ARE THEY READY? A study about preservice mathematics teachers’ education in Costa Rica
tesis de doctorado
Alfaro Víquez, Helen
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The knowledge, professional skills and beliefs of mathematics teachers significantly influence their quality of teaching. Teacher education programs (TEPs) offer pre service teachers (PSTs) opportunities to acquire the knowledge and competencies they need to teach effectively. In Costa Rica, however, little is known about mathematics TEP content, quality, and outcomes, and there are no selection processes that assess the knowledge and aptitudes of teachers before they are hired. Recent reports have urged universities to update their TEPs to address the deficiencies observed in in-service teachers. This study reports on the characteristics of the mathematics TEPs in Costa Rica by investigating the TEP contents and teaching methods, the beliefs on mathematics education by the PSTs and teacher educators, and the relevant knowledge and competencies of the pre-service mathematics teachers at the end of their studies. The knowledge necessary for teaching mathematics has been studied by different theoretical frameworks (e.g., Ball et al., 2008; Carrillo et al, 2018) which consider the knowledge categories defined by Shulman (1986) about content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge. However, professional competence in mathematics is integrated by the cognitive abilities and the affective-motivational characteristics. In this study the cognitive abilities component is approached with the Knowledge for Teaching Mathematics framework (Tatto et al, 2008) informed by Shulman’s (1986) categories of CK, PCK and general pedagogical knowledge. In addition, the affective component is studied considering the beliefs about the nature of mathematics and mathematics teaching and learning. The results of this dissertation are informed by qualitative and quantitative data, collected using the instruments of Teacher Education and Development Study in Mathematics (TEDS-M) international study. The study was conducted in Costa Rica during autumn 2019 with participants from three public universities. In total, 80 future mathematics teachers in their last year of preparation and 19 teacher trainers collaborated as participants. Data from preservice teachers was collected using a paper-and-pencil questionnaire, while teacher educators answered an online questionnaire. The statistical analysis of the learning opportunities, the beliefs, and the performance of the participants in the items, was complemented with a content viii analysis of the solutions to the items to have a more holistic understanding of the question under study. The results showed that the TEPs taught more tertiary-level mathematics subject matter topics than mathematics education and general pedagogy topics using various methods such as lectures, pre-service teacher presentations, reading of related research, and solving math problems. They also taught instructional planning and assessment, but little critical and reflective skills to serve students from different backgrounds or to offer meaningful feedback. The TEPs trained PSTs well in applying skills but poorly in reasoning. In addition, significant weaknesses were observed in participants’ monitoring of their own work and in modeling solution strategies and connecting results for solving problems. Moreover, the PSTs and teacher educators had dynamic constructivist beliefs but neglected teacher-centered practices and mathematics as a set of rules and procedures. Besides, they believe that mathematics can be learned by everyone despite of their culture, gender, or background. This study revealed differences in the way TEPs distribute their topics and the teaching methods experiences they offer. Differences were also found in the performance of the preservice teachers at the different universities, especially in the items of mathematical content knowledge, although the number of the topics studied was not correlated with the participants' performance. This research has several contributions. First, it contributes to the knowledge gap about preservice mathematics teachers in Costa Rica, providing insights about where they stand at the end of their preparation programs, regarding knowledge and competencies for teaching mathematics, and what needs to be improved. It also reaffirms previous results about differences in TEPs but goes further pointing out how those differences are evident in the opportunities to learn and the preservice teachers’ knowledge. The study also makes visible the preservice teachers and teacher educators’ beliefs about mathematics nature, mathematics teaching, and achievement, which have been understudied in Costa Rica and Latin America.
TFG de profesora becaria de la Universidad de Costa Rica