Research Projects

Project Rotations

Primary and secondary project rotations will be drawn from current, past and pending research projects run by the senior mentoring personnel.

Primary project. Each postdoctoral fellow will work with his or her primary mentor to choose and participate in mathematics education research specific to an ongoing, federally funded project at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. The fellow will work on the project for the full two-year span of the fellowship. The opportunity to participate in one project over an extended period of time will allow the fellows both to engage in a wide variety of activities connected with the design, implementation, and analysis of research at multiple entry points and to learn some of the critical, but often tacit, knowledge that goes into project management, grant administration, and future grant writing. As part of this placement, and placements on secondary projects, each fellow will need to comply with all guidelines for research involving human subjects as stipulated by the Education Research Institutional Review Board (IRB) at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Fellows will also develop and execute an independent research project, which may be derived from the primary project.

Secondary projects. In addition to participating in a primary project, each fellow will also be matched to a secondary project during each year of the fellowship. The secondary projects will represent research and methodological foci that differ from the primary project, thus offering fellows the opportunity to broaden their range of experience. Whereas primary projects are limited to those currently funded by federal grants, secondary projects can be chosen from the pool of current federal grants, or may involve secondary analyses of existing data sets. These can include data from federally funded projects that have recently ended or from resources such as the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) mathematics literacy data.

Each of the faculty members of the training program has agreed to commit time to the mentoring and professional development of the fellows. This commitment includes meeting with fellows as part of regular weekly or biweekly project meetings and regular lab meetings, as well as the time devoted to substantive formative and summative evaluations each year (described in the evaluation section below). This commitment is in addition to the interactions fellows and faculty will have during the courses and colloquia that are identified as part of the PEPs.

Project Placement

The placement of fellows onto projects deserves careful consideration to ensure that such placement is effective and relevant for both the PIs and the postdoctoral fellows. Consider, as an example, a postdoctoral fellow with a strong background in quantitative methods, who has conducted a number of analyses on middle school and high school students’ performance on assessments of inductive and deductive reasoning and proof. This fellow has insight into the task and demographic factors that influence student performance but now wants to test working hypotheses in school-based settings. A fellow with this background might elect to work with the IDIOM project, which examines connections between middle-school students’ inductive and deductive reasoning strategies in and out of mathematics. A two-year span on the IDIOM project would afford the fellow opportunities to design and conduct research involving written survey instruments, interview protocols, and behavioral experiments. A fellow with this project would engage in school-based research with middle-school students and analyze data using both qualitative and quantitative techniques.

This fellow might choose a secondary project that also affords classroom-based research opportunities in concert with experimental design research. He or she might opt for secondary work with the currently funded NSF project “Tangibility for the Teaching, Learning, and Communicating of Mathematics,” which aims to advance understanding of basic questions about learning and teaching by developing a theory of embodied mathematical cognition. Although some of the project research employs experimental studies in high school geometry and pre-engineering courses, the investigators also are studying the nature of classroom instruction and discourse in order to contextualize the experimental outcomes in terms of the students’ learning experiences.

In contrast, a fellow entering with a strong qualitative background and experience in classroom-based research could benefit from a secondary project working with one of the many large-scale data sets available to the senior personnel.

Placement will also take into account which of the five IES research goals are of primary and secondary interest to the individual fellow—exploration, development and innovation, efficacy and replication, scale-up evaluations, measurement. Our proposed program currently offers only limited project-based experience in the area of scale-up (the Culture, Cognition, and Evaluation of STEM Higher Education Reform project), but current and ongoing UW–Madison mathematics education research provides substantial coverage of four of the five IES research goals.

Current, Pending, and Recent Grants of Senior Mentoring Personnel (PDF)

Independent Research

In conceptualizing the fellowship program, we emphasize that the long-term aims are to help develop a growing cohort of scholars who can independently propose and conduct scientifically rigorous research in education, and ultimately direct future IES-sponsored research. To this end, the fellowship experience will also provide an independent research component, in which fellows propose and direct their own investigations.

Each fellow will have the opportunity to conduct one or more individual research studies under the guidance of senior program personnel. Typically, the primary project will be the starting point for the fellow's independent research project, although this direction will not be a requirement. Conducting independent research will allow the fellows to pursue individual research interests while simultaneously developing their skills with quantitative methods and data analysis techniques supporting causal inference and/or the implementation and analysis of process data collected in natural (e.g., school-based) education settings.