Preparing Mathematics TeachersResearch 25 May 2012 4 minute read
Countries that do well in international studies of mathematics achievement, such as Chinese Taipei and Singapore, have strong teacher education programs and quality assurance arrangements. They ensure that teaching is an attractive profession for the most able high school graduates, that the supply of new teachers matches the demand and that graduates meet high standards before gaining full entry to the profession, according to a study jointly managed by ACER.
The Teacher Education and Development Study in Mathematics (TEDS-M) compared how seventeen countries prepared teachers of mathematics, as well as the knowledge these future teachers had of mathematics and how to teach it. The first of several reports from the study was released by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) in April.
ACER and Michigan State University jointly managed the project. The ACER team included Lawrence Ingvarson, Ray Peck and Glenn Rowley. The MSU team included Teresa Tatto as project director, Jack Schwille and Sharon Senk. The study was funded by the IEA, the United States of America National Science Foundation and the collaborating countries.
Seventeen countries participated in TEDS-M: Botswana, Canada, Chile, Chinese Taipei, Georgia, Germany, Malaysia, Norway, Oman, the Philippines, Poland, the Russian Federation, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, and the United States of America. Australia did not participate in the study.
TEDS-M grew out of questions raised by earlier IEA studies of student achievement in mathematics and science, such as the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), about the extent to which differences in student achievement across participating countries might be related to differences in the quality of people recruited into teaching and the way they were prepared to teach.
Approximately 22 000 future teachers from 750 programs in about 500 institutions were surveyed and tested for the study. Different tests were given to future primary and secondary teachers. Teaching staff within these programs were also surveyed. Close to 5000 teacher educators took part.
TEDS-M found striking differences between countries in the knowledge future teachers had of school mathematics and how to teach it. Future generalist primary teachers in Chinese Taipei and Singapore, for example, scored well above the mean on knowledge of mathematics and knowledge of mathematics pedagogy.
Future teachers of mathematics at the lower secondary level in Chinese Taipei, Singapore and the Russian Federation scored significantly higher than most other participating countries on knowledge of mathematics and knowledge of mathematics pedagogy.
The study found a significant relationship between the strength of quality assurance arrangements and the quality of graduates, as measured by tests of mathematical knowledge and mathematical pedagogy used in TEDS-M. Countries with strong quality assurance arrangements, such as Chinese Taipei and Singapore, scored highest on these measures, while countries with weaker arrangements, such as Georgia and Chile, tended to score lower.
TEDS-M shows that countries that do well in international studies of student achievement in mathematics, such as Chinese Taipei and Singapore, not only ensure the quality of entrants to teacher education, they also have strong systems for reviewing, assessing and accrediting teacher education providers. In addition, they have strong mechanisms for ensuring that graduates meet high standards of performance before gaining certification and full entry to the profession.
Future teachers in all countries generally saw mathematics as a process of enquiry that is learned best when students are actively involved, rather than just following teacher directions. There was, however, considerable diversity across the countries in the extent to which future teachers saw mathematics as a set of rules and procedures that have to be learned, and believed that the capacity to learn mathematics is a fixed ability that is not easily changed by teaching.
Future teachers with relatively greater knowledge of mathematics content and pedagogy were more inclined to see mathematics as a process of enquiry that is best learned by active students, and to believe that teachers can influence students’ capacity to achieve in mathematics.
The pattern of beliefs held by the future teachers in every country closely matched the pattern of beliefs held by the teacher educators. ACER Principal Research Fellow Dr Lawrence Ingvarson said this suggests that substantial change in the beliefs held by future teachers is unlikely unless it is preceded by change in the beliefs held by the teacher educators.
'To simply alter the teacher-preparation curriculum is unlikely to be sufficient,' said Dr Ingvarson. 'Marked change in the beliefs of graduating teachers, if it is to occur, will probably require a significant investment in professional development for practising teachers as well as for teacher educators.'
Read the full report:
Policy, Practice and Readiness to Teach Primary and Secondary Mathematics in 17 Countries: Findings from the IEA Teacher Education and Development Study in Mathematics (TEDS-M), is available at <www.iea.nl/?id=20>