Knowledge Expectations in Mathematics Teacher Preparation Programs in South Korea and the United States: Towards International Dialogue

Feb. 01, 2011

Source: Journal of Teacher Education, 62(1), p. 48-61. January/February 2011.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study explores social expectations around adequate knowledge for prospective secondary mathematics teachers in South Korea and the United States, where substantial differences have been observed in both student achievement and teacher knowledge (Blömeke et al., 2008; Schmidt et al., 2007).

In particular, this study pays attention to the following questions:
(a) To what extent are the educational aims of mathematics teacher preparation programs in South Korea and the United States contingent upon (or independent of) each country’s particular sociohistorical context?
(b) Similarly, to what extent are the curricular structures of mathematics teacher preparation programs different between (or similar across) the two countries?

Data and Methodology
To compare knowledge expectations for mathematics teachers between the United States and South Korea, the authors selected a sample of teacher preparation institutions in each country. The numbers of institutions sampled for the United States and South Korea were 28 and 21, respectively.
In both countries, the authors focused on undergraduate-level teacher preparation programs with a single major in secondary mathematics education.

Based on these teacher education institutions sampled from both countries, the authors first identified some key ideas about teacher knowledge that were embedded in the official educational aims of individual teacher preparation programs in South Korea and the United States.
Then, the authors analyzed curricular structures of mathematics teacher preparation programs in each country

Educational Aims of Teacher Preparation Programs

The findings from this analysis suggest that transnational commonalities and national differences exist simultaneously, and examining both is necessary to better understand teacher knowledge.


The data suggest that societal expectations for teacher knowledge reflect a set of both nationally constructed cultural scripts and transnational shared assumptions and beliefs about teaching and learning.
Attending to both culturally contextualized and semantically decontextualized dimensions of teacher knowledge allows us to have a more balanced comparative perspective from which we can better assess current conditions of teacher education and better inform policy makers on how to improve teacher education.
Educational policy makers can benefit from such a balanced comparative perspective as it allows for constructive international dialogue that may help them determine how to further enrich teacher education programs without ignoring either profound differences in sociohistorical contexts or important commonalities in epistemic models of teacher education across countries.

Blömeke, S., Paine, L. W., Houang, R., Hsieh, F.-J., Schmidt, W. H., Tatto, M. T., et al. (2008). Future teachers’ competence to plan a lesson: First results of a six-country study on the efficiency of teacher education. ZDM Mathematics Education, 40(5), 749-762.

Schmidt, W. H., Tatto, M. T., Bankov, K., Blömeke, S., Cedillo, T., Cogan, L., et al. (2007). The preparation gap: Teacher education for middle school mathematics in six countries (MT21 Report). East Lansing, MI: Center for Research in Mathematics and Science Education, Michigan State University.

Updated: Apr. 01, 2012