Teacher Challenges in Implementing Cognitively Demanding Tasks in the Mathematics and Science Classrooms

Angelica Monarrez Monarrez, University of Texas at El Paso

Abstract

This mixed methods study examines secondary school mathematics and science teachers’ understanding of cognitive demand and the challenges in implementing tasks at different levels of cognitive demand. The conceptual framework for this study is grounded on the conception of cognitive demand proposed by Stein, Smith, Henningsen, and Silver (2000), which includes the following levels: memorization (level 1), procedures without connections (level 2), procedures with connections (level 3), and doing mathematics and science (level 4). The study attempts to address the following research questions: 1) To what extent are secondary mathematics and science teachers able to recognize, solve and construct tasks at different levels of cognitive demand? 2) Are there relationships among teachers’ ability to recognize, solve, construct, and implement tasks at different levels of cognitive demand? and 3) What are secondary mathematics and science teachers’ challenges in recognizing, solving, constructing, and implementing cognitively demanding tasks (CDTs)? CDTs are considered tasks at level 3 and 4. We used a cognitive demand survey to test teachers’ (N=58) ability to recognize, solve, and construct tasks at different levels of cognitive demand. We employed semi-structured interviews and classroom observations to examine a subset of teachers’ (n=13) challenges in implementing cognitively demanding tasks in mathematics and science classrooms. Correlation and inferential methods were used to analyze data in response to quantitative research questions whereas meaning coding technique was employed to analyze qualitative data. Main results suggest that teachers had challenges distinguishing between the levels of cognitive demand related to procedures with and without connections. Teachers also had challenges solving tasks at the highest levels of cognitive demand and constructing tasks at the levels of procedures with connections. From the correlation analysis, we found statistically significant associations between recognizing a task at level 2 with recognizing a task at level 3 as well as between recognizing a task at level 3 with recognizing a task at level 4. Analysis of the teachers’ interviews revealed challenges related to students’ knowledge, teachers’ knowledge, and external factors. The reported teachers’ challenges may result in declining the cognitive demand level into procedures without connections. Implications for professional development are also discussed.^

Subject Area

Mathematics education|Teacher education

Recommended Citation

Monarrez, Angelica Monarrez, "Teacher Challenges in Implementing Cognitively Demanding Tasks in the Mathematics and Science Classrooms" (2017). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI10278789.
http://digitalcommons.utep.edu/dissertations/AAI10278789

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