Professional Networks for Educational Change: An Evaluation of the Mathematician and Education Reform Forum

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This document contains findings of a year-long evaluation of the Mathematics and Education Reform (MER) Forum, a voluntary association targeting the academic mathematics community in four-year colleges and universities. Specifically, the evaluation sought to assess the extent to which MER influenced its members' involvement in mathematics-education reform at both postsecondary and K-12 levels. Since its inception in 1988, MER has expanded from a network targeted at individuals to include a departmental network directed toward mathematics departments of research universities. Data were obtained through a survey of the entire national population of MER participants (n=730), which elicited a 32 percent response rate, site visits to four university departments, participant observation at MER functions, and interviews with department personnel. Findings indicate that MER provided support to mathematicians interested in improving their own teaching, leadership to mathematics departments, and legitimization of educational interests. MER also facilitated faculty participation in the reform of undergraduate mathematics education and, to a lesser extent, reform of K-12 mathematics education. Although mathematicians generally could not attribute changes in their teaching directly to MER, they attributed at least an indirect effect to MER. Although the majority of MER's impact was at the individual level, the program to some extent also facilitated change at broader levels, particularly within mathematics departments. Suggestions for best portraying MER's program are included. Appendices contain a workshop- evaluation questionnaire and copies of survey instruments. (LMI)