24 SES 08 A, Teaching Profesional Development Part 2
Paper Session continued from 24 SES 02, to be continued in 24 SES 13 A
“Failure is just an opportunity to start again more wisely” Helen Keller
Past experiences in the context of math teachers
Our past experiences are much more than just accumulative summaries of our lives – they are, in fact, a tool through which we interpret our present experiences. We tell stories about ourselves that are connected to our past, but in a certain sense they also reveal something about the future. Former math teachers are prominent in their life stories and are influential in their mathematical progress. Past events have intense and ongoing power and might influence preferences for career choice as well as levels of motivation and sense of self-efficacy. Jihyun (2009) found a correlation between math performance, self-perception and self-efficacy, and math-related anxiety. This latter refers to anxiety in a specific situation as expressed in environments related to mathematics. Math anxiety arises from the gap between the level of math required and one’s level of achievements, and is experienced as threat, helplessness, and fear that can lead to avoidance of using math at all. Teachers are afraid of math because of prior learning experiences or because of a sense of helplessness when dealing with math, and hence they feel a lack of trust in their ability to teach, a lack of teaching methods, an inability to challenge their pupils, and lack of knowledge of mathematical content (Bates, Latham & Kim, 2013; Smith et.al., 2012
Choosing teaching as a corrective experience for personal hardships endured earlier in life.
Researchers tend to attribute their motivations to one of the two following main categories (Anthony & Ord, 2008; Heinz, 2015; Watt et al., 2012):
- Extrinsic motivations, such as reasons related to the benefits the teacher can gain from the teaching profession , such as salary, a stable income, status and prestige, convenient working hours and vacations, or a leverage to other jobs.
2. Intrinsic motivations such as altruistic and narcissistic expectations (Friedman, 2016).
Attachment, childhood experiences and family history may have a major influence on career choices (Paloş & Drobot, 2010; Wright & Perrone, 2008). People choose an occupation that enables them to replicate significant childhood experiences and satisfy needs that were unfulfilled in their childhood (Obholzer & Roberts, 1997). Such career choices may enable them to reconstruct significant childhood memories and to satisfy unrealized childhood desires. Indeed, some researchers found that the choice of a teaching career is rooted in the personal life story of the teachers (Costigan, Crocco & Zumwalt, 2004; Lavian, 2014). Pines (2002) reviewed motivations for choosing a teaching career, and found an emergence of reasons related to painful childhood experiences and memories.
The aim of the current study is to examine what correlations exist between math teachers’ past experiences as pupils of this subject, and their choice to become math teachers themseves.
This study applied qualitative methodology, according to which people provide an interpretation and attribute meaning to themselves and to the world. There is an attempt to understand these interpretations. The stories people tell about their experiences reflect the subjective meaning they attribute to these experiences which we can then understand by analyzing their stories (Clandin & Huber, 2010). This approach was chosen in order to listen to and learn from the open, holistic perspective of math teachers about their past experiences in the context of their function as math teachers. Research participants 64 elementary school math teachers took part in the study. Research tools The study employed semi-structured interviews with 14 questions. The guideline for the interview was developed by the researcher following a pilot conducted with 5 math teachers, who were asked to tell about their experiences of success and failure as math teachers. Moreover, questions arose from the literature review conducted for the study. Sample guideline questions include: what were your experiences in math lessons when you were a pupil? Do you remember your math teacher? Tell me about him/her and what factors influenced your sense of efficacy as a math teacher? Tell me about your successes and failures as a math teacher. Each teacher also completed a page with background details such as: age, gender, years of teaching experience, education and institution, type of population, classes (ages) taught. Research procedure A convenience sample was used. The interviews each lasted about one hour and took place at the request of the interviewees at their home or in a quiet room at the school. All the interviews were transcribed. Teachers were promised confidentiality, so there were no identifying details and the information was used only for the purposes of this study. Analysis of the findings Open thematic analysis was applied to the interviews. Open content analysis relates to the particpants’ words and descriptions as reflecting their feelings, thoughts, beliefs, and knowledge. Throughout the analysis, emphasis was placed on understanding what they said in reference to the general context.
Analysis of the findings shows both positive and negative past experiences. A. Positive experiences A.1 The influence of the teacher figure: belief in the pupil Most teachers mentioned the effect of their math teacher’s belief and confidence in them: Daniella: “Mainly I remember my teacher in middle school for about three years. She is quite a personality … a teacher who believes in you gives you the best feeling in the world.” A.2 Model teaching methods Teachers mentioned positive models of how to teach math, and how they now use methods their teachers had used with them Nurit: “I learned from teachers who knew how to teach.” Shlomit: “The teacher would give lots of examples so we understood what she meant.” B. Negative experiences and their impact on self-efficacy B.1 Teachers’ lack of belief in the pupil. Some teachers mentioned harsh, painful experiences of their math teacher’s lack of belief in them: “The teacher said: ‘You’re just wasting space here, it’d be better for you to be outside than sitting in class.’” B.2 A model of poor teaching methods Interviewees spoke about math teachers who used ineffective teaching methods: “In elementary school I was excellent, but when I got to middle school things just deteriorated. Mainly, no teacher really made an effort to help us understand. They taught stuff and whoever got it, got it.” In summation, positive experiences indeed led teachers to want to be math teachers themselves, but more interestingly, negative experiences, which supposedly should have pushed the interviewees away, also drew some to become math teachers in order to undergo a remedial experience: “Sometimes one grows and learns from failures too, and so I am here today to give my pupils a sense of success in math.”
Anthony, G., & Ord, K. (2008). Change of career secondary teachers: Motivations, expectations and intentions. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 36(4), 359–376. Bates, A. B., Latham, N., & Kim, J. (2011). Linking preservice teachers’ mathematics self-efficacy and mathematics teaching efficacy to their mathematical performance. School Science and Mathematics, 111(7), 325–333 Clandin, D. J., & Huber, J. (2010) Narrative inquiry. In B. McGaw, E. Baker, & P .P. Peterson, (Eds.). International encyclopedia of education (3rd ed.) (pp, ???). New York, NY. Elsevier. Costigan, A. T., Crocco, M. S., & Zumwalt, K. K. (2004). Learning to teach in an age of accountability. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Friedman, I. A. (2016). Being a teacher: Altruistic and narcissistic expectations of pre-service teachers. Teachers and Teaching, 22(5), 625-648. Heinz, M. (2015). Why choose teaching? An international review of empirical studies exploring student teachers’ career motivations and levels of commitment to teaching. Educational Research and Evaluation, 21(3), 258-297. Jihyun, L. (2009). Self-constructs and anxiety across cultures. ETS, Princeton, New Jersey Lavian, R. H. (2014). "Tikkun Atzmi" (Healing the Self) or "Tikkun Olam" (Healing the World) – Motivation for teaching in special education. Advances in Social Sciences Research Journal, 1(5), 41-50. Paloş, R., & Drobot, L. (2010). The impact of family influence on the career choice of adolescents. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 2(2), 3407-3411. Pines, A. M. (2002). Teacher burnout: A psychodynamic existential perspective. Teachers and Teaching, 8(2), 121-140. Smith, M. E., Swars, S. L., Smith, S. Z., Hart, L. C., & Haardoerfer, R. (2012). Effects of additional mathematics content courses on elementary teachers’ mathematical beliefs and knowledge for teaching. Action in Teacher Education, 4, 336-348. Watt, H. M. G., Richardson, P. W., Klusmann, U., Kunter, M., Beyer, B., Trautwein, U., & Baumert, J. (2012). Motivations for choosing teaching as a career: An international comparison using the FIT-Choice scale. Teaching and Teacher Education, 28(6), 791–805. Wright, S. L., & Perrone, K. M. (2008). The impact of attachment on career-related variables: A review of the literature and proposed theoretical framework to guide future research. Journal of Career Development, 35(2), 87-106.
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