• unlimited access with print and download
    $ 37 00
  • read full document, no print or download, expires after 72 hours
    $ 4 99
More info
Unlimited access including download and printing, plus availability for reading and annotating in your in your Udini library.
  • Access to this article in your Udini library for 72 hours from purchase.
  • The article will not be available for download or print.
  • Upgrade to the full version of this document at a reduced price.
  • Your trial access payment is credited when purchasing the full version.
Buy
Continue searching

Listening to early career teachers: How can elementary mathematics methods courses better prepare them to utilize standards-based practices in their classrooms?

Dissertation
Author: Lee (Leila) Anne Coester
Abstract:
This study was designed to gather input from early career elementary teachers with the goal of finding ways to improve elementary mathematics methods courses. Multiple areas were explored including the degree to which respondents' elementary mathematics methods course focused on the NCTM Process Standards, the teachers' current standards-based teaching practices, the degree to which various pedagogical strategies from mathematics methods courses prepared preservice teachers for the classroom, and early career teachers' suggestions for improving methods courses. Both qualitative and quantitative methodologies were used in this survey study as questions were of both closed and open format. Data from closed-response questions were used to determine the frequency, central tendencies and variability in standards-based preparation and teaching practices of the early career teachers. Open-ended responses were analyzed to determine patterns and categories relating to the support of, or suggestions for improving, elementary mathematics methods courses. Though teachers did not report a wide variation in the incorporation of the NCTM Process Standards in their teaching practices, some differences were worth noting. Problem Solving appeared to be the most used with the least variability in its frequency of use. Reasoning, in general, appeared to be used the least frequently and with the most variability. Some aspects of Communication, Connections and Representation were widely used and some were used less frequently. From a choice of eight methods teaching practices, 'Observing in actual classrooms or working with individual students' and 'Planning and teaching in actual classrooms' were considered by early career teachers to be the most beneficial aspects of methods courses.

Table of Contents List of Tables ................................................................................................................... viii

Acknowledgements ............................................................................................................ ix

Dedication ........................................................................................................................... x

CHAPTER 1 - Introduction ................................................................................................ 1

Introduction ..................................................................................................................... 2

Statement of Problem ...................................................................................................... 5

Research Questions ......................................................................................................... 6

Overview of Study (Theoretical Framework and Research Design) .............................. 6

Significance of Study ...................................................................................................... 9

Limitations of the Study ............................................................................................... 10

Definition of Terms ...................................................................................................... 12

Summary ....................................................................................................................... 14

CHAPTER 2 - Review of Literature ................................................................................. 16

Introduction ................................................................................................................... 16

Historical Perspective on Standards-based Teaching ................................................... 17

Teachers ........................................................................................................................ 23

Impact on Student Learning ...................................................................................... 23

Pressures on Teachers ............................................................................................... 24

Attrition Issues .......................................................................................................... 25

Early Career Teachers ................................................................................................... 27

Challenges and Expectations .................................................................................... 27

Stages/phases of Development ................................................................................. 28

Teacher Socialization ................................................................................................ 30

Socialization Prior to Formal Education ............................................................... 30

Socialization During Preservice Education .......................................................... 32

Socialization During the Inservice Years ............................................................. 34

Socialization Conclusions ..................................................................................... 36

Early Career Teachers’ Use of Traditional vs. Reform Teaching ............................. 37

Socialization (by other names).............................................................................. 37

vi

Additional Challenges for Early Career Teachers ................................................ 38

Elementary Mathematics Methods Courses ................................................................. 40

Introduction ............................................................................................................... 40

Impact of Methods Courses ...................................................................................... 40

Supports and Denials ............................................................................................ 40

Universal Call for Change .................................................................................... 44

Methods Course Components ................................................................................... 46

Central Tasks of Preservice Preparation ............................................................... 47

Developing Subject Matter Knowledge for Teaching .......................................... 48

Developing a Beginning Repertoire...................................................................... 52

Analyzing Beliefs and Forming New Visions ...................................................... 53

Developing the Tools to Study Teaching .............................................................. 55

Conclusions ................................................................................................................... 55

CHAPTER 3 - Methodology ............................................................................................ 57

Overview ....................................................................................................................... 57

Research Design ........................................................................................................... 58

Pilot Studies .................................................................................................................. 58

Survey Instrument ......................................................................................................... 66

Setting/Participants ....................................................................................................... 72

Data Collection ............................................................................................................. 73

Data Analysis ................................................................................................................ 75

Trustworthiness ............................................................................................................. 77

Credibility/Internal Validity ...................................................................................... 77

Transferability/External Validity .............................................................................. 78

Dependability/Reliability .......................................................................................... 79

Confirmability ........................................................................................................... 79

Summary ....................................................................................................................... 80

CHAPTER 4 - Results ...................................................................................................... 81

Introduction ................................................................................................................... 81

Demographics of Respondents ..................................................................................... 81

Survey Questions 1 and 2 ..................................................................................... 82

vii

Survey Question 21 ............................................................................................... 82

Survey Question 22 ............................................................................................... 83

Survey Question 23 ............................................................................................... 84

Survey Section II – Research Question 1 ..................................................................... 85

Survey Section III – Research Question 2 .................................................................... 94

Survey Section IV – Research Question 3 .................................................................. 102

Summary ..................................................................................................................... 108

CHAPTER 5 - Conclusions ............................................................................................ 109

Overview of the Study ................................................................................................ 109

Demographics of Survey Respondents ....................................................................... 111

Summary of Results Related to Research Questions .................................................. 112

Question 1 ........................................................................................................... 112

Question 2 ........................................................................................................... 116

Question 3 ........................................................................................................... 120

Recommendations for Further Research ..................................................................... 124

Research on Early Career Teacher Use of Standards-Based Practices ............... 124

Research on Improving Elementary Mathematics Methods Courses ................. 126

Conclusions ................................................................................................................. 127

References ....................................................................................................................... 129

Appendix A - Analysis of Young and the Rest of Us ..................................................... 144

Appendix B - Pilot Response Sheet ................................................................................ 154

Appendix C - Explanatory Email for District Contacts .................................................. 156

Appendix D - Email to Initial Group of Early Career Teachers ..................................... 157

Appendix E - Survey Description, Opening Instructions, and Informed Consent.......... 158

Appendix F - Email Reminder ........................................................................................ 159

Appendix G - Survey – Listening to Early Career Teachers: How Can Elementary Mathematics Methods Courses Better Prepare Them to Utilize Standards-Based Practices in their Classrooms? ................................................................................. 160

viii

List of Tables Table 2.1 Process Standards

............................................................................................. 21 Table 3.1 Research Questions Matched to Survey Questions and Pilot Study

................. 70 Table 3.2 Survey Dates and Response Rates

.................................................................... 74 Table 3.3 Number of Survey Completers

......................................................................... 75 Table 4.1 Demographic Questions and Response Options

............................................... 81 Table 4.2 Number of Years in Teaching

........................................................................... 82 Table 4.3 Focus of Methods Course(s) on NCTM Process Standards

............................. 83 Table 4.4 Primary Area of Responsibility

........................................................................ 84 Table 4.5 Respondents’ Teaching Grade Level

................................................................ 84 Table 4.6 Survey Question 3: Communication Strategies

................................................ 85 Table 4.7 Survey Question 4: Connection Strategies

....................................................... 87 Table 4.8 Survey Question 5: Reasoning Strategies

......................................................... 89 Table 4.9 Survey Question 6: Representation Strategies

.................................................. 90 Table 4.10 Survey Question 7: Problem Solving Strategies

............................................. 91 Table 4.11 Average Ranges and Means for Each Process Standard

................................. 92 Table 4.12 Frequency of Degree of Benefit for Aspects of Methods

............................... 95 Table 4.13 Rankings of Percentages of Benefit from Aspects of Methods

...................... 98 Table 4.14 Ranked Aspects of Methods Course

............................................................... 99 Table 4.15 Research Question 2 – Open Ended Responses

............................................ 100 Table 4.16 Ranked Order of Beneficial Practices for Each Central Task

...................... 103 Table 4.17 Ranked Order of Practices to Improve Methods Courses (by Sums)

........... 104 Table 4.18 Research Question 3 – Open Ended Responses + Question 24

.................... 106

ix

Acknowledgements I would like to acknowledge the support of friends and faculty members from both Washburn University in Topeka, KS and Kansas State University in Manhattan, KS. All of my friends and colleagues at Washburn University encouraged me to take on this challenge then provided the friendship I needed to continue and complete the journey. A special thank you to Ken and Ruth Ohm for both technical and personal advice and support. I thank my committee members at KState, past and present, for the key role that each played in this long process. Thanks to Dr. Jenny Bay-Williams, Dr. Virginia Naibo, Dr. Jackie Spears, Dr. John Staver, and Dr. Tom Vontz. Special thanks and highest praise goes to my co chairs, Dr. David Allen and Dr. Gail Shroyer. Dr. Shroyer’s knowledgeable advice and giving nature were invaluable and made this process so much easier. Without Dr. Allen’s constant support, answers to unending questions, and continual boosting of my spirit, I literally would not have achieved this goal. Last, thanks to all of my fellow KState doctoral students. You made the coursework fun and interesting and many of you, Keith, Janet, Lanae, and Jeff, have served as mentors and role models as you completed your work and kept pulling me to join you in the doctoral ranks.

x

Dedication This book is dedicated to my friends and family, especially my parents, Gilbert and Libby; my mother-in-law, Neva; my dear husband Wade; our loving daughters, Stacy and Nikki; our son-in-law, Christian; and the cutest, smartest, sweetest grandchildren in the world, Elli and Zachary. Without your love and support, nothing else would matter. I am truly blessed.

1

CHAPTER 1 - Introduction

Preface Imagine the absurdity: while dining out, most of the women and many of the men at the table glance at the menu and glibly announce: “Oh, I can’t read this. I’m awful at reading! I can’t even read my mail when it comes in.” It sounds too ridiculous to believe. And yet, especially as mathematics teacher educators, we routinely observe analogous situations when our tablemates glance at the bill: “Oh, I can’t figure this out. I’m awful at math. I can’t even balance my checkbook.” What seems outlandish in the realm of literacy is positively mundane when we’re talking about mathematics. Think about the dichotomy. Americans with low literacy skills go to extraordinary lengths to hide their struggles while math inabilities and phobias are worn like badges of honor. What a powerful testament to the tacit approval our society grants fashionable innumeracy. (Morris, 2006, p. 8) Though fashionable innumeracy may trouble those of us in math education, many parents, administrators, and even other teachers seem unworried that the supposed lack of the “math gene” serves as justification for all types of life decisions. Parents use their own lack of math ability as an excuse for their children’s poor performance in coursework. High school and college students make lifetime career decisions based on the math degree requirements of certain professions (Darling-Hammond, 2003). Perhaps most upsetting, some math teachers and professors joke about their own lack of math ability. Others support education programs where lack or possession of supposed math capabilities determines who is held in courses year after year trying to memorize facts and algorithms and who is admitted into higher track courses, allowing them a myriad of opportunities not available to their lower track counterparts. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics has addressed this attitude toward math by espousing “math for all” and “all students can learn” throughout the

2

Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics (NCTM, 1989) and the Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (NCTM, 2000). The vision of equity in mathematics education challenges the pervasive societal belief in North America that only some students are capable of learning mathematics. This belief…leads to low expectations for too many students…Expectations must be raised—mathematics can and must be learned by all students. (NCTM, 2000, p. 12-13) NCTM’s vision clearly applies to all students, with the goal that adults can not only do mathematics, but have a positive attitude toward mathematics also. Does the preceding NCTM statement on equitable education for all students provide the proper prospective and motivation for educators in our country to address the complacency towards mathematics as demonstrated by our society? What further efforts can be initiated to address the NCTM goal of high expectations for all students and educators?

Introduction The 1990s and 2000s have been a time of reform for mathematics in political arenas as well as professional ones. Possibly following trends set by previous presidents in attempting to “fix” broader problems by reforming schools (Tyack & Cuban, 1995) the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) was passed by Congress in 2001 and signed into law in 2002. One goal of the legislation was that all students demonstrate, via state developed assessments, their achievement of set math and reading standards. Schools must also show adequate yearly progress across all subgroups (NCLB, 2001). Though many have disagreed with the expectations and ultimate consequences of NCLB, the NCLB legislation has had a profound impact on how the educational community deals with students who struggle with mathematics. Schools have been forced to focus on those students who had previously been labeled as “slow” at math or struggling learners. Though some school districts have responded with more of the same “drill and kill” teaching strategies, other districts have focused on research-based practices for answers in addressing students’ needs.

Research supports the assertion that quality teachers have a significant impact on student learning. “It is now widely agreed that teachers are the most significant factor in

3

children’s learning and the linchpins in educational reforms of all kinds” (Cochran-Smith & Zeichner, 2005, p. 1). The Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (PSSM) support the idea that effective, competent teachers are a key component in the quest for improvement in education. “Students learn mathematics through the experiences that teachers provide” (NCTM, 2000, p.16). Not only do these experiences affect students’ understanding of mathematical concepts, but also students’ dispositions toward mathematics and confidence in themselves as doers of mathematics (NCTM, 2000). The concept of highly qualified teachers, as outlined in NCLB (2001), has further supported the need for more research in the area of preparing competent, qualified teachers. An additional impact of the NCLB legislation is the high expectations placed upon teachers to demonstrate success in the form of students’ academic achievement. This expectation in conjunction with a lack of appropriate planning time, less than satisfactory working conditions, and sub-par wages (Cavanagh, 2008) produces a set of difficult obstacles for all teachers. These obstacles have had a far reaching impact upon teachers. One of the most significant has been the high rate of teachers, especially early career teachers, leaving the field. Although national averages for attrition rates for all professions have remained steady at 11% for almost a decade, teacher attrition now averages 14.3% (Ingersoll, 2001), with math and science teachers averaging 16 percent. Novice teachers’ attrition rates are even higher with about one-third of new teachers leaving the profession within the first three years (Feiman-Nemser, 2001). As reported by the Kansas Department of Education (2008a), attrition rates for Kansas mirror this rate with 30% of beginning teachers leaving the profession in the first two years of teaching. Darling–Hammond (2003) reported that since the early 1990s, the number of teachers leaving the field has surpassed the number of individuals beginning their careers as teachers, making the pressure to keep qualified teachers in our classrooms even more intense. Of special significance to this study is the fact that issues with teacher retention and attrition rates are higher in novice teachers who feel that they were less well prepared in their undergraduate education programs (Darling-Hammond). Unlike new hires in other professions, novice teachers are (historically and currently) placed in positions with the same responsibilities as their veteran counterparts

4

(Feiman-Nemser, 2001; Lortie, 1975; Veenman, 1984). They are alone in their classrooms, facing decisions and situations, many for which they may not be and/or feel prepared (NCTM, 2007). Often novice teachers are reluctant or embarrassed to admit that they have problems and ask for help (Feiman-Nemser). Some school districts are responding to novice teachers’ needs with mentoring programs, instructional coaches, and/or grade-level team meetings (Allen & Hancock, 2008). Even though many novice teachers report positive response to these interventions, others comment that these mentors and coaches are traditional practitioners, not knowledgeable in more current mathematics teaching practices (Allen & Hancock). LaBerge and Sons (1999, p. 145) reported content area methods training was the “factor mentioned most often as contributing to their [novice teachers’] successful implementation of the Standards.” If sufficient support is not received from fellow veteran teachers, mentors, evaluators, and/or parents, many novice teachers may have only the strength of their university program teachings to sustain their beliefs, and therefore the practice of standards-based pedagogy. Abundant research supports the positive impact of mathematics methods courses on beliefs, mathematical understanding, and pedagogical practices of novice teachers (Judson & Sawada, 2001; LaBerge & Sons, 1999; Robinson & Atkins, 2002; Valli, Rath, & Rennert-Aviev, 2001). Conversely, abundant research also questions the benefits of methods programs in these same areas (Bramald, Hardman & Leat, 1995; Foss & Kleinsasser, 1996; Frykholm, 1996; Raymond, 1997). However, no one questions the need for strengthening and improving our current preservice teacher preparation practices. The NCTM Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics (NCTM, 1989), the Professional Standards for Teaching Mathematics (NCTM, 1991) and the Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (NCTM, 2000) each expound on the value of strong teacher education programs while expressing reservations about existing preparation programs. “Collectively, these documents suggest current practices in teacher education will not produce teachers able to teach mathematics in the manner envisioned by the [mathematics education] community.” (Brown & Borko, 1992, p. 209)

5

Adding to the argument for change in current teacher education programs is the research reporting that early career teachers often fail to use the ideals set forth in their standards-based methods courses. In such courses, the subject matter taught is consistent with the NCTM content standards and the pedagogy aligns with the NCTM process standards of problem solving, reasoning and proof, communication, connections and representation. Instead of applying these standards-based teaching strategies, early career teachers often revert back to strategies with which they were taught during their K-12 education (Hart, 2001; Powell, 1992; Raymond, 1993). Researchers justify this reversal with many theories ranging from Lortie’s (1975) ideas about the impact of the “apprenticeship of observation” to widely accepted ideas that novice teachers are socialized back to traditional views by veteran teachers and evaluators (Roberts, 2006) to Zeichner and Tabachnick’s (1981) suggestion that, during college, preservice teachers do not actually become as liberal in their ideas as many think, therefore negating the theory that a reversal of beliefs ever even occurs. Though there is this wide range of theories on why novice teachers so often regress to traditional pedagogy, nearly all agree that we are asking something very difficult of preservice and novice teachers – to change their beliefs in how mathematics should be taught based upon a single semester of experience in a standards-based methods course.

Statement of Problem The pressure placed on schools of education to prepare novice teachers for the realities of the classroom is mounting. Most preservice teachers have been schooled in math classrooms based on traditional beliefs. Therefore mathematics methods professors find they must concurrently address not only standards-based pedagogy, but also preservice teachers’ common lack of profound understanding of the mathematics they will teach and long held beliefs about how mathematics should be taught. In addition, to be truly effective, methods professors must also prepare students for the socialization processes that novice teachers face as they enter the often very traditional world established by their veteran colleagues, uninformed evaluators, and parents and students who see “fashionable innumeracy” as acceptable. Dealing with sometimes acute needs in content knowledge, introducing standards-based teaching strategies, and addressing

6

deeply rooted attitudes towards mathematics in the short time frame usually allotted a methods course poses major problems in preservice teacher programs.

Research Questions In an attempt to improve elementary mathematics methods courses and to support early career teachers in maintaining standards-based practices learned in these same methods courses this research focused on three questions: 1. What standards-based practices do early career elementary teachers report using in the teaching of mathematics? 2. What aspects of their elementary mathematics methods course(s) do early career teachers feel facilitated their use of standards-based practices in their classrooms? 3. What changes in their elementary mathematics methods course(s) do early career teachers feel would better prepare them to use standards-based practices in their classrooms?

Overview of Study (Theoretical Framework and Research Design) This survey research study was viewed through the theoretical lens of symbolic interactionism. Though the concepts of symbolic interactionism were originally developed by George Herbert Mead while he was a professor of philosophy at the University of Chicago, the term was coined by one of his students, Herbert Blumer. Following Mead’s death, Blumer and other of Mead’s students compiled Mead’s notes and, based on these ideas, Blumer published Mind, Self, and Society in 1937. In it, he used the term symbolic interactionism (Blumer, 1969, p.1). Though Blumer gives credit to Mead for “laying the foundations of the symbolic interactionist approach” (Blumer) and to Dewey, Thomas, Park, and others for “contributing to its intellectual foundation” (Blumer) he felt the need to develop his own version of this sociological theory. Blumer described symbolic interactionism in terms of interaction between human beings. He found that human beings are unique in that when they interact with each other they do not just simply react, but actually interpret the other’s actions, based on their own personal feelings toward that action. Blumer based his ideas on three premises. First,

7

“Human beings act toward things on the basis of the meanings those things have for them” (Blumer, 1969, p. 51). Though individuals’ meanings for things will vary, it is the right of the person to have these varied interpretations. The second premise is that meaning arises “in the process of interaction between people” (Blumer). One develops his/her meaning of something by observing how others “act toward the person with regard to the thing” (Blumer, p. 4). He used the term language to refer to this assigning of meaning through social interaction. The third premise was based on thought that represents the idea that each person defines meaning through personal interpretation. Each person has inner conversations, sometimes referred to as minding, and continually revises personal meanings based on new experiences and interactions. Blumer also explained symbolic interactionism in another way – in terms of an example/counter example. He stated that non-symbolic interactionism might refer to the action of another without interpreting the action, a reflex for example. Blumer describes a boxer who reflexively raises his arm to block a blow as an example of non-symbolic interactionism. However, if that same boxer raises his arm based on his impression of a “feint designed to trap him,” he would be exemplifying symbolic interactionism (Blumer, 1969, p. 8). An educational example/counter example might be of a student who (nearly) reflexively copies a professor’s definition for standards-based pedagogy into his/her notebook and, a week later, writes that same definition on an exam. In reference to this study, this would constitute non-symbolic interactionism and would, very likely, result in no change in the beliefs of the student and the non-use of standards-based practices in the student’s future classroom. In contrast, a professor’s methodology reflecting the impact of symbolic interactionism on a characterization of standards-based practices would include group discussion, question opportunities, and multiple representations of the concept. The goal would be to minimize the impact of the students’ varied beliefs and ideas on the definition and allow for a final definition agreed on by the group. The hope would be that, by achieving closely “shared meanings,” preservice teachers would be more likely to believe in, and therefore use, standards-based practices in their own classrooms. This viewpoint leads to concerns when discussing effective methods for the teaching of mathematics to preservice teachers. As a class of preservice teachers listens to

8

a methods professor explain current thinking in mathematics teaching, each student is interpreting this information based on his or her own attitudes and beliefs. Blumer stated that, in the framework of symbolic interactionism, objects have one meaning for one person, but another meaning for another person. Only when the object “has the same meaning for both, [do] the two parties understand each other” (Blumer, 1969, p. 9). Blumer provides the example of a tree having varied meanings in the minds of “a botanist, a lumberman, a poet, and a home gardener” (Blumer, p.11). Based on the theory of symbolic interactionism, traditional university teaching practices of lecture and note takings are not sufficient to address the varied meanings that students assign to the concept of standards-based practices. Furthermore, as these students become teachers and attempt to utilize strategies learned in a methods course, each is doing so based on his or her interpretations of those strategies. When these circumstances are considered, many questions arise. Does classroom discourse allow for development of shared meaning? Are the beliefs that drive individual interpretations being addressed? How can elementary mathematics methods instructors determine the impact that their courses have on novices’ teaching practices and therefore attempt to improve those courses and practices? In order to gather information to aid in answering these questions, a survey was emailed to over 1000 early career elementary teachers in the state of Kansas using the Axio Survey tool available through Kansas State University. A Kansas State Department of Education database was used to gain Email addresses of math contact persons in some of the 297 districts in Kansas. Other contacts were determined using the 2008-2009 Kansas Educational Directory. The researcher had analyzed results of a previous survey, The Young and the Rest of Us, developed by faculty members of the Kansas State University Education Department. Based on ideas gained from this work, the focus of the current survey was on the use of standards-based practices by early career teachers and how the teachers feel that methods courses facilitated or hindered those practices. This data-gathering method aligned with the theoretical framework of symbolic interactionism. Blumer contended that if a scholar (in this case the researcher) wanted to understand the actions of others he must “see their objects as they see them.” “Research scholars, like human beings in general” (Blumer, 1969, p.51-52) tend to assume that

9

others view things as they do and, in so doing, may fail to report findings accurately. The survey research employed for this study allowed early career teachers to speak for themselves, perhaps allowing for a clearer perspective on the research questions. Survey questions were divided into five sections with the first and last covering demographic information, and the second through fourth dealing with each of the three research questions: (1) standards-based practices that the teacher feels he/she uses in his/her classroom, (2) ways in which his/her methods course aided his/her use of standards-based practices in the classroom, and (3) suggestions for changes in methods courses that would better support the use of standards-based practices. Both open and closed questions were included allowing for the results to be evaluated using both qualitative and quantitative methods of research.

Significance of Study The significance of this survey study was multi-faceted. First, there is little data on the impact of methods courses on novice teachers’ practices and on what colleges and universities can do to help novice teachers maintain standards-based practices. Though there are numerous research studies on the impact of methods courses on preservice teachers’ standards-based beliefs and practices, there is much less data concerning the impact on novice teachers (Clift & Brady, 2005). The 2005 Report of the American Educational Research Association Panel on Research and Teacher Education stated many studies relate to teacher candidate beliefs and attitudes, but “we need research that examines the impact of coursework and fieldwork on other outcomes, such as teachers’ practices and knowledge growth” (Cochran-Smith & Zeichner, 2005). This survey gave teachers the added opportunity to report what standards-based practices they used in their classrooms. The survey method supported other needs in the field of teacher education research. Deborah Ball stated that researchers need to spend more time listening to teachers (Ball, 2003). Zeichner & Gore (1990) asserted that teacher education research has often been “research on rather than for the people who are studied (teachers, students, teacher educators).” Therefore, “there is need to develop new and more interactive methods of conducting research that illuminate teachers’ perspectives of their own

10

development” (pp. 342-343). Survey questions provided this opportunity. The questions allowed novice teachers the opportunity to speak for themselves and to answer with anonymity, therefore encouraging honesty in the responses. Because this research’s focus was on listening to teachers, there were opportunities for additional benefits. First, the mathematics community needs to better understand why novice teachers routinely return to teaching pedagogy based on how they were taught in their K-12 programs instead of incorporating standards-based pedagogy discussed in their methods courses. As math educators we must also consider how to best prepare our preservice teachers to enter school cultures where veteran teachers or administrators may not agree with their teaching and learning philosophies (Hart, 2001). By allowing teachers to state both benefits and suggestions for methods courses, mathematics methods instructors should be able to gain ideas in this area. Second, the AERA call for research included that which can aid in recruitment, preparation, and retention of teachers ( Cicmanec, 2006). With the high attrition rates of teachers, gaining information about ways to strengthen their preparation programs could be used to aid new teachers as they face the challenges associated with the early years of teaching.

Full document contains 187 pages
Abstract: This study was designed to gather input from early career elementary teachers with the goal of finding ways to improve elementary mathematics methods courses. Multiple areas were explored including the degree to which respondents' elementary mathematics methods course focused on the NCTM Process Standards, the teachers' current standards-based teaching practices, the degree to which various pedagogical strategies from mathematics methods courses prepared preservice teachers for the classroom, and early career teachers' suggestions for improving methods courses. Both qualitative and quantitative methodologies were used in this survey study as questions were of both closed and open format. Data from closed-response questions were used to determine the frequency, central tendencies and variability in standards-based preparation and teaching practices of the early career teachers. Open-ended responses were analyzed to determine patterns and categories relating to the support of, or suggestions for improving, elementary mathematics methods courses. Though teachers did not report a wide variation in the incorporation of the NCTM Process Standards in their teaching practices, some differences were worth noting. Problem Solving appeared to be the most used with the least variability in its frequency of use. Reasoning, in general, appeared to be used the least frequently and with the most variability. Some aspects of Communication, Connections and Representation were widely used and some were used less frequently. From a choice of eight methods teaching practices, 'Observing in actual classrooms or working with individual students' and 'Planning and teaching in actual classrooms' were considered by early career teachers to be the most beneficial aspects of methods courses.