Reconceptualising the roles of researchers and teachers to enhance primary pre-service teachers’ knowledge for teaching mathematics

Year: 2019

Author: Livy, Sharyn, Muir, Tracey, Downton, Ann

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Bridging the gap between practice and research is fundamental for supporting pre-service teachers (PSTs) in learning the knowledge and skills required to be fully qualified teachers. Calls for improvements in teacher education recommend integration between theory and practice (Allen, Ambrosetti, & Turner, 2013; Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group [TEMAG], 2015). To achieve this aim, a mathematics teacher educator (MTE) and a primary school teacher co-taught a cohort of first year PSTs for one semester in what could be described as a team teaching situation (Lock, et al. 2016). The PSTs were completing a degree in primary and secondary teacher education and had not completed a teaching placement in a primary school. Therefore, making the university classroom experiences related to both theory and practice was fundamental in helping PSTs to identify as mathematics teachers.

During the semester, PSTs were taught theory related to current research such as pedagogical approaches (Kaziem & Hintz, 2014; Smith & Stein, 2018), and teaching with challenging tasks (Livy, Muir & Sullivan, 2018). While the course already contained a balance of theory and practice, the co-teaching situation provided for greater connections with teaching in the classroom. The primary mathematics teacher, for example, was able to contribute stories of her teaching and share artefacts of student work samples in addition to the weekly tasks the mathematics educator had prepared. Collaborative weekly planning ensured that the classes were truly co-taught and that the experiences of the school teacher could be capitalised upon.

The purpose of the study was to build on the limited research about co-teaching experiences in the university setting or classroom. Data collection included pre- and post-survey responses from PSTs, and interviews with the PSTs, the MTE and the classroom teacher. Qualitative data analysis and open coding were used to identify how the co-teaching collaboration extended PSTs’ preparation and knowledge for primary mathematics teaching.

Overall the findings suggested that the collaborative co-teaching experience impacted on PSTs’ knowledge and preparation for teaching, including their identity as mathematics teachers. The PSTs valued the practical insights of the weekly collaborations, especially those who were apprehensive at the beginning of the semester. The findings also showed benefits for the co-teacher as a form of professional learning, with implications being that co-teaching provides opportunities for connections between theory and practice beyond the practicum experience.