Communities for Mathematics Inquiry in Teaching Network
What is the COMMIT movement all about?
A regional COMmunity for Mathematics Inquiry in Teaching (COMMIT) is a local group of college mathematics educators interested in practicing and disseminating teaching and learning techniques centered on student inquiry. These communities aim to provide evidence-based support mechanisms, through professional development, mentoring, and collaborations, to help members sustainably transform their teaching. COMMIT communities provide ongoing access to professional development without the need of a plane ticket to a national conference or workshop. Each community is in a better position to understand the needs of instructors of the local region than a national organization can be, thus allowing for a grassroots route to bringing an inquiry experience to every student. Our local communities of practitioners develop trusting relationships, forming a community of transformation in which participants are comfortable sharing not only their successes in teaching but also their challenges.
There are many terms used to describe approaches to the teaching and learning of mathematics that are based on student inquiry. Two of the major strands that informed the first communities in our network are the practice-focused tradition of Inquiry-Based Learning (IBL), and the theory-focused tradition of Inquiry-Oriented Instruction (IOI), both of which are represented in our communities. Their common goals are often summarized by the four pillars: instructors foster equity in their design and facilitation choices; students have opportunities to engage deeply with rich mathematics; students have opportunities to collaborate in making sense of that mathematics; and instructors inquire into student thinking. (For more, see Laursen, S.L., Rasmussen, C. I on the Prize: Inquiry Approaches in Undergraduate Mathematics. Int. J. Res. Undergrad. Math. Ed. 5, 129–146 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40753-019-00085-6). There are many names for mathematics instruction with approaches that are aligned with these principles; and thus there are instructors with a variety of backgrounds and starting points who have found value in membership and participation in these communities. Some of these approaches include problem-based learning, student-centered teaching, active learning, ambitious teaching, discovery learning, process-oriented guided inquiry learning, complex instruction, and culturally responsive teaching.
Each COMMIT community is part of the COMMIT Network. This network brings together the leadership teams of all the communities under one loose structure. Representatives from each community in the network meet multiple times each year to share successes, present opportunities, and discuss challenges. This network also provides an organizational structure to identify and pursue common goals within the greater COMMIT movement. For more information on the NSF project which is currently supporting and studying these communities, view the NSF Project tab.
Why Join a COMMIT?
Our members have shared that they come to our COMMIT activities for general networking and to be part of a broader community that shares their values. This sense of community makes our members feel comfortable opening up about challenges in their courses and to be receptive to constructive feedback. For those new to the idea of using inquiry in their teaching, the community’s professional development activities help to introduce them to a variety of effective inquiry approaches to teaching and learning. Over 90 percent of surveyed participants stated that they learned or considered a new idea about inquiry-based teaching as a result of attending a workshop, network event, or informal conversation. With time and incremental changes in their teaching, their comfort level with using inquiry tends to increase. For those who identify as being experienced in one or more approaches to using inquiry in the classroom, they report a deepening of their practice and sometimes an expansion of the number of courses in which they use inquiry. The informal structure of most COMMIT communities is especially conducive to grassroots organizing; several of our members report that their community has provided them with an opportunity to grow as a leader or workshop facilitator. Furthermore, the bottom-up structure of COMMIT communities has resulted in swift shifts to the most pertinent professional development needs of their communities. For example, as activities and conversations shifted online due to COVID-19, so did conversations about how new learning environments and strategies could be used to support student success in mathematics. The timely and relevant attention to the needs of the community are at the heart of the efforts.
Why Create a COMMIT?
While we have few current COMMIT communities, our map that includes coalescing COMMIT communities covers much of the country. For leaders of emerging COMMIT communities, a leadership development opportunity is not the main reason why they are interested in building a community for their region. Indeed, improving student success is their number one priority, and they see COMMITs as an avenue to bringing that about more broadly than via their own few courses. COMMIT communities are very inclusive, which helps engage those faculty who are new to using inquiry in professional development activities. The exchange of ideas around inquiry, inclusive teaching, and related practices leads our members to deepen their teaching practices and connections. Within the first year, over 80% of participants in COMMIT community events reported that they expanded their network of faculty peers. Finally, if we put in the energy to create something new, we hope that it will endure; our community organizers aim to foster grassroots movements whose impacts last beyond any one conference or professional development cohort. As part of the COMMIT Network, our leaders gain valuable knowledge from and contribute to our evolving toolkit of best practices for community-building.
Current Commit Communities
About 600 mathematics educators identify as members in our communities. Click their links to learn more about each of them.
California-Nevada (website pending)
Coalescing COMMIT communities
There are many additional communities in some stage of formation. These includes communities in the following regions.
North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia
Map of Current and Coalescing COMMIT communities
Contact COMathInquiry@gmail.com if you would like to be connected with the leadership team of any of the above coalescing COMMIT Communities, or if you'd like your community to be added to this list. We aim to grow our network to cover the United States, and we already have participation within Canada.
If you are interested in forming a new COMMIT, but aren't near to any existing or coalescing COMMIT communities, you can also add yourself to an interest list that can help us connect folks.
COMMIT Community Events
Check out our calendar for events of interest to those in the regions that are currently part of our network. This calendar includes our Network of COMMIT Communities events in the default color, as well as contributing events from each of our regions in alternate colors.
If you have events that should be of interest to one of our regions, please contact a member of the leadership team from that region. If you would like us to share your region's entire Google Calendar with this national calendar, please contact COMathInquiry@gmail.com.
Check out our twitter feed for news about COMMIT Network and let us know what you think by tweeting with #COMathInquiry and/or to @COMathInquiry
If you're interested in establishing a collaboration with us, please contact COMathInquiry@gmail.com. We are especially interested in establishing partnerships with national or regional groups involved in inquiry-oriented instruction, problem-based learning, student-centered teaching, active learning, ambitious teaching, discovery learning, process-oriented guided inquiry learning, complex instruction, or culturally responsive teaching.