Chaos, Control, and Need: Success and Sustainability of Professional Development in Problem Solving

  • Lisa Darragh
  • Darinka Radovic
Part of the Research in Mathematics Education book series (RME)


Many professional development (PD) programmes aim for teachers to incorporate more problem solving in their mathematics teaching, but research aimed at understanding how teachers maintain this change is comparatively less developed. We present here some results of research into the experiences of teachers in the 18 months after their completion of PD in teaching collaborative, non-routine problem solving. Fifteen teachers who completed the course in 2015 volunteered to participate in research that involved responding to a series of reflective emails throughout 2016, a semi-structured interview in 2017, and two classroom observations. In particular, we will present the case of one teacher who initially demonstrated very good application of the problem-solving activity and overcame many of the contextual constraints articulated by other teachers. During the first year after the PD, she performed a ‘professional-learner’ identity; she was willing to improve her practice and manifested commitment to the incorporation of problem-solving activities for this purpose. However, in a subsequent observation, her teaching was dramatically different, showing tight control of students’ actions and timing of activities in the classroom. When reflecting about these changes, again she performed a professional identity, but worked out this professionalisation through an alternative programme of PD. We will discuss the contrasts and conflicts between chaos and control in the teaching of problem solving and the role that teachers’ and institutional needs and purposes play in PD.


Professional development Teacher identity Collaborative problem-solving mathematics 



We wish to acknowledge the following funding sources: CONICYT Proyectos Fondecyt Post-doctorado #3160469 and #3180291, PIA-CONICYT Basal Funds for Centers of Excellence Project FB0003 (CIAE) and AFB170001 (CMM), and Unité Mixte Internationale (UMI) CNRS 2807.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lisa Darragh
    • 1
  • Darinka Radovic
    • 2
  1. 1.University of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand
  2. 2.Universidad de ChileSantiagoChile

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