The major purpose of Inside the Classroom is to provide the education research and policy communities with snapshots of mathematics and science education as they exist in classrooms in a variety of contexts in the United States. These snapshots include both the instruction that takes place and the factors that shape that instruction.

As part of the study, researchers observed 364 science and mathematics lessons in grades K-12 over a two-year period from the fall of 2000 through the spring of 2002. Each observation was followed by an in-depth interview with the teacher.

Among the questions addressed by the study:

  1. How does mathematics/science instruction "look" in the nation's classrooms? To what extent are mathematics/science portrayed as inert collections of facts and algorithms, as opposed to dynamic bodies of knowledge continually enriched by conjecture, investigation, analysis, and proof/justification?
  2. Are students actively engaged in pursuing questions of interest to them, or simply "going through the motions," whether they are doing individual "seatwork" or working in groups?
  3. Is teacher-presented information accurate? Do teachers display an understanding of mathematics/science concepts in their dialogue with students?
  4. When teachers ask questions, are they posed in a way that is likely to enhance the development of student conceptual understanding?
  5. To what extent does each of the following factors shape teachers' decisions about curriculum and pedagogy:
    • Teacher beliefs about how students learn;
    • Student characteristics;
    • School and district administration; and
    • School, district, and state policies regarding curriculum, textbook adoption, testing, and professional development.

Support for Inside the Classroom was provided by a National Science Foundation grant to Horizon Research, Inc. (HRI).