Capturing Effective Classroom Practices: An Exploration of the Potential of the TRU Math Framework
University of Leicester
This article examines one analytical framework for classroom practice, the TRU Math Scheme, developed in recent years by Schoefeld and colleagues. The scheme is designed to capture mathematical classroom activities in a manner that can inform teachers’ professional development; the purpose of this paper is to explore the framework’s potential to offer meaningful analysis of classroom activity in an English Initial Teacher Education (ITE) context.
Student attainment in mathematics retains a high profile in many countries, with benchmarks being provided by international assessments such as PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment). Whilst these comparisons has allowed governments from some lower performing countries to identify practices they want their schools to emulate, research indicates that there is insufficient understanding of classroom interactions for other teachers to replicate practice with the same effect. The authors of the TRU Math argue that their framework has the potential to capture classroom interactions sufficiently to bridge this gap; this more modest research aims to contribute to the testing of the viability of the TRU Math scheme, through consideration of the resultant analysis when the framework is applied to student-teachers’ written commentaries on classroom activities.
First some of the drivers for change in mathematics education are explored, as manifest in governments’ reactions to international comparisons of attainment. This background allows the scheme to be sited as part of the wider US reform agenda and the transition of schools to the new Common Core State Standards. After which the relationship between the TRU Math scheme and the wider field of cognitive demand is discussed. Questions regarding the sufficiency and the minimum overlap between dimensions in the TRU Math framework are considered. Then, ITE student-teachers’ assignments that discussed mathematics lessons are analysed, using coding derived from the elements of TRU Maths scheme related to cognitive demand. Results indicate that the TRU Math scheme differentiated between student-teachers’ levels of engagement with concepts related to cognitive demand. These results aligned with other known information about the student-teachers’ pedagogical understanding; consequently this work offers some indication that the TRU Math scheme might provide a viable analytical framework for capturing mathematical activity in English classrooms.
Keywords: Achievement, Classroom observation, Cognitive demand, Performance tables, Professional development, TRU Math.