Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Mathematics Preparation and Professional Development of Deaf Education Teachers

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Mathematics Preparation and Professional Development of Deaf Education Teachers

Article excerpt

With the world increasingly dependent on mathematics and problemsolving skills, the poor mathematics performance of deaf and hard of hearing students is cause for concern. The present article focuses on the mathematics competency of teachers of deaf and hard of hearing students as a factor in this poor performance. As part of a larger study (Pagliaro, 1996, 1998a), deaf education teachers provided data on their postsecondary education and their professional development activities related to mathematics. Administrators were also questioned to investigate the schools' contribution to these activities. Results reveal an insufficient level of mathematics preparation among deaf education teachers, especially at the high school level. Few hold degrees in a mathematics-related field, and only a moderate number seek professional development in this discipline. Recommendations for improving the mathematics competencies of deaf education teachers are provided, with the objective of improving student performance.

With rapid technological progress increasing society's need for mathematics-competent workers, the mathematics education of the nation's children has come under scrutiny. Reports from the Third International Mathematics and Science Study and the National Assessment of Educational Progress show that, although improving ("Eighth-Grade Achievement," 1996; Reese, Miller, Mazzeo, & Dossey, 1997), the overall mathematics achievement of youth in the United States falls below the international average (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 1998). Educators are urged to upgrade their mathematics curricula and instructional methodology from that which met the needs of the industrial era to that which meets the demands of the information age. Emphases on problem solving, mathematical communication and reasoning, and interactive use of technology are specifically mentioned (NCTM, 1989, 1991, 1995; O'Neil, 1991).

In deaf education, where student achievement continues to lag significantly behind that of hearing counterparts (Allen, 1995), only a moderate number of teachers employ reformlike techniques in their mathematics instruction (Pagliaro, 1998a). Pagliaro (1998a) found that teachers working in kindergarten through 12th grade (K-12) in schools for the deaf continue to rely on traditional practices such as rote memorization and worksheets, and limit their use of technology to drill and practice. One possible explanation is that these teachers do not have the training needed to implement new practices.

Pre:service Preparation

General Education

Several studies show that the preservice education of teachers has a positive effect on student achievement. Students taught by teachers with strong academic backgrounds were found to do significantly better on placement exams than students taught by teachers without such training (Begle, 1979; Bodenhausen, 1988; Hawk, Coble, & Swanson, 1985; O'Neil, 1991).

Teacher educators recommend that training include three concomitant areas of knowledge-content, pedagogy, and cognition. Content knowledge, called the "essential component of teacher knowledge" (Ball & McDiarmid, 1989, p. 6), includes not only the "substance" of the subject, that is, its rules and procedures, but its "nature" as well-the deeper understanding, application, and use of the knowledge. Pedagogical knowledge includes techniques and strategies for planning, motivation, organization, and presentation (Fennema & Franke, 1992). Cognitive knowledge entails attempts to understand the ways in which students acquire and process content, and to understand the barriers to learning (Fennema & Franke, 1992).

Although each of the three knowledge areas is valuable in its own right, it is the interactive and influential association among them within the context of the classroom that is shown to have a strong relationship with quality instruction and student achievement (Fennema & Franke, 1992; Lappan & Theule-Lubienski, 1994; Shulman, 1986). …

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