Practicing what we teach: A constructivist approach to mathematics teacher education

Caroline Brayer Ebby, University of Pennsylvania


In this study, I explore the process of learning to teach mathematics differently from the perspective of prospective teachers. Four ethnographic case studies of preservice teachers in an inquiry-centered graduate elementary education program were conducted over the course of an academic year. The study focused on: (1) the process of change in the student teachers' conceptions of teaching, learning, and mathematics; (2) the ways in which their conceptions are situated in their past experiences, their experiences as learners in the mathematics methods course, and their experiences as student teachers; and (3) the connections that they made (or did not make) between their experiences in the context of the university methods course and their experiences in the context of student teaching. The case studies were informed by interviews, observations of the mathematics methods course and student teaching, and student teachers' journals and course papers. The study supports the notion that theory and practice are interactively related and illustrates that preservice teachers construct their own theories about teaching and learning as they reflect on coursework and fieldwork. In addition, the data suggest that learning to take different stances towards themselves, their students, and the subject of mathematics can lead preservice teachers to construct pedagogy in line with the current reform movement. In particular, I identify three perspectives that led to reform in their teaching practices: developing agency in oneself as a learner, adopting an "insider's view of the learner" (Duckworth, 1987), and redefining mathematics as a way of knowing. These findings suggest that mathematics teacher education should focus on the development of habits of mind, dispositions, and perspectives rather than on the transmission of knowledge. Specifically, I offer ways to structure the curriculum to create spaces for the construction of the alternative perspectives on teaching and learning described in my analysis.

Subject Area

Mathematics education|Teacher education|Elementary education

Recommended Citation

Ebby, Caroline Brayer, "Practicing what we teach: A constructivist approach to mathematics teacher education" (1997). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9814838.