A Case in Mathematics Education Using Skits to Connect Preservice Teachers' Language and Practices

Article excerpt

Having students write and enact skits has been suggested for its potential to, for example, improve students' creative writing and communication skills (Myers & Torrance, 2003), enhance the psychomotor, cognitive, and affective domains in slow readers (Kise, 1982), and provide opportunities for foreign language students to practice a target language in meaningful contexts (Makita-Discekici, 1999). Makita-Discekici additionally indicated that college students learning Japanese enjoyed creating and carrying out skits in class. Although assorted incidences of the use of skits in classrooms have been documented, though, literature on the use of skits as a learning tool is very limited. Further, discussions of the use of skits in teacher education are essentially nonexistent. Enabling teacher educators to examine preservice teachers in practice, skits allow for the generally absent observation component during early stages of the teacher education program. The purpose of this paper is to communicate the generative potential of classroom skits as curricular openings in teacher education. I present a case incorporating skits with preservice elementary teachers in a mathematics content/methods course. This case helps to raise insights and questions regarding preservice teachers' use of language about teaching and learning in connection with their instructional practices.

Why Skits?

Preservice teachers have a long history of experience with K-12 schooling from their pasts as students, and these pasts have often been acknowledged to play an important role in their eventual teaching (e.g., Borko & Putnam, 1996; Calderhead & Robson, 1991; Hollingsworth, 1989; Lortie, 1975; National Research Council [NRC], 2000; Pajares, 1992; Thompson, 1992). Given this, it has been popular for teacher educators to try to find ways to learn about and to address these histories in the context of promoting change, with many conversations having been carried out in teacher education literature about ways to purposefully use preservice teachers' pasts to support their ongoing learning in teacher education programs. For example, along with surveys, interviews, and field observations, Clark and Peterson (1986) communicated additional popular methods of inquiry often incorporated to understand teachers' thought processes and experiences--such as thinking aloud, stimulated recall, policy capturing, journal keeping, and the repertory grid technique.

Among the more prevalent ways of trying to address preservice teachers' past experiences has the examination of constructs such as "beliefs" or "prior conceptions," particularly in relation to instructional practices. Wideen, MayerSmith, and Moon (1998) concluded from a review of 93 empirical studies on learning to teach that the most popular recommendation made by researchers was the essential first step of having beginning teachers examine their prior beliefs. Fosnot (1996) explained the need to draw out and address prior conceptions during teacher education, stating, "Just as young learners construct, so, too, do teachers" (p. 216). Further, she added:

   If understanding the teaching/learning
   process from a constructivist
   view is itself constructed, and if
   teachers tend to teach as they were
   taught, rather than as they were
   taught to teach, then teacher education
   needs to begin with these
   traditional beliefs and subsequently
   challenge them through activity,
   reflection, and discourse both in
   coursework and field work throughout
   the duration of the program
   (p. 206).

Examining the features of 35 teacher education programs self-identified in their support of constructivist theories, Dangel and Guyton (2003) categorized eight elements prominent across programs, one of which was "learner-centered instruction" (p. 4). Within the discussion of learner-centered instruction, Dangel and Guyton described how in constructivist-oriented programs, "The teacher educator also works hard at assessing teacher-learners prior knowledge and understandings throughout instruction with an aim to helping them develop a deeper, richer conception of the topic" (p. …