Becoming a Teacher Educator: A Self-Study of the Use of Inquiry in a Mathematics Methods Course

Sep. 01, 2014

Source: Studying Teacher Education, Vol. 10, No. 1, 20–35, 2014
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This self-study describes the author's transition from teacher to teacher educator.
During this transition, the author explored how her beliefs about mathematics teacher education influenced the work of planning and teaching a course for the first time.
The transition from teacher to teacher educator is explored through the experience of a course focused on inquiry. Inquiry is embedded within the course from two perspectives: mathematical inquiry and teaching as inquiry.

The author used the methodology of self-study to help her uncover her assumptions, challenge her beliefs, frame her practice, and understand who she is as a teacher educator.
The author designed a course syllabus with inquiry.
The participants in this research were 14 teacher candidates (13 female, 1 male) enrolled to the author's methods course. All 14 participants were pursuing licensure in elementary education and/or special education in M.Ed. (13 participants) or B.A. (1 participant) programs and taking the methods course as a degree program requirement.

Data for this study are drawn from course syllabi, pre-semester surveys of participants’ attitudes and beliefs about mathematics and teaching, mid-semester course surveys, participants’ assignments and reflections on assignments, exit cards from each class session, and a personal teaching journal that the author kept throughout the planning and teaching of the course.


The author set out to learn two things from this self-study: (1) what it means to be a part of the field of mathematics teacher education and who I am as a teacher educator; and (2) how inquiry can be used to frame a mathematics methods course. These findings are organized around three themes: transition, positionality, and tensions.

The methods course facilitated an important transition both for the teacher candidates and for the author. The author found that it was teaching as inquiry and the methodology of self-study that helped her make sense of her transition.
In addition, the methods course became an avenue to identify and address what was missing in the author's work as a classroom teacher and what she believed teacher candidates needed from teacher education.
The author found that many of the teacher candidates were experiencing similar tensions and asking questions about their experiences as students of mathematics as they engaged in mathematical inquiry.
Furthermore, the author did not see herself having the expertise of a teacher educator. Thus, her experiences in the course, both positive and negative, helped her to see herself differently. When teacher candidates treated her like an expert, she began to see hersel making a difference in their transition. Teacher candidates came to her to ask questions about the mathematics being taught in their practicum, sought advice on how to help a particular student, and challenged information presented in class with their own experiences.

In the author's transition to teacher educator, she struggled to define her positionality.
She experienced her transition from teacher to teacher educator as both an insider and an outsider. The author understood that despite her status as a graduate student, to the teacher candidates, she was the professor. She felt this tension of being both within and outside the graduate student community.
In addition to the knowledge she gained in her graduate-level coursework, she had observed and been a teaching assistant in multiple sections of the mathematics methods courses at the university. The coursework she had done gave her perspective on the field of teacher education and the practices used in teacher formation.
To make sense of her experience in teaching the course, the author spent a great deal of time wrestling with the issue of her positionality. In the end, she choose to use the specialized knowledge she has because of her insider and outsider statuses to foster organizational learning, building knowledge for myself and her practice as a teacher educator. Upon exploring the experiences of teacher candidates in the course, she found that many of her students reported similar feelings of being in-between, and they also reported struggles with positionality in the K-12 classroom.

In the author's own experiences and in the research literature, there is evidence of a variety of tensions between the short-term goals of teacher candidates and the long-term goals of teacher educators.
Teacher candidates desire tips and knowledge they can apply immediately in practicum settings as opposed to skills that would help them develop a broader body of knowledge over time. The author identified with this need for tips and tricks and recognized it as an attitude that she had toward coursework when she was a teacher candidate. Hence, the author felt pressure to give her students what they wanted in order to keep them engaged in the course and happy with their experience in the teacher education program, but this pressure was at odds with her long-term objectives for the course and what she knew to be important for their future work as teachers.

Conclusions and Implications

The author concludes that long-term goals related to reflection, career-long learning, and professional growth were what the author felt were missing in the courses she had taken as a teacher candidate, observed as a graduate student, and worked in as a teaching assistant. This tension between the short-term goals of teacher candidates and the long-term goals of the faculty was striking, but in her reading she sensed that a compromise was being sought in the field. Inquiry in its many forms could be this compromise.

In addition, self-study was a powerful experience for the author as a teacher educator and a means to explore her teaching practice at the university level. This self-study makes public the knowledge built and created through experience, including her experiences as a new teacher educator and the experiences of her teacher candidates as they explored mathematical content through a lens of mathematical inquiry and began to engage in the craft of teaching with assignments and coursework that modeled and encouraged an inquiry stance.

Updated: Nov. 15, 2016