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Connecting Math Methods and Student Teaching through Practice-Based Strategies: A Study of Pre-Service Teachers' Math Instruction


There have been many calls for greater research into the connection between what is taught to pre-service teachers and how those teachings emerge in teacher practice (Cochran-Smith & Zeichner, 2005; Grossman, 2008). Understanding this connection and strengthening it is vital to the increased effectiveness of not just teacher education programs but of teachers and the increased learning of students. In order to strengthen this connection, researchers have been pushing for pre-service teacher learning to become more practice-based (Ball et. al, 2009, Windschitl et al., 2009).

The teacher education program in this study used a practice-based framework to design a math methods course which articulated critical aspects for teaching and learning mathematics (i.e., ensuring mathematical rigor, creating mathematical student discourse, and using equitable practices), and taught high-leverage strategies to meet these critical aspects.

This study investigated how these practice-based, high-leverage strategies emerged in pre-service teacher practice in their student teaching classrooms. Focusing on secondary math in a large urban school district, this study sought to answer the questions 1) How do the practice-based strategies taught in a math methods class emerge in pre-service teachers' student teaching practice? 2) What supports the emergence of these strategies in a pre-service teacher's student teaching practice and what impedes it? The study followed six pre-service teachers through a yearlong methods course and into their student teaching classrooms, and used classroom observations, interviews, artifact collection and logs of teacher practice to answer the questions. The findings suggest that pre-service teachers can use high-leverage practices in a way that is rigorous, creates student mathematical discourse, and equitable participation. The study proposes the following additions to the design of future math methods courses: 1) pre-service teachers enacting the practices in environments with increasingly more independence and less support before trying it in their own classrooms and, 2) sharing with their math methods course peers their findings after the enactment of the strategies in their student teaching classroom. These findings have implications for how we may more effectively teach methods to bring about change in classroom practices.

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