Mathematics Field Experience Design: The Role of Teaching Experiments and Lesson Study One Year Later During Student Teaching

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Published: 
June, 2021

Source: The Teacher Educator, 56:2, 132-152

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The authors sought to implement an approach that would compare the newly revised field experience model (including teaching experiments and lesson study) with a conventional field experience model to create a research-based method for instructing future teachers.
As a product of this conception, a revised approach was implemented as a method for mathematics field experience for preservice teachers in their third year of an elementary teacher education program.
They were curious to understand how lesson planning and lesson enactment differed one year after the field experience approach for student teachers who had taken part in the revised approach during field experience as compared with student teachers who had participated in the conventional field experience.
They answered the following research questions:
1. What effect does the revised field experience approach have on preservice teachers’ lesson planning and lesson enactment one year later during student teaching?
a. How do lesson plans and lesson enactment during student teaching differ between preservice teachers who participated in the revised approach for field experience and preservice teachers who participated in the conventional field experience?
b. How do the teaching practices of student teachers who participated in the revised approach for field experience compare with the teaching characteristics of student teachers who participated in a conventional field experience?

Method
A descriptive research process was followed to compare the lesson planning and teaching of participants who took part in the revised field experience approach as compared to the conventional approach. The intent was to use descriptive statistics and content analysis (Vaismoradi et al., 2013) to describe the phenomenon (i.e. Elo & Kyngas, 2008) occurring during student teaching which took place one year following involvement in the field experience course.
All teaching observation data were collected prior to data analysis, which is common for a descriptive study (Chamberlain et al., 2004).

Context
To implement the approach, preservice teachers in their junior year of coursework were placed in either a revised or conventional section of field experience focusing on both mathematics and science in the same semester.
This research focuses solely on the first six weeks, the mathematics portion of the field experience.
The revised field experience approach focused on children’s thinking and reflective teacher practice through an intensive field experience.
In contrast to the revised model, the conventional field experience approach followed a more traditional approach based on historical data at the university where these approaches were implemented.
The conventional approach lacked the iterative nature of the revised process.
One year after the field experience, preservice teachers who completed either the revised or conventional mathematics field experience began student teaching in elementary classrooms across the region. Preservice teachers in the two groups followed the same course requirements and protocols for student teaching.
The similar structure, meaning same university course design and requirements, during student teaching permitted identical data collection for both groups and allowed for analysis to compare lesson plans and implementation of student teachers who had been in the revised approach field experience with student teachers who participated in the conventional form of field experience.
During student teaching, teams of university observers, who were a combination of faculty and graduate research assistants, visited the host classrooms of the student teachers to observe mathematics lessons and interview the student teachers about teaching mathematics.

Participants
Participants in the study included student teachers majoring in elementary education at a large public university.
During student teaching, participants were partnered with a host classroom teacher in an elementary school and worked with that teacher daily to plan and implement lessons in a full-time apprentice-like position over the course of a semester.
Approximately 75 preservice teachers were in the revised sections and 75 were in the conventional sections over the four semesters in which data were collected.
These same participants then advanced to student teaching and an equal number of participants from both groups were invited to participate in the study.
From those who had taken part in the field experience, thirteen from the revised approach and nine from the conventional approach agreed to participate while they were student teachers.

Data collected
To collect data from the student teachers, two researchers (faculty or graduate research assistants) scheduled a time to observe the student teachers teaching a mathematics lesson on two different occasions during the semester.
For each observation, the two researchers collected multiple data items.
First, written lesson plans were collected, which consisted of a copy of whatever type of plan the student teacher had prepared for the lesson.
The second data item collected were independently written field notes from each observer that were completed while observing.
Third, observers collected any worksheets used or handouts that the teachers provided to students.
The fourth data item collected was an observation protocol (Weiss et al., 2003) each researcher completed independently and then later reconciled to arrive at a consensus document.
Finally, observers interviewed the student teachers following the lesson for approximately 20–30 minutes.
Of these data items, the focus for this study is on the written lesson plans and observation protocol data.
A total of 18 lesson observations from participants who had been in the revised field experience and 16 lesson observations from those who had been in the conventional field experience were completed.
Observers who watched the lessons and recorded data did not know if they were observing a student teacher who had been in the revised or conventional field experience approach.

Results and discussion
The descriptive findings suggest that teaching aspects fostered by the revised approach in the field experience had a positive residual effect that was present during student teaching.
Regarding the first research question about the influence of the revised approach during field experience on preservice teachers’ lesson planning and enactment one year later, the authors found evidence that lesson planning and lesson enactment by those participants exhibited teaching aspects that were fostered during the field experience.
In particular, aspects of the written lesson plan that showed strength among participants from the revised approach were the objectives and adaptations sections, the launch part, and the investigate section.
As far as the enactment of the lessons, participants from the revised field experience showed strength in the aspects of lesson design and classroom culture.
Regarding the first sub research question about the differences between lesson plans and enactment for the two groups, the authors found evidence that participants from the revised approach were rated higher than participants from the conventional group in both written lesson plans and lesson observation forms, with the exception of the overall capsule rating and the implementation categories, which were found to be similar.
The higher ratings for the participants from the revised approach indicated they more commonly included student-centered teaching, encouraged students to make connections, and fostered collaboration among students. Regarding the second sub research question about differences in teaching characteristics of the two groups, they found evidence to suggest that the teaching by student teachers who had been in the conventional group tended to be more teacher-centered, with fewer connections to real life situations whereas teaching characteristics of the student teachers who had been in the revised field experience showed attention to student access and authority in the classroom.
Based on analysis of the written narrative data, a comparison of the narrative comments pertaining to classroom culture from student teachers in both groups revealed those in the revised approach group structured lessons to encourage active student participation to a greater extent than the other student teachers.
Additionally, student teachers who had been in the revised field experience sections were not always seamless with their implementation, but their lessons typically involved active participation and included verbal encouragement promoting participation. In contrast, student teachers from the conventional approach commonly emphasized direct instruction approaches with little student participation during the lessons.
The authors consider the role of noticing (i.e. Jacobs et al., 2010) as a conceptual framing in deciphering these findings.
In the revised field experience, the participants had the opportunity to engage in analysis of students’ thinking through the teaching experiments and lesson study.
These processes and collective lesson discussion did not occur in the conventional field experience, which may have provided those preservice teachers with fewer opportunities to think closely about how students may think or respond during a lesson.
The design of instruction, expressed through the written lesson plans, also showed a greater consideration of students’ thinking, which is important for responsive teaching (Stockero et al., 2017).
The authors do not claim that the involvement in the revised field experience is the reason for these differences, but they highlight that the student teachers who took part in teaching experiments and lesson study demonstrated these characteristics more clearly than student teachers who did not.
Another distinguishing aspect between the two groups was the reported classroom culture.
The findings indicated that student teachers who had been in the revised approach rated higher on aspects related to classroom culture as compared to student teachers who took part in the conventional approach.
This included aspects such as providing opportunities for students to collaborate.
Preservice teachers who took part in the revised approach were involved themselves in collaborative learning through lesson study, which is founded on a collaborative approach (e.g. Fujii, 2019; Lewis, 2000).
In their teaching, the student teachers who had been in the revised approach showed increased collaborative opportunities for their students.
It is possible that learning through a collaborative context, such as the revised field experience, and having the opportunity to co-plan lessons resulted in increased use of collaboration in lesson design and implementation during student teaching.
The authors are encouraged by the initial results participants exhibited during student teaching.
Although findings should be interpreted modestly, initial data analysis based on a small sample size shows promise for the revised model as a viable means to center preservice teacher focus on students’ thinking during field experiences.

References
Chamberlain, K., Camie, P., & Yardley, L. (2004). Qualitative analysis of experience: grounded theory and case study. In D. F. Marks & L. Yardley (Eds.), Research methods for clinical and health psychology. (pp. 69–90). Sage Publications Limited.
Elo, S., & Kyngas, H. (2008). The qualitative content analysis process. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 62(1), 107–115.
Fujii, T. (2019). Designing and adapting tasks in lesson planning: A critical process of lesson study. In Theory and practice of lesson study in mathematics (pp. 681–704). Springer.
Jacobs, V. R., Lamb, L. L. C., & Philipp, R. A. (2010). Professional noticing of children’s mathematical thinking. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 41(2), 169–202.
Lewis, C. C. (2000, April). Lesson study: The core of Japanese professional development. Invited presentation to the Special Interest Group on Research in Mathematics Education at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association.
Vaismoradi, M., Salsali, M., & Marck, P. (2013). Patient safety: Nursing students’ perspectives and the roles of nursing education to provide safe case. International Nursing Review, 58(4), 434–442.
Weiss, I. R., Pasley, J. D., Smith, P. S., Banilower, E. R., & Heck, D. J. (2003). Looking inside the classroom: A Study of K–12 mathematics and science education in the United States. Horizon Research.

Updated: Oct. 20, 2021
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