Sustaining the Impact: Follow up of Teachers Who Participated in the Math-in-CTE Study

Publication October 2007

During the 2004-2005 school year, the National Research Center for Career and Technical Education conducted a study entitled Building Academic Skills in Context: Testing the Value of Enhanced Math Learning in Career and Technical Education, commonly referred to as the Math-in-CTE study. This was a random-assignment experiment that tested the effects of enhancing instruction in the mathematics inherent in the curricula for five occupational areas. Post-testing found that students of teachers who had been in the experimental group scored significantly higher than students of teachers who had been in the control group on two standardized tests of mathematics achievement: 9% higher on TerraNova and 8% higher on Accuplacer. These higher scores were the result of professional development that brought career and technical education (CTE) and mathematics teachers together to examine CTE curriculum and develop lessons that delivered explicit instruction in the math concepts inherent in the technical content. The CTE teachers taught these lessons in their regular classes, devoting an average of about 20 hours or 11% of one traditional, 180-hour, full-year class.

In this report, we present the results of a follow-up study of the teachers who participated in the experiment. We conducted the follow-up in the 2005-06 school year, the year after the experiment ended, to determine the extent to which the teachers in the experimental group had continued to use the instructional method and lessons developed for the experiment and teachers in the control group had adopted any of the lessons. We first sent a mail survey to all teachers who had been in either the experimental or the control group, which yielded an 80% response rate. We then attempted to conduct personal interviews with all those who reported continued use or adoption and telephone interviews with those who did not. The completion rates for the interviews were lower than for the mail survey: 72% for the personal interviews and 49% for the telephone interviews.

The mail survey found that, in the school year after the experiment ended, almost three-fourths (73%) of the experimental CTE teachers continued to use the method and materials from the study, two-thirds (66%) of the experimental math teachers used examples of applications of math from the lessons, and a little over one-fourth (27%) of the control CTE teachers had taught one or more of the lessons. The personal interviews indicated that for many of the experimental CTE teachers, participation in the study had changed their approach to teaching. They had internalized the seven-element pedagogic model that had been used to develop and deliver the math-enhanced lessons to the extent that they applied it to all their teaching. Other experimental CTE teachers had not been affected to this extent, but continued to use the lessons because their participation in the study caused them to value explicit mathematics instruction that goes beyond occupational applications. Many of the mathematics teachers reported that the study had increased their awareness of the need to include practical applications of the concepts they taught and provided actual examples that they could use. Not enough time and a lack of fit with curriculum were the reasons most often given by the teachers who had not continued using the method and materials.

The control CTE teachers who taught the math-enhanced lessons after the experiment ended reported many problems in doing so. Most said they had difficulty simply understanding the math, much less being able to teach it. These teachers had not experienced the professional development that the experimental CTE teachers had found to be essential to understanding both the math concepts and the structured, contextual approach for teaching them. The control group interviews strongly imply that simply disseminating the lesson plans developed for the Math-in-CTE study will not replicate its results. Essential to the procedures used in the study is extensive professional development that fosters the emergence of a community of practice focused on the improvement of instruction.

Lewis, M. V., & Pearson, D. (2007, October). Sustaining the impact: Follow up of teachers who participated in the Math-in-CTE study. St. Paul, MN: National Research Center for Career and Technical Education, University of Minnesota.

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