Pathways of elementary school mathematics teachers seeking to improve their instruction through professional development
This exploratory descriptive case study aimed to identify key issues in the transformation of mathematics teaching in elementary schools. This study told the story of what happened to sixteen elementary teachers who embarked on a quest to improve their mathematics teaching by participating in at least two in-depth professional development experiences over an interval of three years. It traced their ideas about how and why to improve instruction, identified their challenges with prevailing school organizational conditions, and reported perceived changes that were made in their teaching.
The research data, comprised of quotations from teachers' writing while they were engaged in professional development experiences at SummerMath for Teachers of Mt. Holyoke College and the researcher's notes from interviews, formed the data for analysis to answer four interrelated research questions: (1) What changes in instruction do selected elementary teachers of mathematics report that they made as a result of participating in professional development for improving the teaching of mathematics? (2) What do selected elementary teachers of mathematics report are the reasons for the changes they made in instruction? (3) What changes in instruction do selected elementary teachers of mathematics report that they regard as most effective for improving student learning? (4) What organizational conditions in their local elementary schools do selected elementary teachers of mathematics report helped or hindered their changes in instruction?
The major findings based on the collected data were summarized and presented according to the four research questions that guided this study. The major findings related to changes in instruction fell under five prominent categories: increased emphasis on student thinking and understanding, increase in student-centered activities, changes in classroom discourse, increase in conceptually-based mathematics content, and a shift in the teacher's role from an authoritarian model of instruction to one that is student-centered.
Findings from this study suggested some recommendations for educational practice for institutions preparing elementary teachers of mathematics, for in-service teacher professional development programs, and for school policies and organizational structures.
One primary recommendation involved engaging pre- and in-service teachers in revisiting the mathematics content that they currently teach or will teach within an inquiry-based teaching and learning environment so that they might draw their own conclusions as to the implications for teaching mathematics.
0280: Mathematics education