed learning about statistics and also about discrete math. This will influence what I would like to take later in my life” “I was challenged intellectually to think about complex questions” “I mostly enjoyed the discovery of the fact that the yearning to learn and the curiosity and zeal in life still exists in some teachers!”

Do you think there is future potential for a program like this? “Yes, because people came and it would be interesting...just don’t make it required or else it would disengage the audience because they wouldn’t feel like they were there because they were interested but because they were forced.” “Yeah, why not? However, the program shouldn't be too coercive; as such as starting with a biweekly or a monthly in-house lecture series; it would be ideal to have only volunteers.”


“Sure, it'd be cool for the school to have something like this once a week or once a month. It'd bring the people that much closer together.”

Would you like to add anything else? “I believe all three of the presentations were focused on math and science. It would be cool if other fields of study were included as well.” “Always keep the topic interesting. Baseball was really good. Sports and other entertainment things would do really well.” “I admire your alacrity in both life and the pursuit of knowledge. It seems many people forget and ignore their innate curiosity and urge to learn; your lecture outside class makes me to look back at myself with a third person's view again!”

Cycle 3 Evaluation My Cycle One research made it clear that the mathematics department was not ready to interact in the kind of public way that I envision. The vision of teachers in and out of each other’s classrooms followed by constructive critiques, high-level conversations about pedagogy, and serious self-examination and reflection don’t just happen overnight. In Cycle Two I was able to gain some perspective on how working closely with one member of the department has an impact on everyone. In Cycle Three, I feel like I have found a way to prime the public practice pump. Teachers revealing something of personal and intellectual importance have the power to unlock hidden potential and rejuvenate interests in learning and teaching. That data tells a story of teachers who were able to grow as individuals and professionals by sharing an intellectual story that was ultimately about them. The fact that these were well attended and well received by students was icing on the cake for these teachers who had already grown just from the process of reflecting on the ideas that are important to them. There are additional questions that I wished I had asked the presenters. I want to know if they feel more willing now to observe and be observed by colleagues. My sense is that when we share what’s important to us, we are more open and willing to learn from others as well. It is notable that each of the three presenters attended the talk of the others. In this question, I hope to come full circle, returning to the idea of establishing a true peer observation program at the school that is driven not by coercion or schedule, but by professional interest, personal learning, and improved pedagogy. I am somewhat disappointed by the poor 40% response rate among students, but it should be mentioned that many of the attendees went on a full week, off-campus trip on the day the survey went out. However, I was delighted, but not surprised, by the comments of those that did respond. After a long school year it is easy to forget how students really want to learn and how they care so much about their teachers. In sharing the student responses with the presenters I received some feedback worth sharing. One of the presenter said, “It is so rewarding to hear that there are students who are genuinely interested in learning such challenging ideas, To be appreciated by students in this way is a great feeling that fuels my zest for teaching.” 21

Cycle 3 Reflections Melting down everything that fell out of my Cycle 3 action is difficult. The chain of causality is unclear. Why do teachers report feeling the way the do? Why do students report such eye popping, mature reflections of their experience as attendees? It seems to me that the voluntary nature of this project holds the secrets of many of its successes. The presenting teachers feel proud of their work because it is their passion and they were able to share it with others who were interested. The students are appreciative of a truly free learning experience, a chance to attend or not attend, learn for the sake of learning, with no tests, papers, or assessments hanging over their heads. For some students, it was a taste of some of the great elements of college life that they anticipate with great expectations. Whatever the reasons, what is clear from Cycle 3 is that given the right opportunity, teachers will work together in exciting ways and teachers and students enjoy the opportunity to share ideas. Despite stereotypes to the contrary, they even enjoy sharing mathematical ideas with one another. There is a feeling that teachers get when they know their ideas are important and they know they are really teaching. It is the best feeling for a teacher and once they really experience it, forgetting that students innately want to learn can become difficulty. For students, learning new ideas in a forum where expertise is present and no strings are attached is exciting and free. They feel respected as learners. Seated in the elegant Jane Ford Lounge, the room where these talks took place, students were sipping coffee, under a grand chandelier, participating in a discourse that is very different from their daily classroom experience. They were treated like equals, respected for their attendance, their interest, and their ideas. Out of shared experiences, relationships are formed and sometimes relationships are mended. One of the presenters was my department chair. Our relationship before this event was cold. When she told me earlier in the school year that she felt threatened by me as a teacher and member of the department, I knew I had to do something to show her that my interests lie in working together, supporting one another, and advancing my own personal teaching and the teaching of the department. By asking her to participate in this project as a speaker, I had the opportunity to work closely with her, sharing ideas, setting a direction. This led to better discussions about teaching and my role in the department. In many ways, I believe that organizing Cycle 3 of my action research changed the way she looks at me. I don’t think she feels threatened by me and I feel like she has greater respect for my work. In getting to watch her presentation on her PhD dissertation, I too gained respect for her and the work that she did prior to joining the department. While the intent of the project had nothing to do with our personal relationship, the fact that our relationship benefited as a result has been a most welcome by-product.


Wrapping things up:

Final Action Research Reflection

Final Reflection The "doing" of my action research project has shed much light on the inner workings of my work environment and highlighted my role in the department and how I can be an agent for change. In Cycle One I asked the question, "If I observe others in the department teaching classes, will they in turn begin to observe me and others?" The answer to the question was a resounding, "no". While possible solutions to the immediate issue, getting teachers to observe one another, were apparent, none of them addressed the broader issue, i.e. getting teachers to view their work as public practice, rather than ostensibly private practice. Setting up an observation schedule, working to mandate peer observation, etc. carried with them a certain coerciveness that I thought was important to avoid. I want teachers to observe one another because it is interesting, helpful to both observer and observed. Forcing this behavior would have put a band-aid on the issue of public practice. I'm more interested in real, deep, long term change in the way teachers view their work. This led to cycle two, perhaps the most interesting of my cycles of action research. Working as a mentor with another member of my department, I decided to try to measure how this working relationship was not only affecting him, but others in the department as well. Can a mentoring relationship, carried out in a semi-public environment effect everyone there by sparking a fire of collaboration? My first cycle of action research took a "if you build it, they will come approach". This failed for a number of reasons. I think the key reason that it failed is that trust was not built among colleagues in a way sufficient to make them feel comfortable crossing the barrier of public practice that is the classroom door of a colleague. In working with my mentee on matters of technology and teaching, I was attempting to also build that trust, and model it for everyone else to see. Can working with one person at a time effective everyone? I think so. I learned in this cycle, that while an environment of frequent peer observation is still somewhere off in the future, a good mentoring relationship really can change the enviroment in which it is contained. My limited data showed clear momentum toward increased levels of pedagogical conversation and collaboration. In this way, it is clear that change in teaching must not take a "musketshot" approach. Instead individual relationships must be cultivated, building trust to a point where participants in that relationship are ready to step beyond themselves in conducting their work. In Cycle 3 I took a different approach. In setting up a series of lectures, presented by mathematics colleagues, I set out to measure whether or not the process of doing these talks would result in a growth experience, ostenibly priming the public practice pump. I selected three colleagues who I knew had interesting backgrounds in mathematics and science. These three teachers were asked to speak about a topic from that background that was of high interest to them. I organized these events, creating promotional materials,


encourage people to attend, etc. These talks took place after dinner on weeknights at times when students and fellow faculty would be available to attend. The results were truly intriguing. The teachers did a great job, pouring amazing effort and time into their presentations. Everyone was relieved when students turned up in good numbers, around 20 for each talk. Feedback from everyone involved indicated the event was a success on a number of fronts. The parts that I enjoyed the most about these talks were the way teachers got excited about their work, the way students interacted in a mature, interested manner, and especially the way in which this process revealed the surprise effect of changing my relationship with my department head for the better. "Passion", "renewal", "excitement" were some of the words used by the presenters to describe their experience. They felt like they had a lot on the line, speaking about a topic of great interest to them. Would anyone show up? Would they gain an appreciation for what is so important to me? The personal nature of these questions drove the work that the presenters did in preparing for this event. All of them emerged from the experience feeling that they grew. The fact that I worked collaboratively with each of them helped me to build the kind of trust that I identified back in cycle 1 that should be able to lead to the kind of public practice environment that I envision. The real power of Cycle 3 came in the revelation that by working collaboratively with colleagues, relationships can be formed and bettered. The example of what happened with my department chair, with whom I have struggled to form a strong personal and professional relationship, is the best result of Cycle 3 for me personally. Her participation in this lecture series gave her an opportunity to speak about her PhD thesis, an area of great pride and high interest. While working together with her on the nuts and bolts of this project, I could feel her opinion of me changing into one of mutual respect. The fact that her presentation was well attended and well received, that my promotional efforts were so complimentary, really went a long way toward repairing our relationship. Now that all is said and done, my action research project probably does not offer much to others who read it, but the process of doing it and living it has changed the way I view my work and my place in the my work environment. The data is short term, the conditions would be difficult to repeat, and the techniques of study could definitely be improved upon. However, what did become clear is that I can be a leader, a creative problem solver in my environment without being an administrator or even having the title that says I'm in charge. I think the work that I did this year is important and I believe that it studies and addresses a very important element of education. I learned that the process of doing action research itself is empowering. Perhaps the best way to get move teachers in the direction of conducting their work in more meaningful ways is for them to engage in the process of action research for it's own sake. It definitely has highlighted for me that what I do is important and that the way I do my job and the way I interact my with my students and peers can make a great difference to those students, colleagues, and me.


References: Bell , Maureen (2001) Supported reflective practice: a programme of peer observation and feedback for academic teaching development, The International Journal for Academic Development¸6.1. 30-39 Cox, Milton (1999) Peer Consultation and Faculty Learning Communities. New Directions in Teaching and Learning, Fall, no. 79, 39-49. DeZure, Deborah (1993) Opening the Classroom Door. Academe, Sep/Oct, 79, no.5 2728. Fernandez, Clea (2002) LEARNING FROM JAPANESE APPROACHES TO PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT. Journalof Teacher Education, Nov/Dec, Vol. 53, No. 5, 393-405 Keig, Larry and Wagonner, Michael D. (2004) Collaborative Peer Review: The Role of Faculty in Improving College Teaching. 10/31/2004 , Lam, Shui-fong and others (2002) Transforming School Culture: Can True Collaboration Be Initiated? Educational Research, Summer, v44, n2, 181-195. Lewis, C. & Tsuchida, I. (1998). A Lesson is Like a Swiftly Flowing River: Research lessons and the improvement of Japanese education. American Educator, Winter, 14-17 & 50-52. Lewis, Catherine (2000) Lesson Study: The Core of Japanese Professional Development. American Educational Research Association Meetings , New Orleans April 28, 2000 Session 47.09 Little, J.W. (1982). Norms of collegiality and experimentation: workplace conditions of school success. American Educational Research Journal, 19, 3, 325–40. MacKinnon, Majorie, M. (2001) Using observational feedback to promote academic development. The International Journal for Academic Development¸6.1. 21-28 Millis, Barbara J. and Kaplan, Barbara B. (1995) Enhancing Teaching Through Peer Classroom Observations. Improving College Teaching, 137-149. Piccinin, Sergio (2003) How Individual Consultation Affects Teaching, Using Consultants to Improve Teaching, EBSCO Publishing, pp. 71-83.


Rauch, Kristin and Whittaker, Catherine R. (1999) Observation and Feedback During Student Teaching: Leaning from Peers. Action in Teacher Education, Fall, v21 n3 67-78 Richardson, Matthew O. (2000) Peer Observation, Learning from one another. Thought & Action, v16 n1 p9-20 Sum 2000 Stepanek, Jennifer (2001) A New View of Professional Development. Northwest Teacher, Spring , v2, no2. 2-5. Stigler, James W. and Hiebert, James (1999) The Teaching Gap, The Free Press, NY , NY . Swafford, Jeanne (1998) Teachers Supporting Teachers Through Peer Coaching. Support For Learning, Vol. 13, No. 2, 54-58. Wallace, J. (1998). Collegiality and teachers’ work in the context of peer supervision. Elementary School Journal , 99, 1, 81–98. Weeks, Denise Jarrett (2001) Creating Happy Memories. Northwest Teacher, Spring, v2, no2. 6-11.


Appendix 1 Mercersburg Fact Sheet Mercersburg Charter


School Founded


Student Body

443 Students on campus: 227 Boys, 216 girls; 51% boys, 49% girls; 83 9th graders; 108 10th graders; 123 11th graders; 129 12th graders; 5 Students are participating in School Year Abroad

Student Representation

27 States, including the District of Columbia; 22 Countries


32 AP and Honors courses offered (20042005); SAT (25%-75%): V 545-665; M 570-685 (2004 graduates); 17 AP courses were offered and 18 AP exams were given (2003-2004); 81% of 2004 grads earned a score of 3 or higher, 51% earned a 4 or 5

Average Class Size

12 Students (range 1-18)

Student/Faculty Ratio



94 Faculty, typically, 70% with advanced degrees


$34,700 Boarding, $26,500 Day (20052006)

Financial Aid

42% of the student body receives aid; Total financial aid budget of $3.56 million


14 Men's sports, 14 Women's sports, 1 Coed (golf)


Major play in the fall, major musical in the winter and student-directed one-act plays; Shakespeare scenes and a senior production in the spring

School Computers

Over 400 school computers for student and faculty use

Lenfest Library

55,000 Volumes

Special Programs

Summer Programs; School Year Abroad (France, Spain, Italy, China); English Speaking Union (Britain)

Health Center

Registered nurse is on duty 24 hours; Physician available on campus 3 times a week


Mercersburg Alumni

48 Olympians, 9 Gold medalists; 7 Rhodes Scholars, 3 Fulbright Scholars, 1 Nobel Prize winner; 2 Academy Award winners, 1 Golden Globe winner

Appendix 2 Cycle 1 Survey Results Survey 1




Cycle 1, Survey 2


Appendix 3 Cycle 3 Presenters Survey 1) What do you feel went well in your lecture? 1. The lecture was interactive with both students and teachers. Many people asked questions and I feel that was an important aspect to the lecture. My goal was not to give the audience a complete understanding of my topic, but to introduce them to an interesting area and peak their curiousity. I think I accomplished this goal. 2. I believe that I had a captive audience. Lots of students showed up. The lecture ended shy of an hour, which was a concern before starting. The powerpoint looked pretty good on the projector. I didn't forget anything I wanted to talk about. 3. I thought that my lecture went fairly smoothly. The audience seemed interest in the topic, and while it was not incredibly well attended there was a mixture of students, it was not only students who were very strong in math.

2) What kind of feedback did you get from colleagues regarding your lecture? 1. Most colleagues had no idea what my research involved, so this was informative for them. They seemed to appreciate the level of research presented and learned something about a new topic. 2. Feedback was generally positive, although I didn't get too much feedback from colleauges with the exception of saying the powerpoint show was good. 3. The people seemed to enjoy the lecture. There was some discussion of it afterwards.

3) What kind of feedback did you get from colleagues regarding your lecture? 1. Most colleagues had no idea what my research involved, so this was informative for them. They seemed to appreciate the level of research presented and learned something about a new topic. 2. Feedback was generally positive, although I didn't get too much feedback from colleauges with the exception of saying the powerpoint show was good. 3. The people seemed to enjoy the lecture. There was some discussion of it afterwards.

4) About how much time would you estimate you put into preparation for your lecture? Is this more or less time then you typically spend on preparing for a class? 1. Four hours - more time than I spend for a single class period. 2. 25 hours (way more time, I had to make the powerpoint and do some re-learning) 3. I would guess I put close to 20 hours into the talk, which is considerable more then the amount of time I spend for a typical class.


5) My suspicion is that you spent more time preparing for this talk than you normally would spend preparing for a class. If this is so, explore reasons why you did so, being that the lecture lasted a similar length of time to a class period and the number of attendees was not significantly different than a classroom. 1. My research was written in terms that assumed a general understanding of aerospace and materials. I didn't want to lose people or bore them, so I spent a lot of time on the language. I tried to make key slides understandable for those with no engineering experience. I also put in some cool pictures which required editing. 2. First of all, the material was more dense and complicated than the amount of material covered in a typical class. Furthermore, I hadn't revisited the project in 3 years, and I had forgotten many of the nuances. However, I also took more time to prepare because I'd have my students and colleagues there, and I wanted to make a good impression. I had even more drive to make a good presentation after attending the one before mine. 3. Part of the reason is that i was trying to fit about a month of class information into an hour time slot. I was not familiar with powerpoint before the lecture, so it took some time to familarilize myself with the program. The main impetus for spending so much time on the lecture, is that I knew that people were attending voluntarily, and I wanted them to have a good experience.

6) What did you learn from the experience of presenting your lecture? 1. I remembered how much I really like research - it is exciting to talk about it. I have presented this work so much in the past that I didn't really learn that much new from it. I did discover ways to simplify it. 2. Honestly, I didn't learn anything new, except that I tried to make two distinct groups of people happy (students and faculty), which was unusual. 3. I learned how to use powerpoint. The lecture also helped to reinforce my idea that there is a general interest in mathematics, and that the students are interested in learning new things.

7) Do you feel like your role in the Mercersburg community changed at all due to your participation in this lecture series? Do you think that faculty or students view you differently? Do you view yourself or your role at the school differently? Explain. 1. I don't think my role in the school changed much and I don't view my role any differently. However, I always think that people view me differently when I talk about my research. It was one of the most challenging things that I did in my life, and I think that people respect that work. Being a woman in engineering, I am used to being underestimated. When I show people what I did or talk about what I did, I can sense their view of me changing. But, like I said, after 15 years in the engineering field, that is a very typical reaction for me to experience and I am used to it - it is not solely a Mercersburg reaction. 2. I don't feel as if my role in the community has changed. I think that faculty view me the same way, however, I think that it's likely that some students have taken away a different interpretation of me than simply the math teacher. They have seen that I really did go to college and I really did do stuff that applies to the real world. I view myself no differently after the talk. 3. it has made me think that it is very important to find ways to get the students to learn about math.


8) Clearly each of your talks were beneficial to the Mercersburg community. Do you think that doing your presentation was beneficial to your own growth as a teaching professional as well? Why or why not? 1. I loved the chance to spend time with my work again. I don't get the chance to do research anymore, and I loved being able to revisit that part of my life and share it with others. I always think that you grow when you share your passion with others. 2. Absoultely. I think that I had a different audience than usual, and I learned that I can speak to my colleagues as well. But most importantly, I am pleased that my colleagues wanted me to participate in the series and that they had faith in me to do a good job. Doing the presentation has given me more confidence to speak in front of any group in the Mercersburg community.

9) Do you see potential for a weekly in-house lecture series at Mercersburg fulfilling the dual purpose of providing educational enrichment for the community and promoting professional growth for teachers? Why or why not? 1. Yes, I think it is rejuvinating for a teacher to talk about something important to them. For me, I shared my 6 years of my life. I lived my work, am very connected to it, and it was a blast to talk about it again. I do not have the opportunity to do that in my day-to-day. I really enjoyed hearing other people's talks as well. It lets you see a personal side of your colleague. 2. Definitely. I think it would be a great idea. First of all, teachers would be able to show students their varied research. Also, teachers who have been in the workplace (other than teaching) could provide insights into different careers. Of course, I also think that teachers can benefit from opening up their hobbies and projects to students and colleagues. 3. i think that this would be wonderful, the idea of students giving these lectures would be interesting also

10) Would you like to add anything else about your lecture experience that may be helpful to me as a researcher? 1. I enjoyed the experience very much and would recommend the continuation of the series. 2. I think it's all been covered. 3. The students in Mercersburg have a general interest in learning, and would probably attend these things fairly regularly.


Cycle 3 Student Survey



7) What did you enjoy most about the presentation you attended? 1. I have recently found that I am very fascinated with topics like perfect numbers, number squares, complimentary numbers (I think that is the correct name), and many similar topics. The study of the knight's movement fit within this new interest. 2. i enjoyed learning about statistics and also about discreet math. this will influence what i would like to take later inmy life 3. I got to see Cohen talk about something that he did in college, which was cool, and I went so he'd have some support. 4. Very interesting information. 5. I was challenged intellectually to think about complex questions 6. I mostly enjoyed the discovery of the fact that the yearning to learn and the curiosity and zeal in life still exists in some teachers!

8) What kind of simple changes would have improved the presentation you attended? 1. Several things were animated to emphasize a point, but the presentation was put on hold until the words stopped spinning. A shorter annimation would have been more effective. 2. i don't know enough about the topics to know what to change 3. Stats is a little too complex for me, so it's somewhat difficult to say what would have improved the the presentation. I didn't think anything was bad though. 4. ? 5. none 6. I wish there were more encouragement and maybe economic/realistic support for the external individual studies.

9) Do you see potential for a weekly in-house (i.e. faculty/student presenters) lecture series at Mercersburg fulfilling the purpose of providing educational enrichment for the community? Why or why not? 1. Yes. I felt the were both interesting and informative. Great time also having them right after dinner 2. I don't think there would be enough willing presenters for a weekly event. Every second week would be more feasable. 3. yes i think that the people who went to these past lectures benifited from them and got to know the teachers 4. Sure, it'd be cool for the school to have something like this once a week or once a month. It'd bring the people that much closer together. 5. yes, i foud it very benificial in looking at what effort projects in college need


6. yes, because people came and it would be interesting...just dont make it required or else it would disengage the audience because they wouldnt feel like they were there because they were interested but because they were forced 7. Yeah, why not? However, the program shouldn't be too coercive; as such as starting with a biweekly or a monthly in-house lecture series; it would be ideal to have only volunteers.

10) Would you like to add anything else about your lecture experience that may be helpful to me as a researcher? 1. I believe all three of the presentations were focused on math and science. It would be cool if other fields of study were included as well. 2. Always keep the topic interesting. Baseball was really good. Sports and other entertainment things would do really well. 3. No 4. I admire your alacrity in both life and the pursuit of knowledge. It seems many people forget and ignore their innate curiosity and urge to learn; your lecture outside class makes me to look back at myself with a third person's view again!


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