International research shows that one of the factors in the progress of educational reforms depends on the individual and collective ability of teachers to help improve the educational process. Two different comprehensive studies of the factors influencing student learning have reached the same conclusion: the most important variable in student achievement is the quality of learning they receive on a daily basis (Marzano, 2003; Hattie, 2009). In order for students to study better, it is necessary to improve the quality of teaching. The constant exchange of pedagogical experience, discussion of problems, study of the best practices of colleagues, their implementation and further discussion in the community of those people who are specialists in a particular subject area have a direct impact on the improvement of teaching. Therefore, the introduction of such practices is critical. Training communities provide an opportunity for continuous professional development and improvement. When teachers are part of the professional learning community, it reduces their isolation, increases their commitment to the mission and goals of the institution, creates shared responsibility for the overall development of students, creates a powerful training process that shares best practice and expands understanding of learning content and the role of the teacher.
One of the main conditions for the creation and functioning of the educational community is the common goal of its members. The teaching community at BGKU was created to implement a inquiry-based learning (IBL) approach to mathematics in higher education. The main stages of creating a community of teachers in BGKU for the implementation of IBL were (N. Morze, M. Boiko, E. Smyrnova-Trybulska):
• Holding an organizational meeting with teachers.
• Develop a community building strategy.
• Preparation of the IBL survey questionnaire.
• Conducting a survey.
• Conducting seminars on IBL.
• Defining the main features of the professional community.
• Creating a community of mathematicians.
• Creating a site for the community of mathematicians and a page on the Wiki portal.
• Create a Facebook page for the community.
• Support for the Facebook page, creation and maintenance of the relevant site page.
At the stage of community unification, practical seminars, trainings and workshops were held, at which the following issues were considered:
• The concept of “community”. Features of community functioning and its functions.
• STEM-education and innovative methods – PrBL, PBL, IBL. Common and different in PrBL, PBL, IBL.
• Inquiry questions. Criteria for inquiry questions.
• IBL stages and study cycles. Model 5E implementation of IBL.
• Examples of mathematical research environments in GoLabz.
Working meetings of the international community were also a source of problematic issues and topics for discussion:
• September 23-26, 2018, a working meeting of representatives of universities – project participants. The meeting was organized by University of Agder (Kristiansand, Norway), which is the grant holder of the project.
• February 19-24, 2019, a working trip of project participants to the Complutense University of Madrid.
• June 17- 21, 2019, a working trip of project participants to Masaryk University and Brno University of Technology.
• February 19-26, 2020, a working trip of project participants to Loughborough University.
• May 13-14? 2020, a workshop of project participants, organized by the Leibniz University, Hanover (online session).
The stage of activity in the created community involves the creation and discussion of case studies, planning math classes based on inquiry based learning, sharing experiences of IBL implementation, conducting open classes, evaluating the effectiveness of IBL technology to achieve learning goals based on student feedback, self-analysis teacher and collective discussions of project participants, development of templates for research problems, creation of a database of mathematical problems for modelling. Community teachers are now actively involved in this phase. This made it possible to investigate the impact of community functioning on the professional activities of teachers and the process of implementing IBL in the teaching of mathematics. Discussions of results of activity take place at small working meetings.
As part of the project objectives, open classes were held in the teaching community to share experiences. One of them was conducted for project participants and other partner universities in the discipline “Calculus” on the topic: “Absolute and conditional convergence of numerical series” for 1st year students of the specialty “Mathematics”. Mariia Astafieva demonstrated to project participants and teachers of the department the effective use of digital technologies for student surveys, group work, during which students independently found the area and perimeter of the Koch snowflake, studied a number of absolute and conditional convergence, and student activities at the forum, where students formulate mathematical questions and answer questions from classmates. The class was conducted on the basis of research-oriented and active approaches using Inquiry-based learning technology.
The experience of creating and participating in the mathematics and information technology teachers educational community has confirmed the assumption that professional communities can enrich the process of in-service training of university teachers due to a number of advantages of their functioning: creating a community of people interested in knowledge exchange; educational environments are designed in which participants can exchange resources; reduced time to search and use information; the process of introduction of innovative technologies is facilitated; conditions are created to ensure the quality of education; training courses are updated due to the introduction of new cases; the university gets the opportunity to expand international cooperation (N. Morze, M. Boiko, E. Smyrnova-Trybulska). Activities under the project “Partnership for Learning and Teaching in University Mathematics” (PLATINUM), Erasmus + KA2 – Strategic Partnership Projects, №12018-1-NO01-KA203-038887, provides for the creation and support of professional communities not only within one educational institution, but also the expansion of the community to the international level, the introduction of innovative approaches and the latest information resources.