Academic journal article Journal of Invitational Theory and Practice

Merging Invitational Theory with Mathematics Education: A Workshop for Teachers

Academic journal article Journal of Invitational Theory and Practice

Merging Invitational Theory with Mathematics Education: A Workshop for Teachers

Article excerpt

Two faculty members in the department of mathematical sciences at a four-year university, with teacher-education experience, presented a workshop for in-service elementary and middle-school teachers. The intention was to address affective aspects of teaching including: teacher efficacy, learning styles, cognitive dissonance, relaxation, and beliefs as they influence behavior in order to motivate reflection and change. The goal of the workshop was to enhance the professional and personal development of the participants. The outline and implementation of the workshop were consistent with major tenets of Invitational Theory and with NCTM's 2000 Principles and Standards for School Mathematics. The intent of this paper is to suggest that educators reflect upon the teacher education program at their university and offer similar workshops.

Introduction

When it comes to mathematics, it seems to be a societal belief that some people "have it" and some people don't. Ask, at any social gathering, "Has anyone here:

* been embarrassed in math class and, as a result, given up?

* studied hard for a math test and failed with little hope for doing better?

* asked a question in math class and not understood the answer?"

If any of the above have ever happened to you, then you're considered to be a "have not." Socially, mathematics weakness is frequently joked about; but professionally, it is taken seriously. Professionally, teachers are not encouraged to speak up about these past experiences because it may demonstrate weakness. The authors of this piece offered a workshop in which the atmosphere encouraged K-8 teachers to feel welcomed and free to speak up. The workshop title was "Becoming a more powerful teacher: How to think, teach and believe in yourself". The underlying theme, based in cognitive restructuring (Kitchens & Hollar, in press; Meichenbaum, 1977) and perceptual psychology (Combs, Richards & Richards, 1976; Purkey & Schmidt, 1996), is consistent with the writings of many scholars who argue that life experiences are at the formation of beliefs that, in turn, dictate behavior (Bandura, 1986; Combs, 1982, Kitchens, 1995; Knowles, 2004; McEntire & Kitchens, 1984; Meichenbaum, 1977; Pajares, 1994). The topics of discussion included: the effects of beliefs on behavior, learning styles (an often-overlooked factor in mathematics difficulty), teacher efficacy, cognitive dissonance, guided imagery, and relaxation as applied to the personal reflection and self-development related to the participants' teaching. Activities included: an activity to demonstrate learning-style differences, solving challenging mathematics problems chosen to create anxiety, and a guided imagery exercise preceded by muscle-relaxation.

The intentions of this paper include the following: to demonstrate that the workshop aligned with four dimensions and four assumptions in Purkey's foundation article on invitational theory (1992); to confirm that the ideals of the workshop were in agreement with those presented by the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) in the 2000 Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (the Standards); and to propose a refined version of the workshop for in-service K-8 teachers that gives support for the application of invitational theory to the teaching of mathematics and to the professional development of teachers.

The Underlying Model and Theme of the Workshop

The underlying workshop theme was to make the participants more aware of the effect of their beliefs on behaviors and on their feelings of self-efficacy as teachers. The three components--experiences, beliefs, and behaviors--drive a syndrome that can be a success syndrome or a failure syndrome. The syndrome involves an acquired belief, affirmed as a result of a past experience, that dictates a resulting behavior. Then the behavior becomes another experience reinforcing the learned belief and generates a reinforced behavior: thus the syndrome. …

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