Source: Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice, Vol. 21, No. 1, 61–73, 2015
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
The purpose of this study was to examine prospective elementary teachers’ conceptions and values about the learn-from-teaching (LFT) skills and model hold about these skills.
The participants were six prospective elementary teachers (PTs) who enrolled to a 15-week mathematics methods course at a university in the USA.
The authors designed and taught a methods course that was partially based on the LFT model. The goal of this methods course was to develop PTs’ pedagogical practices specifically for teaching mathematics for conceptual understanding. As part of the field experience accompanying the course, PTs first observed grade K-5 teachers in local public schools and later designed and taught their first mathematics lesson. Class lessons were designed to include a variety of activities to develop LFT skills, including analyzing transcripts and videos of individual students and whole classes.
Data were collected through interviews with the participants at the end of the semester.
The authors argue that PTs had a high level of procedural knowledge. However, their conceptions were not always productive in terms of promoting systematic lifelong learning. In The authors try to explain why PTs may have held these conceptions by suggesting three conjectures:
First, the authors note that PTs did not have the opportunity to reteach their own lesson due to the limits of a 15-week methods class; PTs may be more able to see the advantages of the cyclical model if they could reteach a lesson.
Furthermore, the authors suggest that the nature of teacher education, which must put substantial focus on practicing non-classroom skills, may explain why PTs seemed to view lesson planning, gathering evidence, and reflecting on lessons as ends in themselves, rather than as methods for improving their teaching.
Finally, the authors conjecture that it is possible that beginning PTs simply may not be ready to focus on systematically improving their teaching. PTs may understand the importance of systematic improvement only after several years of teaching. Given this, it may be important to teach PTs the LFT skills but then follow up with ongoing professional development for beginning teachers.
This article has an important contribution in showing that researchers and teacher educators should be cautious in assuming that simply acquiring the skills of LFT will be enough to help PTs successfully study and improve their teaching in their future careers.