Mathematics Teacher Education: Innovations at Work: Guest Editor's Introduction

By Benken, Babette M. | Issues in Teacher Education, Fall 2008 | Go to article overview

Mathematics Teacher Education: Innovations at Work: Guest Editor's Introduction


Benken, Babette M., Issues in Teacher Education


This issue of Issues in Teacher Education explores the continuum of teacher education through the content vehicle of mathematics, thereby encapsulating the journal's focus on probing the education of teachers from initial preparation through on-going professional development. Given the federal and state-level emphasis on content knowledge, the absence of Highly Qualified mathematics teachers, and recent efforts to recruit teachers in mathematics (e.g., The National Academies, 2007), this special issue is timely and of great importance to our readers.

Expectations and ideals endorsed by current reform efforts in mathematics education (e.g., NCTM, 2000) challenge teachers in their thinking about mathematics teaching and learning. Teachers are asked to teach in ways that promote an integrated, connected view of mathematics, rather than a procedural, rule-based view. Research suggests that some teachers, particularly at the elementary level, lack crucial mathematical understandings and conceptions needed to support this approach to mathematics teaching, particularly when faced with implementing new curricula. Although this climate provides an exciting opportunity for mathematics teacher educators of both content and pedagogy, there is not a clear path as to how to integrate these two historically separate facets of teacher education to facilitate prospective teacher learning, as well as structure teacher education and professional development programs and supporting curricula. Students sometimes leave their teacher education programs with the same preconceived notions about content, teaching, and learning as when they enter, suggesting that new models and approaches that promote long-term change are needed.

At the level of initial teacher preparation, one such model implemented at San Diego State University that is "Motivating Prospective Elementary School Teachers To Learn Mathematics by Focusing upon Children's Mathematical Thinking" is shared by Randolph A. Philipp. In a specially designed, required course that accompanies a mathematics course on whole and rational number operations, prospective teachers look at mathematics through the lens of children's mathematical thinking by analyzing student work, solving mathematics problems themselves, and viewing video where children explain their problem solving and solutions. Philipp outlines principles that support the course, suggestions for how to implement such an approach, and research that supports its effectiveness in developing prospective teachers' beliefs and content knowledge.

With a similar goal of ascertaining more about how to support teacher learning, as well as the practice of teaching, Miriam Gamoran Sherin, Romary Russ, Bruce L. Sherin, and Adam Colestock are examining the viability of using a small video camera as a tool for studying what teachers notice and why they value these moments in facilitating student learning in the classroom. In "Professional Vision in Action: An Exploratory Study," the authors carefully explicate findings from one high school mathematics teacher's experiences utilizing the technological device during instruction. This teacher's observations, coupled with his reflection on choices made during select moments, reveal how powerful utilizing such a device can be for both a teacher's professional development and teacher educators' ability to understand teacher decision- making in the field.

Also maximizing the power of today's technology to facilitate teacher development are Katherine A. Morris and Joan Easterday, who, in "Amplifying Autonomy and Collective Conversation: Using Video iPodsTM To Support Mathematics Teacher Learning," present a case study in which personal video players were employed to help teachers improve their teaching of algebraic thinking to middle grades (5-9) English Language Learners. The aim of the multi-year, professional development project was to help teachers learn how to facilitate classroom discussions in which all students have opportunities to make conjectures, justify their reasoning, evaluate problem solving strategies, and move towards generalizations and proof, as recommended by current reform.

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Mathematics Teacher Education: Innovations at Work: Guest Editor's Introduction
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