Teacher Education Research In The Maryland Collaborative For Teacher
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J. Randy McGinnis,University of Maryland at College Park
Tad Watanabe, Towson State University
Paper presented at the regional meeting of the National Science Teachers
Association, Baltimore, Maryland, November 16--18, 1995
(NSF Cooperative Agreement No. DUE 9255745)
What is the history and leadership of the Research Group?
In late July 1994, Dr.Jim Fey, MCTP Project Director, asked Dr. Randy McGinnis
(Science Educator), University of Maryland at College Park (UMCP), and Dr.
Tad Watanabe (Mathematics Educator), Towson State University (TSU), to share
the leadership of a Research Component of the MCTP. Dr. Anna Graeber, University
of Maryland at College Park, and Co-Director of the MCTP Methods Group,
agreed to act as a mentor to the Research Group. Ms. Amy Roth-McDuffie,
Ms. Karen King, and Ms. Mary Ann Huntley, doctoral mathematics students
at UMCP, have served as graduate research assistants to the Research Group.
Who constitutes the Research Group?
The leadership of the Research Group identified and recruited Institutional
Research Representatives (IRR) who would coordinate research efforts at
the participating institutions offering MCTP courses. The individuals who
took on this responsibility are Dr. Renny Azzi, Frostburg State University,
Dr. Delores Harvey, Coppin State College, Dr. Joan Langdon, Bowie State
University, and Dr. Gerry Rossi, Salisbury State University. Dr. Randy McGinnis
and Dr. Tad Watanabe also took on this responsibility for their institutions,
What is the purpose of MCTP research?
In essence, the primary purpose of research in the MCTP is directed
at knowledge growth in undergraduate mathematics and science teacher education.
The unique elements of the MCTP (particularly the instruction of mathematical
and scientific concepts and reasoning methods in undergraduate content and
methods courses that model the practice of active, interdisciplinary teaching)
are being longitudinally documented and interpreted from two foci: the faculty
and the teacher candidate perspectives.
What are the guiding research questions addressed in the MCTP research?
The following questions serve as the a priori research questions
(a posteriori questions will emerge throughout the research period):
1. What is the nature of the faculty and teacher candidates' beliefs and
attitudes concerning the nature of mathematics and science, the interdisciplinary
teaching and learning of mathematics and science to diverse groups (both
on the higher education and upper elementary and middle level), and the
use of technology in teaching and learning mathematics and science?
2. Do the faculty and teacher candidates perceive the instruction in the
MCTP as responsive to prior knowledge, addressing conceptual change, establishing
connections among disciplines, incorporating technology, promoting reflection
on changes in thinking, stressing logic and fundamental principles as opposed
to memorization of unconnected facts, and modeling the kind of teaching/learning
they would like to see on the upper elementary, middle level?
Answers to those questions will address the following global research questions
driving teacher education research:
1. How do teacher candidates construct the various facets of their knowledge
2. What nature of teacher knowledge is requisite for effective teaching
in a variety of contexts?
3. What specific analogies, metaphors, pitfalls, examples, demonstrations,
and anecdotes should be taught content/method professors so that teacher
candidates have some knowledge to associate with specific content topics?
What data are needed for MCTP research?
Both numerical and qualitative data are needed to address the MCTP
research questions. Numerical data derive from the administration of a college
student and a college faculty survey instrument developed for the MCTP ("Attitudes
and Beliefs About The Nature Of And The Teaching Of Mathematics And Science").
Participating faculty and students in MCTP classes (both MCTP teacher candidates
and non-MCTP students) also contribute to this data base. Qualitative data
derive from semi-structured ongoing interviews with participants in MCTP
classes, MCTP class observations, participant journals, and MCTP course
materials. Standard qualitative analysis techniques (analytic induction,
constant comparison, and discourse analysis) assist in the interpretation
and presentation of case studies emerging from this rich data set.
A sample of data collected:
Data collection began in September 1994. A small sample of data is
shared to indicate the diversity and richness of MCTP data and the potential
over time in this NSF funded project to document changes in participants'
beliefs regarding mathematics and science teaching/learning.
(i) In response to an interview question asking about highlighting connections
between mathematics and science in their MCTP content classes, two MCTP
[My students] have to spend time describing in words the physical motions
to complement what's visible in the graph and what is then associated with
the mathematical description of the very same thing. So it's a very rich
array of physical behaviors represented by the transformation into the graph...which
is REAL STUFF!
[I] have planned to do a good bit of that connection. Of course, that's
from the point of view, the natural point of view, that I would take as
a scientist as math as a tool to be used as opposed to be developed.
(ii)In response to an interview question asking to what extent reasoning,
logic, and understanding are assessed on their MCTP course exams, two MCTP
One of the things I have tried to stress is that when they answer questions,
the answer is less significant than the rationale behind the answer that
they choose to use.
Well, almost no memorization. I've basically said that this is not a course
that's going to involve memory....I want them to be able to explain what
their understanding of certain concepts are. Of course, having said that,
I know that there's a certain basic kind of background knowledge that you
still, you know, need to know...
(iii)And finally, in response to an interview question asking in what ways
their MCTP undergraduate instruction models the type of teaching/learning
they believe should be done in grades 4-9, two MCTP professors remarked:
[They would model after me by]: allowing students to observe experiments;
asking them to describe what they observed in their own words, and to transform
those observations into the kind of relationships that science has so skillfully
Well, I'm trying to, so far. I would say not well enough. I am gradually
trying to change in that direction, but I would still say, for one thing,
one thing I haven't yet successfully done. You know, I still haven't put
their desks in a circle, that sort of thing.
II. Teacher Candidates
(i) In response to an interview question asking first semester college students
what they expect of a good mathematics teacher, two MCTP teacher candidates
I expect the math teacher, obviously, to know what he or she is teaching,
but I expect creative ways of, you know, bringing the problems or lessons
out, and definitely enthusiasm. I've had some teachers that were just, I
mean, they could have been asleep....
Someone who gets you interested in what you're doing, who doesn't just give
you problems and tell you to answer them...someone who maybe applies it...showing
students that you can use this.
(ii) In response to an interview question asking first semester college
students what they expect of a good science teacher, two MCTP teacher candidates
I guess, like, giving information so that the students understand the basics
before they go on....
In science, oh my goodness, that...that's a lot harder because science is
dependent on what kind, I think....There is some vocabulary that everyone
needs to know...that need to be memorized. But other than that, I just think
it's more or a sort of experimental kind of thing.
(iii) In response to an interview question asking first semester college
students what kind of student can do well in both mathematics and science,
two MCTP teacher candidates remarked:
I don't know...You know, if you understand the concepts, you can do the
problems. And, like, in science it's a little like, you need to memorize
more of the facts with math; you have to memorize more....But, like, if
you understand where everything is coming from, or you can put it together,
you can do both.
Someone who is shown that it can be interesting early on....I don't think
you're ever gonna do as good as someone who got interested in it when they
were younger and thought it was interesting.
MCTP Research Contacts
Individuals who wish to discuss or conduct teacher education research in
the MCTP are encouraged to contact Dr. Randy McGinnis, (310) 405-6234, or
Dr. Tad Watanabe, (410) 830-3585.