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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