Academic journal article The Mathematics Enthusiast

Investigating Engineers' Needs as a Part of Designing a Professional Development Program for Engineers Who Are to Become Mathematics Teachers

Academic journal article The Mathematics Enthusiast

Investigating Engineers' Needs as a Part of Designing a Professional Development Program for Engineers Who Are to Become Mathematics Teachers

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

The average age for teachers in mathematics and physics in Norway is about 60 (Sorensen, 2003) and few students taking a masters degree in a science subject choose a career as a teacher (KD, 2006). This implies that there may be a critical lack of science teachers in schools in the near future (Neess, 2002). At the same time, rather many graduated engineers - who have worked as engineers sometimes several years - want to contribute to the educational setting by taking part time jobs as teachers; lector-II (Vassnes, 2008). To combine this supply and demand for qualified teachers in mathematics, a professional development program in mathematics for engineers is planned. Focusing on this education, a research project is planned. It shall be a design research which initially will include a design of the tailored program in cooperation with the practitioners. This will be followed by an investigation of the engineers who take part in the program: How their mathematical knowledge develops as a result of completing the education.

The present paper has three aims: First, to outline the theoretical perspectives on which the planned design research project is based, along with general components to be considered when the engineers taking part in the program act as objectives. Second, to present the data collected to find out more about experiences and needs that engineers may have in a mathematics teaching position. Third, to discuss how findings in the incoming data material may influence the plans for the complementing studies.

The research question formulated is: What are the opinions, advantages and needs of an engineer in order to become a mathematics teacher, and how may these be implemented in a design research of a professional development program?

2. The design and theoretical framework

The theoretical framework of the planned main study is by Koeno Gravemeijer called developmental research (1994). He goes back to Freudenthal (1988), who meant that thought experiments are important in educational development. The developer envisions the teaching and learning process and after carrying it out tries to find evidence to see if the expectations he had were right or wrong. Based on practical experience, new thought experiments create an iteration of development and research. Gravemeijer claims that this cyclic process is at the centre of Freudenthal's concept of developmental research (1994, p. 449). Developmental research is similar to what is alternatively called design research. Eric Wittman is one researcher who see advantages by regarding mathematics education as a design science (1995). He emphasizes that an important element is building theory related to the design and then making the empirical investigations.

In our main study, researchers and practitioners will work closely together to develop the courses to be offered in the program. The design of the courses tailored for engineers is an important part, see Figure 1.

The cooperation between researchers and practitioners is intended to be a composition of Wagner's clinical partnership and co-learning agreement (Wagner, 1997), and is guided by the particular type of students involved. The reason for this adjusted framework is an earlier experienced difficulty with collecting realistic data among engineers (Rensaa, in preparation). The close cooperation between researchers and practitioners in the design research may contribute to building a bridge between the research and the teaching practice (Czarnocha & Prabhu, 2004).

It is not relevant to mix the engineers with other students at our university. This is both because the designed courses need to be tailored to the particular setting that the engineers are in, and because earlier experience with such a mix has been somewhat diversified (Rensaa, 2009a; 2009b). The tool for analysis of data - both in the preliminary investigations of the present paper and in the main study - will be mathematical competencies (Niss, 2003b). …

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