DevelopmentThe National Center on Cognition and Mathematics Instruction (Math Center) aims to apply cognitive principles of learning to the design of a widely-used middle school mathematics curriculum and to test the efficacy of the revised materials. Although research provides recommendations based on well-replicated cognitive studies for improving learning and instruction, there is little guidance for how to combine the principles or apply the principles to classroom materials. The integration of principles into an existing curriculum involves the collaboration of cognitive researchers, instructional designers, math content experts, and professional development providers.
To create the revised CMP2 materials, the Math Center has teams devoted to cognition research, mathematics, professional development, and production. These teams work together to ensure that the revised materials are grounded in the research findings, are mathematically accurate and appropriate (in terms of student development and curriculum standards), are clearly specified for teachers, and are produced with a high level of technical quality.
Initially, the cognitive research teams, as reported above, develop rubrics that allow them to evaluate the existing CMP2 materials. The rubrics enable researchers to identify whether the existing materials met the guidelines of the cognitive design principles, and if not, to specify how the materials would be altered to be in compliance. Following the development of the rubrics, each cognitive team makes sequential revisions to the CMP2 materials. Changes driven by one set of design principles that overlap with other principles are discussed and resolved in biweekly meetings. As needed, the cognitive teams contact the CMP2 designers to ensure the revised materials reflect the intent of the original curriculum.
After the cognitive research teams complete their revisions, the mathematics team reviews the revised curricular materials to ensure mathematical accuracy and appropriateness. Three external math experts review all materials, and the mathematics team leader produces a report that synthesizes the recommendations and suggested changes. As part of the design cycle, the cognitive research teams then address the issues from the math content reviews and communicate final decisions to the production team.
Finally, the production team holds a full day "kick-off" meeting to ensure that all requested revisions were clear. The production team communicates with the cognitive and math content teams to clarify design decisions as necessary. Concurrent with the production of the materials, the professional development team meets to develop measures of fidelity of implementation and to identify effective ways to communicate the underlying rationale and practical implementation of the cognitive design principles to the classroom teachers who will use the redesigned curriculum.
The iterative, multi-layered design process that we have developed for integrating the cognitive principles with the CMP2 curriculum provides a method for putting research into practice. Although our current work is in the context of mathematics instruction, our approach generalizes to bridging research with instructional design across content areas.