Improving the Mathematics Preparation of Elementary Teachers, One Lesson at a Time

Jun. 30, 2009

Source: Teachers and Teaching, Volume 15, Issue 3 June 2009 , pages 337 - 356.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this paper, the authors describe a model for systematically improving the mathematics preparation of elementary teachers, one lesson at a time. They begin by identifying a serious obstacle for teacher educators: the absence of mechanisms for developing a shareable knowledge base for teacher preparation. The authors propose their model as a way to address this challenge, elaborating the principles that define the model to show its relevance.

Key principles of the model

The authors identify three key principles of our model:
(1) specify the critical learning goals for students (i.e., prospective teachers);
(2) collect and use evidence of students' learning to drive revisions; and
(3) gather and store knowledge in a shared product.

The first two principles focus the reflective practice squarely on the relationships between instructional activities and students' achievement of clearly specified learning goals.

The third principle, gathering and storing knowledge in a shared product, moves the process from simply improving an individual program to one of generating knowledge that can be shared with others. This principle commits teacher educators to see their work as contributing to the improvement of the profession rather than simply as improving their own practice.

The authors then provide an example of the model in action, detailing how the model was used to gradually but steadily improve a single mathematics lesson for prospective elementary teachers.

They conclude by presenting data indicating that the model is effective in generating and vetting knowledge that helps to improve the mathematics program over time. Although their discussion is situated in the mathematical preparation of prospective elementary teachers and draws on examples from mathematics, the authors argue that the model could be applied to build knowledge and improve teacher preparation in any discipline.

Updated: Dec. 01, 2009