Annie Fetter on the development of math teachers


Annie gives a very short talk that highlights some of the issues in math education, and which I can tie to work various people have done on learning.

Everyone who is trained to become an educator has some fairly strong intuitive sense of what it means to be an educator. They have seen educators work, and they know how to copy the behaviours of the teachers they have seen. Unfortunately, often we want to change teachers behaviours, and so we must address the misconceptions that teachers have about learning head-on.

If you do not address the misconceptions that people have, chances are very good that they will incorporate the new information you present (in almost anyway that you present it) into their existing misconceptions and as a result, not change their behaviours at all. This is a problem that numerous educators have discovered (it seems independently of each other) and one which definitely has implications for teacher education.

Annie’s observation that her teaching college in 1988 was already talking about inquiry based learning, and some pretty serious reforms in mathematics education, and then her description of her beginning practices which were so different, gets at the heart of this issue. She was "taught" that inquiry based mathematics is an effective pedagogy, but she didn’t hear it. She probably did hear it, but she thought that her notion of what inquiry based education meant was the same as what she was doing. She was unable as a beginning teacher to see how different her techniques were than what she was being taught to do.

So if we want to change teacher education, we definitely need to assume that the student teachers coming in have an understanding of what it is to teach, and that much of what they understand is misguided and just plain wrong, and we need to incorporate the wrongness of this approach into our instruction of teachers.


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