Guidelines for TWG Leaders

The chief aims of ERME are to promote Communication, Cooperation and Collaboration in Research in Mathematics Education in Europe, in order to know more about research and research interests in different European countries, and to create opportunities for inter-European cooperation between researchers in collaborative projects. This conference is designed as a starting point in promoting these aims in a communicative spirit. Each Thematic Working Group (TWG) should aim to provide a good scientific debate with the purpose of deepening mutual knowledge about the problems and methods of research in the field.

Each TWG initially has 4 or 5 Co-leaders, from different countries, with interest and expertise in the theme of the group. One of these Co-leaders, the designated TWG Leader, oversees the work of the group, and is ultimately responsible for decisions and actions. This is made possible by working with a team of TWG Co-leaders, who share the work of the group in various ways. A member of the International Programme Committee (IPC) is appointed for each TWG to act as Liaison between the IPC and the Co-leaders of that TWG. He or she is available to assist or advise the Co-leaders, especially before the conference.

A major part of the TWG Leaders' responsibilities is (1) organising the review of submitted papers and poster proposals before the conference (2) organising the conduct of the Thematic Working Group sessions at the conference itself.

Organising the Review of Submitted Papers and Poster Proposals

Submitted Papers

The purpose of the CERME review process is to promote communication and collaboration through engaging participants in an in-depth analysis of a portion of TWG papers, as well as to assure the scientific quality of the accepted papers.

Papers will be sent to the TWG Leader in the first instance. The TWG Leader replies to thank the corresponding author and to say that their paper has been received.

The team of TWG Co-leaders then proceeds as follows.

  1. The TWG Leader compiles a table showing the corresponding author(s) for each paper, with their email address, the title of their paper, and a very brief indication of its content (gathered from the abstract or keywords e.g. "Grade 9 students conjecturing with Cabri Geomètre").
  2. The TWG Leader then distributes the papers more-or-less evenly between the Co-Leaders (including him/herself), as far as possible according to common topics or methods, although this will usually be only approximate. If the number of papers received exceeds 24, the TWG Leader (in consultation with the IPC Liaison for the group) will co-opt additional Co-leaders from among those who submitted papers, so that no Co-leader has responsibility for more than 6 papers. In consultation with the IPC Liaison and TWG Leaders they will decide on a 'split' whereby the TWG will effectively work as two separate subgroups. If the number of papers received is fewer than 8, the TWG Leader will discuss the viability of the TWG with the IPC Liaison for the group and the Chair of the IPC.
  3. Each paper will be assigned to two TWG participants for review, the responsible TWG Leader making clear what they have to do in the review and the deadline 25th November 2014 for return of reviews. These reviews are 'open' on both sides, i.e. both reviewer and author know each other by name. Situations where there is a close relationship between the author and the reviewer should be avoided. For example, a student's paper should not be assigned to be reviewed by their supervisor or vice versa. Also inexperienced researchers should be included in the review process. However, it is not advisable to assign more than one novice reviewer to any single paper. This distribution of papers for review can be achieved in smaller TWGs by collaboration between Co-leaders. In bigger TWGs, each Co-leader may independently distribute their share of the papers among 'their' authors. In either case, the TWG Leader oversees the process.
  4. Each TWG Co-leader prepares a constructive review feedback to each of the papers assigned to them, as follows:
    1. They read the papers and form their own opinion about them.
    2. On receipt of the reviews, they make a decision about each paper for presentation at the conference regarding:
      1. Accepted without changes
      2. Accepted with minor changes
      3. Accepted with major changes
      4. Resend the paper as poster
      5. Reject

In difficult cases, they can consult with the TWG Leader or another Co-leader of their TWG.

  1. TWG Co-leaders’ decisions about the acceptance of papers are shared with the other TWG Co-leaders and the TWG Leader. The TWG Leader must approve the final decision of accepting or not accepting for presentation.
  2. The decision regarding presentation is communicated to the corresponding author by 5th December 2014. Along with the decision, the relevant Co-leader sends (a) the two open reviews of the paper, as well as their own reviewer comments, if they have something significant to add (b) a short summary (about 150 words) of the reasons for the decision, including a very clear statement of what modifications must be done before the paper is accepted for discussion at the conference. [Please note that "see the reviews" will not be enough – see below for an example of a summary to accompany reviews].
  3. Upon receipt of modified/revised papers (if required) the relevant Co-leader quickly assesses whether or not the required modifications have been made. Together with the TWG Leader, the Co-leader then decides whether or not the paper is now accepted for presentation or (where appropriate) as a poster, and informs the corresponding author without delay.
  1. TWG Co-Leaders then send a list of final decisions for their papers to the TWG Leader, together with pdfs of final versions of accepted papers. The TWG Leader then sends a composite decision list for all papers and poster proposals to (a) all the Co-leaders of their TWG, (b) the conference secretariat, and (c) the Chair of the IPC.
  2. It is also recommended that the TWG Co-leaders share the 'other' review(s) of each paper, as well as their own summary and decision, with the two reviewers of that paper. This is an excellent learning opportunity for all reviewers.
  3. Finally, on or before 14th January 2015, the TWG Leader sends pdfs of all the accepted papers to the conference secretariat, to be posted on the website prior to the conference. This process constitutes the paper presentation as a preliminary to its consideration within the relevant Thematic Working Group at the conference. The TWG Leader should remind the participants that members of a group are expected to read the presented papers before the conference in readiness for working in the TWG.
  4. TWG Co-leaders may choose to encourage their group members to phrase questions, comments or suggestions regarding the papers they read, and to send them directly to the authors prior to the conference. This commenting should be voluntary, and need not involve the Co-leaders.

Example of a summary to accompany paper reviews

Corresponding Author: Alice Hulot

Title: The experience of the pre-service secondary mathematics teacher of school-based mentoring

Thank you for your proposal of a paper for CERME8 Group 17. The paper has been read by two other proposers, and one TWG 17 Co-leader (John Mulberry). Their reviews are attached with this summary overview.

Decision regarding presentation at the conference: ACCEPT subject to revisions as specified below.

Your paper is very well-written, interesting and relevant to the group theme. You offer some original insights into the experience of these pre-service secondary mathematics teachers and related proposals for practice and for further research. Nevertheless, the two reviews offer some suggestions which you should consider for pre-conference revision. In particular, the review of von Neumann makes several points to be considered under Methodology (which needs more detail) and Statement and Discussion (do not loose sight of the mathematics).

So our requirement for revision is (a) to address the specifics of mathematics (and mathematics didactics) more thoroughly in the paper and (b) to expand and foreground the implications for teacher education, which you touch on in the Discussion at the end of the paper. Also, please format the paper in accordance with the instructions given in the First Announcement. This is most easily achieved with CERME template, which you do not appear to have used.

PLEASE WOULD YOU SEND YOUR REVISED PAPER TO John Mulberry by 1st DECEMBER 2012.

Thank you,
John.

Poster Proposals

Decisions about acceptance (possibly with modification), suitability for publication in the post-conference proceedings, possibly with modification or rejection of posters will be made by one of the TWG Co-leaders, in consultation with at least one other TWG Co-leader. The TWG Leader will organise this decision process, and the communication of the decision to poster proposers.

Publication of papers and posters in the post-conference proceedings

After the conference, a digital post-conference proceedings will be published and this will include papers and posters that have been accepted for publication (possibly after modification). Those participants whose papers or posters are accepted for publication in the digital post-conference proceedings will normally be given a short period of time immediately following the conference to make amendments to it, taking into account the discussion in their Thematic Working Group. For those exceptional papers, which were accepted for presentation at the conference but not for the proceedings, the team will communicate their decision.

The TWG Co-leaders produce an introductory text for the TWG papers in the proceedings. This will also include a summary of the ideas discussed in the TWG.

The Conduct of the Thematic Working Group Sessions at the CERME Conference

Organising a programme of work for the CERME Conference

The 12 hours of TWG’s work lie at the heart of a CERME meeting. It is a major responsibility of the TWG Leaders and their Co-leaders to organise the group work in a way that encourages and supports good scientific debate. In order to promote meaningful communication and interaction in the TWG, extended formal presentations are not permitted. With this same aim, TWGs with more than 24 submitted papers are to be split in two subgroups (possibly with joint sessions).

Even with fewer than 24 papers, group activities must be designed carefully in order to ensure that everyone feels heard and included, and to provide opportunities for collaboration. Try to avoid organising sessions in a way that highlights some papers and ignores others. Make sure that every author feels that their (accepted) paper has been considered and discussed in depth, in their presence, by at least some participants in the TWG. Do not overlook 'affective' as well as scientific aspects of participation: try to ensure that every participant in the TWG feels that they belong in the group.

Some formats for organising the sessions that have proved to be effective are described here:

  1. Discussing single papers or small groups of papers. A possible structure could be:
  1. Allow an author, or a small group of authors, 5 minutes each to recall the main ideas in their paper. Proceed to plenary discussion based on the papers, supported for example by short small-group activities and other ways of structuring participation.
  2. These 5 minute recall sessions by authors can be replaced or complemented by short reactions to one or more papers, prepared by one of the reviewers or one of the TWG Co-leaders. The follow-up discussion could then be organised as a panel.
  3. In order to give individual papers more time, subgroups can be organised around common key ideas in 2 or 3 papers, being discussed intensively only in these subgroups, which could report back briefly to the whole group (perhaps providing slides or posters for the reports).
  1. Working on deepening understanding of selected aspects of the papers. Possible approaches include:
  1. Before the conference, identify some key ideas or themes, asking each participant to prepare just one slide on each idea/theme to express their view on the issue. Collect and organise the slides in advance: this gives less fluent English speakers more time to express their ideas.
  2. Discuss some of the data from one paper with the theoretical lenses of others in order to gain a better understanding of mutual perspectives.
  3. Develop a collective meta-analysis on selected topics or themes, drawing out what can be said about a topic/theme by drawing on the findings of several papers.
  1. Going beyond the content of the presented papers in at least one session. For example:
  1. Try to identify/specify collectively some key ideas or further questions that could be the focus of further research.
  2. Develop ideas for research designs to be implemented in different countries.

Facilitating deep and inclusive discussion during the conference

The TWG Leaders and Co-leaders have responsibility for maintaining good scientific quality in the group sessions. They are also responsible for ensuring that every participant is, and feels, included and able to contribute. Most critical feedback after CERME Conferences relates to dissatisfaction with one or both of these factors, and sometimes where it appears that the TWG Leaders and Co-leaders have not been successful in keeping them in balance. In the past, successful TWG Leaders and Co-leaders have adopted a variety of strategies in order to achieve democratic and stimulating discussions during the Thematic Working Group sessions. These strategies include:

  • informing participants in advance on their plan for the organisation of the group work, thus allowing participants to prepare themselves accordingly.
  • creating a welcoming and open atmosphere in which everybody feels free to participate actively. This could include direct and explicit attention to building community and trust in the TWG e.g. by making time for introductions, or by including an 'ice breaking' activity (see e.g. http://www.teampedia.net/wiki/index.php?title=Category:Icebreakers/Warmups).
  • Setting out at the outset some 'ground rules' for presentation, discussion and debate in the TWG.
  • ensuring that discussion is not dominated by only a few participants. This is a very common problem, and sometimes confident individuals with strong opinions have to be restrained by the Chair for the session.
  • including and involving those participants who did not submit a paper to the TWG, or whose papers were not accepted for presentation
  • being aware of language issues, and
  • reminding participants of the importance of speaking slowly and articulating clearly
  • preventing native English speakers from dominating the discussion
  • encouraging non-native speakers to participate, organising support to overcome language obstacles
  • making sure that spoken contributions can be heard by everyone by considering the layout of the room, acoustics etc.
  • promoting high-quality work by judicious input when the discussion appears to be superficial or weak in content
  • seeking and drawing attention to connections between papers
  • inviting group participants to discuss and contribute to the final session reporting the work of the TWG.

In conclusion: the working sessions of the Thematic Working Groups need to be planned and managed by the TWG Leaders and Co-leaders. A good balance of scientific quality and democratic inclusion is unlikely to occur by chance, and is more likely to be achieved when the Leaders and Co-leaders and all participants consciously work to achieve it.

 


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