Preservice Elementary Teachers' Visual Images of Themselves as Mathematics Teachers

By Utley, Juliana; Showalter, Betsy | Focus on Learning Problems in Mathematics, Summer 2007 | Go to article overview

Preservice Elementary Teachers' Visual Images of Themselves as Mathematics Teachers


Utley, Juliana, Showalter, Betsy, Focus on Learning Problems in Mathematics


Abstract

This study investigated preservice elementary teachers' pictorial representations of how they envision their future classroom and describe their own actions as well as those of their students. Drawings were analyzed for the preservice teachers' self-perceptions and for the language used in descriptions to refer to the teacher in the drawing for indicators of teacher-centeredness vs. student-centeredness. The drawings revealed that 82% of the preservice elementary teachers drew a female teacher and that 71% of them do not yet identify themselves as the teacher. Findings also showed that the majority of preservice elementary teachers still envision a classroom that is more teacher-centered than student-centered despite efforts of teacher preparation programs to effect a change in thinking.

Introduction

Preservice teachers come into teacher preparation programs with firmly established beliefs, attitudes, and perceptions about teaching that are born out of and nurtured by their previous experiences in school (Minor, Onwuegbuzie, Witcher, & James, 2002). Moreover, these beliefs, which can be held from early childhood (Goodman, cited in Thomas, Pederson, & Finson, 2001) and which are resistant to change, tend to direct teachers' classroom practice (Hart, 2002).

As preservice teachers proceed through professional education programs, they are given opportunities, typically though journal writing and assembling their education portfolios, to examine their reasons for choosing to be a teacher, to explore what it means to be a good teacher, and to reflect upon their teaching beliefs and attitudes. Some researchers have offered them another avenue by which they may reflect upon their attitudes. Some researchers have offered them another avenue by which they may reflect upon their attitudes about teaching--by drawing their perceptions of what a teacher looks like. Thomas, Pederson, and Finson (2001), recognizing and acknowledging their disparity between the traditional, information-laden, teacher-centered science education experiences that preservice teachers bring with them and the contemporary, inquiry-based, student-centered science teaching that preservice teachers experience in teacher preparation programs, have validated the Draw a Science Teacher Test (DASTT).

The DASTT was fashioned after Chambers' Draw-A-Scientist-Test (DAST) (as cited in Thomas, Pederson, & Finson, 2001) which was guided by Goodenough's Draw-A-Man-Test (DAMT) and Goodenow's Draw-A-Person-Test (DAPT) (as cited in Chambers, 1983). While the DAMT and DAPT were designed as intelligence instruments in the case of the former, or as indicators of the drawer's self-image in the case of the latter, Chambers (1983) developed the DAST in order to determine at what age and to what degree children first develop definite images of the scientist.

Moseley and Norris (1999), recognizing that preservice teachers could not be expected to invest themselves in science education reform if they will held the traditional, even stereotypical image of a scientist, i.e. white, male, wearing lab coat, eyeglasses, and facial hair, surrounded by lab equipment and books, administered the DAST to preservice teachers. They found that the preservice teachers' perceptions of scientists were similar to those of children, so the DAST became a springboard for discussion between teacher educators and preservice teachers, aimed at adjusting the lens through which preservice teachers view science and the scientific community, widening the focus to a more diverse image.

According to Thomas, Pederson, and Finson (2001), the DASTT gives preservice teachers the opportunity to place themselves into a visual image of their future classrooms, whereby they can "(a) picture themselves as elementary science teachers, (b) place themselves along a teaching theory continuum, and (c) consider the ways in which they developed their own science teaching beliefs" (p. …

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