Examining Perceptions of Mathematics Teaching Effectiveness among Elementary Preservice Teachers with Differing Levels of Mathematics Teacher Efficacy

Article excerpt

This study investigated perceptions of mathematics teaching effectiveness among elementary preservice teachers with high and low levels of mathematics teacher efficacy. Participants in this study included four elementary preservice teachers at a mid-sized university in the southeastern United States who had just completed a mathematics methods course. Data sources were the Mathematics Teaching Efficacy Beliefs Instrument and interviews. The interviews indicated that mathematics instructional strategies as well as past experiences with mathematics and their influences upon perceptions of teaching effectiveness were associated with mathematics teacher efficacy.

**********

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) has presented a vision of reform mathematics based upon constructivist approaches that has far-reaching implications for teacher practices in the mathematics classroom. Teachers are the crucial component to the success of the current reform movement in mathematics education (Battista, 1994). Teacher implementation of effective instructional practices in mathematics has been linked to teacher efficacy (Enon, 1995). Teacher efficacy is a significant predictor of mathematics instructional strategies, and highly efficacious teachers are more effective mathematics teachers than teachers with a lower sense of efficacy.

Teacher efficacy was derived from Bandura's (1977) conceptualization of self-efficacy, which is defined as individuals' judgments of their capabilities to accomplish certain levels of performance. Bandura asserted that self-efficacy beliefs govern most of human functioning and mediate how individuals, think, feel, motivate themselves, and behave. Using Bandura's theoretical framework, teacher efficacy is considered by many researchers to be a two-dimensional construct (Ashton, 1985; Dembo & Gibson, 1985; Enochs, Smith, & Huinker, 2000; Gibson & Dembo, 1984). The first factor, personal teacher efficacy, represents a teacher's belief in his or her skills and abilities to be an effective teacher. The second factor, teaching outcome expectancy, is a teacher's belief that effective teaching can bring about student learning regardless of external factors such as home environment, family background, and parental influences. Teacher efficacy was first investigated by the Rand Corporation (Dembo & Gibson, 1985). In the evaluation of education projects, it was found that teachers' sense of efficacy was positively related to the percentage of the project goals achieved, the amount of teacher changes, the continuity of project materials and methods, and the improvement of student performance.

Teacher efficacy also has been correlated to such significant variables as classroom instructional strategies and willingness to embrace innovations. Inservice teachers, as well as preservice teachers, who have high teacher efficacy use a greater variety of instructional strategies (Riggs & Enochs, 1990; Wenta, 2000). Highly efficacious teachers are more likely to use inquiry and student-centered teaching strategies, while teachers with a low sense of efficacy are more likely to use teacher-directed strategies, such as lecture and reading from the text (Czernaik, 1990). In addition, teachers with high teaching efficacy are more likely to try new leaching strategies, particularly techniques that may be difficult to implement and involve risks such as sharing control with students (Hami, Czerniak, & Lumpe, 1996; Riggs & Enochs, 1990). The approaches to teaching and learning of highly efficacious teachers are more consistent with the vision of mathematics put forth by NCTM (2000).

Although there are many studies concerning teacher efficacy, there is limited research on mathematics teacher efficacy, specifically with elementary preservice teachers. In the few studies on mathematics teacher efficacy of elementary preservice teachers, it was found that preservice teachers' participation in a mathematics methods course corresponded to significant increases in mathematics teacher efficacy (Cakiroglu, 2000; Huinker & Madison, 1997; Wenta, 2000). …