Teacher Education Research In The Maryland Collaborative For Teacher Preparation

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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, respectively.

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 bases?

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. Faculty

(i) In response to an interview question asking about highlighting connections between mathematics and science in their MCTP content classes, two MCTP professors remarked:


[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 professors remarked:


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 observed.


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 remarked:


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 remarked:


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.