Changing the way to Teach Maths: Preservice Primary Teachers’ Reflections on using Exploratory Talk in Teaching Mathematics

May 2016

Source: Mathematics Teacher Education and Development, Vol 18.2, 29-47, 2016
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study aimed to examine the preservice teachers’ reflections on the contingent situations of a microteaching experience based on exploratory talk, in order to better understand preservice teachers’ emerging awareness of teaching and learning in mathematics.

The participants were twenty-four preservice primary teachers, ten male and fourteen female. They were involved in the project towards the end of their university-based training and before their final practicum. Only twenty-one participated in the questionnaire and recounts. The preservice teachers were mathematics specialists.
Data were collected through preservice teachers reflections, from an online survey and from written recounts. The findings were analysed in relation to noticing students’ learning and behaviour.

The findings suggest that the experience had impacted on the preservice teachers’ professional development in some ways. All the participants seemed to have valued the experience, and so may have been sensitised to work with their students in an informed way. However, some preservice teachers said that the experience had changed their beliefs in using talk as a teaching approach; and even that the experience had changed the way they wanted to teach mathematics. Others argued that the experience had raised awareness of the difficulties in working this way.

Furthermore, the author found that the guidance for reflections as part of the microteaching experience had directed the preservice teachers’ attention to the students’ collaboration, and learning in mathematics tasks.
In addition, the author found that some preservice teachers perceived the difficulties in developing collaboration and talk with young children as obstacles in supporting students’ talk and learning. Hence their reactions were that they had limited impact. Others perceived the difficulties as opportunities and possibilities, and that, as teachers they could act differently, and so make an impact on the students’ learning and behaviour.

The author concludes that it seemed that all the preservice teachers valued the experience, and some indicated desires and aspirations to change the way they taught mathematics. Even so, many preservice teachers noted the difficulties they encountered, and these may have be seen as obstacles in moving from a more traditional pedagogy.

The author concludes that preservice teachers can perceive a return to traditional pedagogies of teacher-student-content triad as provides a clearer recognition of students’ learning and behaviour. They argue that if students solve problems through talk and collaboration, then the act of teaching is less clear, and, hence, seeing the learning may not be so obvious. As such, a return to traditional pedagogies might relate to how a traditional pedagogy allows a clearer view of the act of teaching. Teacher education programs should recognize this tension in order to prepare preservice teachers to teach in nontraditional ways and for developing awareness of student learning in contingent situations.

Updated: Feb. 13, 2018