Following a staff meeting at which we shared an overview of the project, and showed staff a sample 3-part-lesson we had planned, we invited them to come and visit either or both classrooms during a math period (support staff agreed to spell off any teachers interested in availing themselves of this offer). Afterwards, teachers could sign up to attend a 3-part series during which lunch was offered, and Dale and I talked a little more about the project, sharing a few of our findings to date and addressing some concerns.
Nine teachers attended the lunch and learn series, a considerable number, given the political climate this fall and the fact that our school is quite small. Clearly, people are interested. (A post-event survey indicated that the two primary motivating factors were a desire to learn more about Smart Boards and an interest in Bansho/Problem-Based Learning in Math.)
Our principal, resource and literacy teachers, technology coach and a visitor from the Ministry each attended one or more of the three sessions as their schedules allowed. A light lunch (pizza or subs) was provided. (66% of respondants admitted that the free lunch was "somewhat" of a motivating factor.)
At the sessions, we showed off the basic but utilitarian lesson template we had created for use on the Smart Board, and showed our colleagues where it could be downloaded and how it could be used as a starting point for planning lessons. We also shared our uncertainty about constructivism vs explicit instruction, and about the time required to adequately address all the curriculum expectations (concerns shared by our colleagues). And we waved around some resources we’d become excited about in the preceding months.
Teachers had a chance (not long enough, though) to muck around with the Smart Board software, and try their hand at turning one of their "traditional" lessons into a “Smart Bansho” lesson, for use in class. The plan was for people to try out their lesson, and come back to the final lunch and learn ready to share successes and concerns.
Overall, the feedback was positive, as evidenced by the data summarized below:
Teaching through problem solving using a student-centered approach opens the door to the possibility of addressing math concepts in more depth, however, it is an approach that takes considerable time to gain comfort with, and to transfer to at least routine user-ship. For myself, I have had to develop not only a comfort with the instructional approach itself, but have also had to come to terms with the enormous gaps in my mathematical understanding. In addition, there is the constant pressure of time: Developing a meaningful series of lessons comprising rich, authentic problems can take a full day or more. With so many units to cover in the curriculum, how is such an approach feasible, when the text book is so there, so ready-to-use, so inviting to the ever-stressed classroom teacher, who also has myriad other subjects to teach?
Without additional, ongoing release time for the average teacher (who is not involved in a special project), I think it may be unrealistic to imagine that such an approach can become the norm in most classrooms.