Seeking research-grounded solutions to problems of practice: classroom-based interventions in mathematics education
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- Stylianides, A.J. & Stylianides, G.J. ZDM Mathematics Education (2013) 45: 333. doi:10.1007/s11858-013-0501-y
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Research on classroom-based interventions in mathematics education has two core aims: (a) to improve classroom practice by engineering ways to act upon problems of practice; and (b) to deepen theoretical understanding of classroom phenomena that relate to these problems. Although there are notable examples of classroom-based intervention studies in mathematics education research since at least the 1930s, the number of such studies is small and acutely disproportionate to the number of studies that have documented problems of classroom practice for which solutions are sorely needed. In this paper we first make a case for the importance of research on classroom-based interventions and identify three important features of this research, which we then use to review the papers in this special issue. We also consider the issue of ‘scaling up’ promising classroom-based interventions in mathematics education, and we discuss a major obstacle that most such interventions find on the way to scaling up. This obstacle relates to their long duration, which means that possible adoption of these interventions would require practitioners to do major reorganizations of the mathematics curricula they follow in order to accommodate the time demands of the interventions. We argue that it is important, and conjecture that it is possible, to design interventions of short duration in mathematics education to alleviate major problems of classroom practice. Such interventions would be more amenable to scaling up, for they would allow more control over confounding variables and would make more practicable their incorporation into existing curriculum structures.