Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Exploring the Mathematical Knowledge Needed for Teaching Teachers

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Exploring the Mathematical Knowledge Needed for Teaching Teachers

Article excerpt

The importance of preparing preservice teachers to teach effectively has long been recognized. The issue of preservice mathematics teacher preparation, in particular, has been the subject of considerable debate for at least two decades (Brown, Cooney, & Jones, 1990; Even & Tirosh, 2002) and more recently, the issue of precisely what mathematics content preservice teachers need to know (Ball, Thames, & Phelps, 2008). Despite such attention to what teachers have to know, the field of teacher education lacks an evidence-based understanding of the knowledge mathematics teacher educators (MTEs) need to carry out their work. Indeed, no comprehensive, mutually agreed-upon knowledge base for and about teaching mathematics exists (Hiebert, Gallimore, & Stigler, 2002; Hiebert & Morris, 2009). Although there has been some exploratory work in this domain (e.g., Jaworski & Wood, 2008), currently there is no coherent synthesis of what MTEs need to know and do to support preservice teachers in developing mathematical knowledge in ways needed for teaching. Whereas researchers generally agree that the work of MTEs involves working with practicing and preservice teachers to improve and develop the teaching of mathematics (Jaworski, 2008), the knowledge MTEs use in their work is far from understood.

This lack of a knowledge base for mathematics teacher education reflects the state of the teacher education field more broadly. Having in place such a knowledge base is critical; without it, the field's ability to develop a common language for and about teacher educators is limited. If one goal of teacher education is to ultimately improve classroom teaching, then there needs to be a concomitant focus on understanding the knowledge used to teach preservice teachers to develop a common language for discussing, and ultimately improving, teacher educators' practice. Although this study focuses on teacher educators in the domain of mathematics, the approach used in this study can be applied to other domains to understand the knowledge demands of teacher educators' work.

The purpose of this study is to explore the knowledge entailed by teaching disciplinary content to preservice elementary teachers, specifically in mathematics. In doing so, the authors shift the focus of research on teacher education from what preservice teachers learn to the knowledge that teacher educators draw on as they support preservice teachers' learning. Through an analysis of data collected from five semesters of a university-based mathematics content course for preservice elementary teachers, this study focuses on the following research question: What forms of knowledge do MTEs use, and how is this knowledge different from that of K-12 teachers?

As some of the extant research (e.g., Tzur, 2001; Zaslavsky, Chapman, & Leikin, 2003) suggests, MTEs need knowledge and skills that are similar to the knowledge and skills needed by teachers, and there are also knowledge and skills that are specific to teaching teachers. Indeed, Mason's (1998, 2010) research on different levels of awareness in teaching suggests a higher level of awareness, essentially a different set of knowledge and skills, which is necessary for teaching teachers in particular, what Zopf (2010) referred to as mathematical knowledge needed for teaching teachers. In pursuit of this study's purpose, the authors focus on how particular MTEs use knowledge in their practice, and use this analysis as a tool for understanding the knowledge demands of work with preservice elementary teachers and how this knowledge is different from that required to teach K-12 students. Moreover, much of our current understanding of MTEs' knowledge is based on self-examinations of their development as MTEs (e.g., Tzur, 2001; Zaslavsky et al., 2003). To be sure, such examinations provide considerable insights into the nature of the work of MTEs and the knowledge they draw on in their practice. …

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