Developing Primary (K-2) Teachers’ Understanding of High Cognitive Demand Mathematical Tasks




Hargrove, Dori L.

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The purpose of this investigation was to explore the ways in which primary (K-2) teachers selected and implemented high cognitive demand tasks in their classrooms and how professional development influenced their understanding of how heeding to the type of tasks and implementation resulted in improved teaching. Extending the research of Boston and Smith (2009) and Stein, Smith, Henningsen, and Silver (2009), which was conducted in middle and secondary schools, this investigation was conducted in an elementary setting with seven primary (K-2) teachers who participated in three professional development sessions over one semester. The mixed method study utilized a quantitative pre- post design to determine any changes in how the teachers identified and implemented high cognitive demand tasks. Qualitative methods were used to describe the process of the changes in the teachers understanding. Data collected from teachers included a task sort interview, collection of student work and tasks used in the classroom, classroom observations as teachers implemented tasks, video of the professional development sessions and participant interviews. Analysis of the data indicated that the teachers improved in their selection and implementation of high cognitive demand tasks. Implications for this study include the need for continued research in the selection and implementation of high cognitive demand tasks in primary (K-2) settings in the areas of differentiation and instruments to measure quality of instruction in primary classrooms. Education policy implications included the creation of tasks for primary classrooms and directives in how using high cognitive demand tasks fits into an already packed curriculum.


This work was embargoed by the author and will not be publicly available until May 2016.


Elementary, High Cognitive Demand, Mathematics Education, Mathematics Tasks, Professional Development