Los Medanos College Math Department Teaching Communities

March
2009
Julie Von Bergen, Developmental Education Co-lead

Stop me if you've heard this one before: four mathematicians walk into a conference room and .

At Los Medanos College when a group of mathematics professors meet together in a conference room, they are most often engaged in discussion about how to realistically explain linear regression to algebra students, or how to teaching Riemann sums to calculus students by slicing up a watermelon. Since January of 2003 faculty of the mathematics department at Los Medanos College who teach common courses have been creating teaching communities to share lesson plans and curriculum design. The teaching community model is a faculty inquiry group based on the Japanese lesson study concept, kenkyu jugyo.

The intent of the teaching community meetings is to design and implement curriculum, discuss and revamp lesson plans to suit the needs of specific groups of students, observe lessons in the classrooms of colleagues, and to address teaching to the mathematics program learning outcomes of problem solving, mathematical versatility, communication, preparation for subsequent courses, and effective learning attributes.

Since the lesson study concept that the teaching communities are founded on produces lesson plans and curriculum that are carried out in the classroom, student learning is directly affected. The teaching community work at Los Medanos College is part of a growing movement within the mathematics community to improve the quality of mathematics education. This trend is reinforced by the current research of mathematics educators, including James Stigler who concludes "The key to long-term improvement [in teaching] is to figure out how to generate, accumulate, and share professional knowledge".

The teaching communities have produced and revised student learning outcome based curriculum packets for use in algebra and intermediate algebra courses. An early conclusion from participants in the algebra and intermediate algebra teaching communities was that the selection of textbooks available did not adequately address our student learning outcomes and that supplemental materials could improve instruction with regards to these outcomes, specifically communication and effective learning. As a result, faculty have created classroom discussion and group-work-based class activities centered around realistic, campus and community specific contexts.

The faculty members who attend the teaching community meetings are both full-time faculty and adjunct faculty. In the mathematics department more than 50% of our sections are taught by adjunct faculty, most of whom teach in multiple community college districts in the Bay Area. Much of the success of the teaching communities is due to the dedicated participation of our adjunct faculty, and the collaboration between full-time and adjunct faculty members.

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