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DIPIP Project

The Data Informed Practice Improvement Project (DIPIP), hosted at the Wits School of Education, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. Click here to download the full project report: Professional Learning Communities for Teacher Development: The Collaborative Enquiry Process in the Data-Informed Practice Improvement Project (DIPIP).

From Wits: Prof Mary Metcalfe, Prof Tawana Kupe, Prof Karin Brodie, Prof Yael Shalem
From the Gauteng Department of Education: Reena Rampersad, Prem Govender

The Data Informed Practice Improvement Project (DIPIP) aimed to create a context in which ‘critical friends’ (post graduate students and district facilitators) worked with school teachers on data which provides evidence of learners’ performance. In this work the critical friends and the teachers discussed and analysed (inter alia) how the learner data fits with everything else they know from research and experience, how to identify learners’ errors and misconceptions when they arise during teaching and in assessment, how to address these in teaching and in assessment and how to reflect with learners on their mathematical thinking both verbally and in writing. The project was structured to examine teacher’s interpretive skills on learners’ errors and misconceptions and their application of knowledge gained about the interpretation of learner errors and misconceptions in their classrooms. In the context of this project, the concept of mathematical knowledge for teaching focused on teachers’ understanding of errors and misconceptions evident from learners’ performance on the ICAS test. In so doing the project aimed to develop the diagnostic judgement of teachers.

Teachers from about 25 schools were selected to participate on a weekly basis in the project. Participation involved approximately 40 teachers and 14 departmental facilitators attending meetings on the Wits Education campus for two hours a week during term time. Group sessions were facilitated by Wits staff members or post graduate students of Wits. For all activities, where necessary, templates were provided and team leader training was carried out. This small number of teachers and departmental facilitators thus had intensive exposure to the project ideas and enormous opportunities for growth. Phases 1 and 2 of the project involved a number of teacher activities that were carried out over a three-year period. The table below provides a summary of these activities.

In addition to the involvement of certain selected teachers on a weekly basis, there was also a plan for meaningful contact with all the schools in the province through a newsletter which used a friendly format. This contact was established in order to inform schools about particular findings of the project and to allow them to share in some of the opportunities of the full project. The newsletter was compiled by Wits for the GDE for dissemination into all its schools. Another part of the project plan entailed the offering of public seminars, where schools and other members of the maths teacher and teacher education community were invited to hear ideas about good practice (in relation to misconceptions) from the project leaders, teachers and departmental facilitators involved in the project.  Two teachers from DIPIP were selected to give input on the CAPS document for Intermediate and Senior phases.

Research on “Professional Learning Communities”, “Networked Learning Communities” and “Evidence-based Learning” guided the planning and execution of all the activities of the project in order to help teachers come to realise their own learning needs and find ways of learning about those needs. Learning communities are “professional communities where teachers work collaboratively to reflect on their practice, examine evidence about the relationship between practice and learner outcomes, and make changes that improve teaching and learning for particular learners in their classes” (McLaughlin & Talbert, 2006: 3). These conversations were intended to allow teachers to see if what others say works will work for them, and if it doesn’t, why not. International literature has shown that professional learning communities (PLCs) are a highly effective zone for the leverage teacher change and gains in learner achievement. The project enables the examination of this claim.




Curriculum mapping ICAS 2006 tests

Map ICAS items to the SA curriculum – identify maths concepts, find relevant NCS AS(s), give reasons for choices, state when/if they teach the content in their classes

February 2008 – May 2008

Error analysis ICAS 2006 tests

Discuss the correct learner responses: the different methods to be used.

Discuss the incorrect responses: identify and describe learners’ thinking behind incorrect responses.

July 2008 – October 2008

Teaching Round 1

Concept 1:

Equal Sign

Pre- and post-readings and discussion

November 2008

Lesson planning, presentation and revision.

February 2009 – April 2009

Lesson teaching, reflection and presentation of episodes from lesson.

May 2009 – August 2009

Teaching Round 2

Concept 2: Problem solving and visualizing

Readings and discussion

May 2009

Lesson planning, presentation and revision.

May 2009 – September 2009

Lesson teaching, reflection and presentation of episodes from lesson.

October 2009 – March 2010

Learner test and interviews

Set a test on concept 1 or 2 (from teaching). Administer test, select learners for interviews, one-on-one interviews.

April 2010 – July 2010

Reflection and presentation of episodes from interview.

August 2010

Curriculum mapping and Error analysis

Own tests or ICAS 2007 tests

Discuss the correct learner responses: the different methods to be used.

Discuss the incorrect responses: identify and describe learners’ thinking behind incorrect responses.

August 2010 – September 2010

Presentation of an analysed item.

September 2010

Teaching Round 3

Concept 1 or 2:

Equal Sign/Visualizing

Lesson planning and teaching in schools

August 2010 – September 2010


September 2010

Presentation of episodes from lesson.

October 2010

The final work of Phases 1 and 2 is to plan and prepare exemplar course materials which could promote the kind of learning that has taken place in the project on a much bigger scale in the South African context. The course materials will draw on the DIPIP experience and provide a model for course design that could allow teachers to become involved in collaborative strategies and engage in dialogue through which they could develop diagnostic thinking around learner errors and misconceptions.

DIPIP Phase 3 will commence in 2011. Although it has been developed from, it is not a simple continuation of DIPIP phases 1 and 2.The main difference in Dipip Phase 3 is that the project is job-embedded – Professional Learning Communities are established in schools and our facilitators go to the schools to work with teachers.  Research argues that a job-embedded programme is more sustainable in that teachers in the same school develop ways of working with each other. We hope to hand over leadership to someone in the school, while we continue to play a monitoring role.

The project leader is Prof. Karin Brodie and the three facilitators are Nico Molefe, Rencia Lourens and Million Chauraya.  Our facilitators meet with teachers on a weekly basis for two hours during school terms to work with teachers on the project activities. We have two communities in Soweto and three in Kagiso. The one community in Soweto is a merger of three schools and the other schools each comprise a community on their own. Selected learners wrote an international, standardised, algebra test set by ICCAMS (Increasing Competence and Confidence in Algebra and Multiplicative Structures). Using this test, teachers are engaged in the same activities as DIPIP phase 1 and 2: curriculum mapping activity, error analysis, learner interviews, lesson design and teaching, and reflection on teaching.  At specific times during the programme, the schools come together to present ideas to each other. This will begin to build networks among the schools which can also help to sustain the individual school communities.