Changing Anticipated Mathematics Teaching Style and Reducing Anxiety for Teaching Mathematics among Pre-Service Elementary School Teachers

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Changing Anticipated Mathematics Teaching Style and Reducing Anxiety for Teaching Mathematics among Pre-service Elementary School Teachers1

Prior to participating in a mathematics methods course, pre-service elementary school teachers reported anxiety about their ability to teach mathematics effectively and anticipated teaching mathematics using the same methods that were used during their education. Since the professional education of pre-service teachers provides an ideal opportunity both to reduce anxiety for teaching mathematics and to introduce alternative instructional approaches, this study examined the relationship between anticipated teaching style and anxiety for teaching mathematics. Twenty-eight pre-service elementary school teachers completed questionnaires measuring anticipated mathematics teaching style and anxiety for teaching mathematics at the beginning and completion of a mathematics methods course. Anticipated teaching style was categorized as Teacher-Oriented or Student-Oriented. Lowest initial levels of anxiety for teaching mathematics were found among those who anticipated teaching mathematics using a Student-Oriented style. There was a significant decrease in anxiety for teaching mathematics at the conclusion of the course with the largest decrease among those who changed their anticipated teaching style from Teacher-Oriented to Student-Oriented. Implications for improving teacher education are discussed.

Improving mathematics education is of major concern among educators. While mathematics education has focused on the content to be taught, current educational reform emphasizes the way mathematics is taught, in addition to the mathematical content itself (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics [NCTM], 1989, 1991). By considering both teacher and student, this shift in focus highlights the importance of motivational factors impacting the learning environment. In particular, anxiety for teaching mathematics may be related to the way in which mathematics is taught.

Teaching actions, reflected in mathematics teaching style, are viewed as components of mathematics instructional quality (Koehler and Grouws, 1992). Implicit in mathematics teaching style is a conception of the nature of the content and how it is learned (Ernest, 1989; Thompson, 1992). A Teacher-Oriented style reflects "instrumental understanding" (Skemp, 1978) which presents a view of mathematics as a finite domain of facts and rules, with teacher or text as both its source and transmitter. In contrast, a Student-Oriented style reflects "relational understanding" (Skemp, 1978), which views mathematics as comprised of dynamic concepts and procedures that are actively learned and become resources for future situations. A Student-Oriented style rather than a Teacher-- Oriented style of teaching mathematics is recommended by mathematics educators (Lampert, 1988; National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 1989; National Research Council, 1989).

One of the sources of mathematics teaching style is the style by which teachers were taught in their own elementary school experience (Levine, 1993). Choice of teaching style also appears to be related to affective teacher characteristics. In particular, anxious teachers are more likely to teach using a whole-class format focusing on skills rather than concepts, and are less likely to welcome student questions (Bush, 1989). This classroom description resembles a Teacher-Oriented teaching style. Teachers with higher anxiety for teaching mathematics are likely to employ a Teacher-Oriented style.

Anxiety for teaching mathematics (ATM) is an example of the general concern elementary school teachers report regarding their inadequate knowledge about content and their inability to present it effectively to students (Romeo, 1987). One recent study found a significant decrease in anxiety for teaching mathematics among preservice teachers who participated in a mathematics methods course taught in a Student-Oriented teaching style (Westerback, Levine, and Primavera, 1993). …