Primary teachers' adaptive expertise in interdisciplinary maths and science

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Research project

A unique collaboration between maths and science educators to find ways of fostering interdisciplinary adaptive expertise of primary teachers to enhance student learning and interest in these disciplines.

Project overview

Research has demonstrated that teaching science and mathematics in interdisciplinary ways, related to real-world problems, can enhance children’s engagement and deeper learning of disciplinary knowledge and facilitate the development of problem solving and creative and critical thinking skills.

The shift from disciplinary to interdisciplinary approaches to teaching requires teachers to become adaptive experts who can develop expertise across traditional disciplinary boundaries. Yet little is known about how to develop such expertise, as there is a long standing fragmentation and disconnect in the research on teaching and learning in these disciplines.

Diagram merging maths and science into a interdisciplinary approach
Diagram: A shift from disciplinary to interdisciplinary approach

What is adaptive expertise?

People with adaptive expertise can quickly adapt to new situations and regain high level performance. In contemporary education contexts, teachers are increasingly expected to become adaptive experts who respond to unfamiliar, unexpected and complex situations quickly, and apply professional knowledge flexibly, innovatively and creatively.

This project will explore how primary teachers can be supported to develop adaptive expertise in the context of interdisciplinary mathematics and science learning.

Our approach

This small scale, longitudinal intervention study will track primary teachers from five primary schools over three years. In each year of the study, pairs of teachers in each school will co-plan, co-teach and co-reflect on sequences of three interdisciplinary mathematics and science lessons. Longitudinal tracking of the same pairs of teachers in each school allows us to capture the developmental processes of adaptive expertise and individual variations in the characteristics of adaptive expertise between teachers.

This study aims to answer the following questions:

  1. How can primary teachers’ adaptive expertise in interdisciplinary mathematics and science be characterised in terms of components (i.e., flexibility, deeper level of understanding, and deliberate practice) and levels?
  2. To what extent, and how, does primary teachers’ adaptive expertise change and develop during a trajectory across three school years aimed at interdisciplinary mathematics and science in a co-plan, co-teach and co-reflect approach.

This project aims to contribute to the design of teacher professional learning programs that effectively foster the development of adaptive expertise, leading to improved student achievement and interest in primary mathematics and science.

International Advisory Board

The International Advisory Board connects the project with leading international experts and institutions and enhances opportunities for dissemination of outcomes and future international collaborative projects. The Board provides feedback on data gathering, analyses, interpretations, overall project progress and dissemination.

Publications and project outcomes

Conference papers