01 SES 16 A, Governance, Alignment and Cultural Differences
In preparation for teaching mathematics in primary school, pre-service teachers are mainly trained through university courses and school placements. According to Allen (2009) though, they appear to value more their placement practice than their formal university instruction. Furthermore, for many of them, a main source of perceptions about how mathematics is taught is based on their own experiences as pupils (Bjerke et al, 2013) which may be further validated by their school placements. Thus, “a critical issue for mathematics teacher educators is how to help prospective teachers develop a vision of mathematics that departs from their past experiences as learners.” (p. 69-70, Ebby 2000). In other words, it is imperative to align the formal education that pre-service teachers receive at university with (a) their individual needs and expectations (b) the social context they need this education for, which is the primary school.
Jaworski (2006) stresses that knowledge about teaching develops only “through a learning process in which teachers and others grow into the practices in which they engage” (p. 187). Accordingly, she proposes “inquiry” as a tool that teachers and educators can use together in order to foster effective approaches to mathematics teaching. In other words, forming a “community of inquiry” (Schoenfeld, 1996) will ultimately advance teaching practice.
This paper presents results from a pilot research project on the design and implementation of a professional development course on teaching mathematics. The course was addressed to postgraduate students who were also primary school teachers. The aim of the project was to investigate the effectiveness and appeal of a university course that was designed with the intention
a. to promote innovative teaching practices based on the principles of “inquiry mathematics”
b. to provide both a strong theoretical background and a real practical experience.
c. to bridge the gap between formal education and the school context.
A convenience sample of 14 postgraduate students (primary school teachers) was selected to participate in the study. This was divided in 3 distinct groups. Each group worked together with university academics (thus formed an inquiry group) in order to design and then implement original mathematics interventions. A multiple case study research design (Yin, 2009) was adopted with the work of each inquiry group being defined as the unit of analysis. Data were collected from various sources: observations, interviews, documentation and physical artifacts. The analysis was guided by the pattern matching and cross-case analysis techniques (Yin, 2009) in order to generate credible conclusions. This paper focuses on one inquiry group (IG) which consisted of 5 postgraduate students and two academics.
At the beginning of the course, the students were asked to provide ideas about mathematical activities for primary school. Their ideas were not bad but they were not very imaginative either and they lacked focus. Next, the students attended the first part of the course which was a series of theoretical but highly interactive lectures on “inquiry mathematics”. Then, the innovative part of the professional course took place. Each group worked together with university academics (thus formed an “inquiry group”) in order to design and then implement creative mathematics interventions for primary school. The interventions were based on the principles of “inquiry mathematics”. The initial ideas which were produced by IG at this stage were more focused and original. At the end of the course, IG designed and implemented a whole school day of mathematical activities suitable for the 1st and 2nd Year classes of a primary school: the activities were designed to be played as games and to provoke on the same time “inquiry mathematics”. The day was a success as all of the children enjoyed playing the games and on the same time they were involved efficiently with mathematics. The data analysis indicates that a striking difference was noted between the student-teachers’ perceptions at the beginning and at the end of the course. Obviously, a replication of this study on a larger sample is needed in order to generalize its findings. Nevertheless, it seems obvious, even from this small sample, that it is possible for teachers to develop innovative and successful mathematics practices through a carefully designed academic course.
1. Allen, J. (2009). Valuing practice over theory: how beginning teachers re-orient their practice in the transition from the university to the workplace. Teaching and Teacher Education, 25, 647–654. 2. Bjerke, A., Eriksen, E., Rodal, C., Smestad and Solomon, Y. (2013). Theorising mathematics teaching: pre-service teachers’ perceptions before and during school placement In: Pareliussen, I., Moen, B.B., Reinertsen A., Solhaug, T.: FoU i praksis 2012 conference proceedings, Akademika forlag Trondheim, 20-27. 3. Ebby, C. (2000). Learning to teach mathematics differently: the interaction between coursework and fieldwork for preservice teacher. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 3, 69–97. 4. Jaworski, B. (2006). Theory and practice in mathematics teaching development: critical inquiry as a mode of learning in teaching. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 9, 187-211. 5.Schoenfeld, A. (1996). In fostering communities of inquiry, must it matter that the teacher knows the answer? For the Learning of Mathematics, 16 (3), 11-16. Yin, R. K. (2009). Case study research: Design and methods. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.
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