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Learning to Teach as Assisted Performance

by Denise S. Mewborn & David W. Stinson - 2007

Background: Although preservice teachers bring well-established views of teaching to their teacher education programs, Tabachnick and Zeichner (1984) claimed that it is possible to amend preservice teachers’ views. They portrayed the learning of teachers as a negotiated and interactive process rather than as one that is predetermined by teachers’ prior experiences. Feiman-Nemser (2001) suggested that having preservice teachers examine their beliefs in light of images of good teaching should be one of the central tasks of preservice teacher education.

Purpose: The study reported in this manuscript was conducted in an effort to document and examine the interplay between novice teachers’ personal theories, their mathematics education coursework, and their field experiences.

Research Design: Using all four methods of data collection attributed to ethnographic research (Eisenhart, 1988)—artifact collection, participant observation, ethnographic interviewing, and researcher introspection—this interpretivist study (Zeichner & Gore, 1990) attempted to document and examine the learning of seven preservice elementary teachers as reflected in their mathematics methods coursework and subsequent field experiences.

Findings: This manuscript describes three tasks from the mathematics methods course—critiquing an essay written by a teacher as she reflected on her teaching practice; working one-on-one with a child in mathematics for an extended period of time; and observing an experienced teacher teach an elementary mathematics lesson—that provided preservice elementary school teachers with opportunities to learn and grow as teachers by making their beliefs explicit and then reflecting on their beliefs and linking these beliefs to the practice of teaching mathematics. The tasks described engaged the preservice teachers in examining beliefs critically in relation to visions of good teaching, developing an understanding of learners and learning, and developing the tools and dispositions to study teaching.

Conclusions: While an analysis of the data showed evidence that the preservice teachers became aware of their beliefs, reflected on their beliefs, and began to change their beliefs, the purpose of this manuscript is not to claim that the teachers changed for the good and that this change was enduring. Rather, the goal is to illuminate the tasks, provide the preservice teachers’ responses and reactions to the tasks, and to argue that these tasks constitute a form of learning to teach mathematics through assisted performance.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 109 Number 6, 2007, p. 1457-1487
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 13496, Date Accessed: 9/18/2021 9:30:50 AM

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About the Author
  • Denise Mewborn
    University of Georgia
    E-mail Author
    DENISE S. MEWBORN is a Professor of Mathematics Education and Head of the Department of Mathematics and Science Education at the University of Georgia where she teaches mathematics methods courses for prospective elementary school teachers. Her research interests include how preservice teachers make sense of classroom events, how teaching practice develops across time, and teachers’ beliefs. She is a co-author of “Research on teaching mathematics: The unsolved problem of teachers’ mathematical knowledge,” which appeared in the Fourth Handbook of Research on Teaching. She is also serving as the series editor for the four-volume series title Teachers engaged in research: Inquiry into mathematics, which is to be published by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and InfoAge Publishing in 2006.
  • David Stinson
    Georgia State University
    E-mail Author
    DAVID STINSON is an Assistant Professor of Mathematics Education at Georgia State University. His research interests are examining how mathematics teachers incorporate the philosophical and theoretical underpinnings of postmodern critical theory into their education philosophies and classroom practices and how students who are constructed outside the White, Christian, heterosexual male of bourgeois privilege successfully accommodate, resist, or reconfigure the hegemonic discourses of schooling, and of society generally. He is the author of “Mathematics as ‘gatekeeper’?: Three theoretical perspectives that aim toward empowering all children with a key to the gate.” This essay, after verifying mathematics as a gatekeeper, explores the empowering tenets of the situated, cultural relevant, and critical theoretical perspectives on the teaching and learning of mathematics.
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