This story is featured in the Fall 2013 issue of Showcase: The Knowledge Mobilization Edition. View the complete publication at www.trentu.ca/showcase
“Knowledge mobilization is not about passing on information,” says Dr. Catherine Bruce. “It’s about taking what we have learned and extending it to wider groups of people in ways that are relevant and actionable.” An associate professor in the School of Education and Professional Learning, Professor Bruce coordinates and instructs the mathematics program, helping teacher candidates better understand math, not only preparing them to teach the subject, but also to really enjoy it. At a time when math teaching is under fire in the media, Prof. Bruce is so widely recognized for her innovative methods, she was recently named one of Ontario’s most outstanding university teachers by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA).
Closing the Gap, Building Capacity
“What is the purpose of educational research unless there is action? Our goal is to close research practice gaps in education by having researchers and practitioners work together,” says Prof. Bruce. This approach to sharing knowledge is reflected in her research, which focuses on helping teachers do a better job of teaching children to understand mathematics. She explains that a current research project on more effective methods of teaching fractions is illustrative of how knowledge mobilization works on multiple levels. The project involves a team of researchers who collaborate with teachers in the schools, trying out different ways of representing fractions, which are captured and analyzed on video.
“By working directly with teachers, we are building their capacity to more effectively teach fractions, so they benefit by participating in the research,” explains Prof. Bruce. “Then the digital assets created during the research are being made publicly available online, along with bundles of lessons and other resources which were field-tested by the teachers. And I am taking the research back to my teacher candidates at Trent, so they will also be learning from the experience of Ontario teachers. There are layers to how the research learning is mobilized.”
Unlocking the Teaching Potential in Technology
The role that technology can play in creating and mobilizing knowledge is being further explored in Dr. Bruce’s research project, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, in which researchers and teachers are working together to collect and analyze digital video data. “We are filming clinical interviews of children with their teachers and analyzing them to understand what the child is thinking mathematically and using that knowledge to plan lessons and units of study,” says Prof. Bruce. “We are also video recording teachers as they give math lessons in the classroom, then asking them to watch themselves and provide a commentary on what was happening. This provides immediate learning for the teacher, and afterwards, the videos can be shared online so that other teachers benefit.”
Prof. Bruce sees technology, like web-based materials, digital resources, and interactive white boards, as having infinite potential in creating and sharing knowledge. “Our goal is to get new knowledge out there in ways that are meaningful – that’s where the digital video comes in to play, because you can see and hear in a real context,” she says. “I think we’ve underestimated the ability of technology to help people learn, to understand, and to problem solve. It’s used more as a tool for entertainment and consumption, but we’ve got to get past the ‘wow’ factor and into the ‘how’ factor – how can technology help our students and what can we do to make it more powerful to support their learning?”
Visit Prof. Bruce’s website at www.tmerc.ca or follow her on Twitter @drcathybruce
Posted on Monday, December 9, 2013.