Meet Matthew Campbell
During this year’s Graduate Student Research Symposium, Matthew Campbell, recent Master’s graduate in Mathematics Education, earned first place in the Education category for his research on mathematics Professional Learning Communities (PLCs).
Originally from Patchogue, NY, Campbell migrated south almost a decade ago to attend NC State for mathematics education and mathematics. He chose the University for its Mathematics Education program and the Park Scholarship he received as a high school senior. In 2005, he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree and began teaching high school math in Deer Park, NY. Matt then returned to Raleigh to continue teaching.
However, after two years, Campbell said he felt the draw of graduate research, and with guidance from his advisor Hollylynne Lee, he returned to NC State for his Master’s degree.
“This decision, as well as my decision to continue on to pursue a Ph.D., was greatly influenced by the opportunities I had to be involved with research and present at conferences during my undergraduate career,” he said.
Using his personal experiences teaching, he developed his research, “Mathematics Teachers and Professional Learning Communities: Understanding Professional Development and Collaborative Settings,” to address concerns with continued professional and educational support.
“As a teacher, I felt that I was not receiving the continued education that I needed to learn and improve,” Campbell said. “As a result, my research interests have focused on issues of teacher professional development.”
According to Campbell, PLCs are a form of “teacher collaboration where [teams of] teachers critically reflect on their practice” and develop shared instructional practices based on student data.
“This is different from more traditional forms of teacher collaboration that focus on sharing untested materials or deal with issues of student behavior or school logistics,” he said.
When a local school district introduced the PLC concept, Campbell decided to conduct research that measured the true effectiveness of these communities on teachers’ content knowledge and teaching practices. His goals were to evaluate the PLCs’ performances and “the extent to which these teachers engaged in high-level, mathematically focused activities.”
In order to assess these two goals, Campbell developed a conceptual framework for the observation of two teams of math teachers, based on literature concerning mathematics teacher collaboration,.
“Each team’s collaborative interactions were observed during their set meeting time to attempt to characterize the quality of activities and work with which each team engaged,” he said. “Additionally, each teacher completed interviews and surveys individually to further explain these interactions as well as any inconsistencies or disagreements among the teachers on a team.”
Unlike much of the previous research on development of the teaching profession, Campbell removed the researcher’s input from the math teachers’ interactions “to appropriately identify the benefit of such a setting on the specialized growth of mathematics teachers.” He said he also revised the conceptual framework through the research process, transition from a one-dimensional to two-dimensional idea based on rich content focus and collaborative norms.
“This new framework provides a language that can be used in the design of and research on professional development experiences for mathematics teachers,” Campbell said. “The two-dimensional approach can be used by professional developers and researchers alike … [to consider] multiple factors in the success or failure of a professional development experience for mathematics teachers.”
While Campbell had previous experience creating poster presentations for the Undergraduate Research Symposium and the 2008 Graduate Research Symposium, he said the 2009 Symposium was his first time presenting his own complete study.
He said of the experience: “The skill required to create an effective research poster is underappreciated but a great poster really stands out. … The experience of creating this poster made me develop even more understanding of my own work … and also served as good practice for my master’s thesis oral defense, which occurred two days later.”
Regarding the education field, Campbell acknowledged that, while some undergraduates go directly into graduate school, “teaching experience is vital to make graduate work worthwhile.” He also suggested taking advantage of all opportunities a program offers its students.
“I have benefited from experience with large research project, small research projects, teaching assistantships, and engaging in my own research for my Master’s thesis,” Campbell said. “I feel that as a result of taking advantage of these opportunities, I am well prepared for a doctoral program and beyond.”
Outside of academia, Campbell said he enjoys keeping active with his fiancée, Heidi, and dog, Barry.
“I am currently on a softball team and an indoor soccer team in Raleigh,” he said. “[And] the spring weather will also get me back out on my road bike.”
Campbell will attend Oregon State University this fall as a doctoral student in mathematics education.
Click here to view archived Graduate School stories.