Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Preservice Teachers' Learning to Generate Evidence-Based Hypotheses about the Impact of Mathematics Teaching on Learning

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Preservice Teachers' Learning to Generate Evidence-Based Hypotheses about the Impact of Mathematics Teaching on Learning

Article excerpt

Introduction

Current education reforms in the United States press teachers for ambitious teaching practices that attend closely to all students' learning of important content (Lampert & Graziani, 2009; McDonald, Kazemi, & Kavanagh, 2013). This call is clear; what is less obvious is how teacher education programs can support preservice teachers (PSTs) in the development of the necessary knowledge and skills.

This project contributes to our knowledge of experiences that might facilitate PSTs' learning of practices at the core of ambitious teaching. Typical models of teacher preparation attempt to impart a repertoire of expert knowledge and skills. However, the expectation of equipping PSTs with all the knowledge and skills necessary for ambitious teaching by graduation is unrealistic (Hammerness et al., 2005; Hiebert, Morris, Berk, & Jansen, 2007). Ambitious teaching is a complex endeavor and challenging for PSTs to learn, particularly given that most American teachers are graduates of the same education system we seek to improve. Therefore, we, like many in the field of teacher education, call for an alternative model of teacher preparation.

This model fosters many of the essential elements of ambitious teaching: PSTs learn to attend to student thinking, to develop student-focused practices, and to reason about strategies that assist students in attaining proficiency. The distinction in this alternative model lies in its conceptual basis, which stems from theories of how teachers learn (Brown, Bransford, Ferrara, & Campione, 1983; Hawkins, 1973). PSTs are only at the beginning of their teaching/learning trajectories; most of their learning occurs once they enter the teaching profession. Therefore, in conjunction with the development of skills for ambitious teaching, a central goal is to learn to learn.

Learning to learn from teaching is not a novel concept. Hawkins (1973) hypothesized, "It is possible to learn in two or three years the kind of practice which then leads to another twenty years of learning" (p. 7). Most preparation programs engage in some form of reflective activity, usually in conjunction with PSTs' fieldwork experience. However, not all reflection on practice leads to learning from practice (Davis, 2006; Santagata & Guarino, 2011). A focus on systematic and deliberate analysis of practice may place PSTs on a different teaching and learning trajectory than that offered by traditional preparation models. At the center of this proposed trajectory are the development of instructional and reflective practices in which student learning drives decisions and sense making. Teachers should be deliberate in their plans to elicit and build on student learning during instruction and use evidence of student learning to reason about the effectiveness of their instructional decisions.

Historically, these types of practices have not been systematically taught during teacher preparation. Fieldwork experiences were often thought of as the settings in which PSTs could learn them. This study investigates the value added by systematic instruction targeting these practices. The larger project of which this study is part compares, through an experimental design, two mathematics-methods courses (MMCs): a course that follows a typical format centered on the development of mathematics content and pedagogy (i.e., the Math-Methods Course [MMC]) and another that integrates dispositions, knowledge, and skills for learning from practice into content and pedagogy (i.e., the Learning From Mathematics Teaching Methods Course [LMT]). All other experiences are kept constant: PSTs attend the same courses and complete fieldwork. Field placements vary, but because PSTs are randomly assigned to them, variation across both groups should be similar. PSTs' learning is investigated both short term--during the teacher preparation program--and long term--during their first 3 years of professional practice as classroom teachers. …

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