Teachers and Their Educators - Views on Contents and Their Development Needs in Mathematics Teacher Education

By Koponen, Mika; Asikainen, Mervi A. et al. | The Mathematics Enthusiast, April 2016 | Go to article overview

Teachers and Their Educators - Views on Contents and Their Development Needs in Mathematics Teacher Education


Koponen, Mika, Asikainen, Mervi A., Viholainen, Antti, Hirvonen, Pekka E., The Mathematics Enthusiast


Introduction

Finland has scored well in international assessments (e.g., PISA, TIMSS), and the Finnish school system has been rated as being of top quality. Finnish teacher education has also been evaluated as high in quality from an international perspective (Kivirauma & Ruoho, 2007; Tryggvason, 2009). An important reason for this success is that Finnish teachers are educated both systematically and extensively, and every qualified teacher must have a Master's degree (Tryggvason, 2009). It is claimed that Finnish teacher education is the result of a long-term, research-based development (Tryggvason, 2009). However, the voices of practicing mathematics teachers and teacher educators have not received attention enough in the research field. Are these two groups satisfied with the current contents of mathematics teacher education and what kind of needs of development they see at the moment?

In the present study we focus on practicing mathematics teachers' and teacher educators' views on mathematics teacher education. The practicing teachers participating in this study graduated in the period of 2002-2012 and they nowadays teach at school level, which enables them to evaluate the contents of teacher education from a perspective of the teacher's profession. In addition, when the survey was implemented the teacher educators were actively working as teacher educators. We were interested in discovering how these two subject groups saw the present contents of the Mathematics Teacher Education Program (MTEP) at the University of Eastern Finland and also in how they would develop the teacher education program. We sought answers to the following research questions:

1. How do teacher educators and practicing mathematics teachers regard the course contents of mathematics teacher education?

2. What kind of recommendations would teacher educators and practicing mathematics teachers make for improving mathematics teacher education program?

The views held by practicing teachers and teacher educators play an import role in developing teacher education. There may be a possibility that the contents are not regarded as being as useful as teacher educators assume. It is also possible that practicing teachers and teacher educators hold conflicting views about the contents. Hence, the views of both groups are important in order to be able to form a coherent picture of the current status of teacher education and to construct an extensive basis for the development work.

Our methodical aim has been to test a theoretical framework called Mathematical Knowledge for Teaching (MKT) (Ball, Thames & Phelps, 2008) through the process of categorizing practicing teachers' and teacher educators' views. This framework appeared to be promising for categorizing these views, since it has previously worked relatively well in classifying teacher knowledge (see Markworth, Goodwin, & Glisson, 2009; Fauskanger, Jakobsen, Mosvold, & Bjuland, 2012).

Conceptualizing the Teaching of Mathematics

Mathematical knowledge for teaching

There was an increasing interest in the 1980s in teacher qualifications and methods of effective teaching that would influence student learning. Lee Shulman proposed that a teacher also needs to possess other types of knowledge than pure subject matter knowledge in order to teach so that students would understand. In 1986 Lee Shulman introduced a new term, pedagogical content knowledge (PCK). According to Shulman (1986), teachers must have an integrated knowledge of subject and pedagogy, some kind of amalgam knowledge. Initially, Shulman considered PCK to be a topic-specific subcategory of content knowledge, which included two further subcategories: knowledge of representations and knowledge of learning difficulties and strategies for overcoming them. Shulman's later model consisted of seven categories, of which PCK was one, with no subcategories (Shulman, 1987). By proposing PCK as one out of seven categories of conceptualization, Shulman neglected the potential for integration among these categories and the hierarchies that might exist between them, and left the task of further development of the concept to other researchers (Hashweh, 2005). …

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