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Learning to teach mathematics through inquiry: a focus on the relationship between describing and enacting inquiry-oriented teaching

Abstract

This article is based on one of the several case studies of recent graduates of a teacher education programme that is founded upon inquiry-based, field-oriented and learner-focussed principles and practices and that is centrally concerned with shaping teachers who can enact strong inquiry-based practices in Kindergarten to Grade 12 classrooms. The analysis draws on interviews with one graduate, and on video data collected in his multi-aged Grade 1/2 classroom, to explore some of the ways in which this new teacher enacted inquiry-based teaching approaches in his first year of teaching and to consider his capacity to communicate his understanding of inquiry. This article presents implications for beginning teachers’ collaborative practices, for the assessment of new teachers and for practices in preservice teacher education.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    All the names (beginning teacher and school students) used in this article are pseudonyms.

  2. 2.

    As the research reported here spanned a period of time covering the participant’s experiences in preservice teacher education and in his first year of teaching, I use the term ‘prospective teacher’ to refer to the experiences of the participant during his preservice teacher preparation programme, and the term ‘beginning teacher’ to refer to his experiences in a school classroom as a full-fledged teacher.

  3. 3.

    Continuing longitudinal research with Daniel and the other graduates is revealing that despite challenging contexts in which these graduates have been called upon to practice in their beginning years and despite sometimes implicit and/or explicit rejection of their ideas by more experienced colleagues around them in the schools, their frame of reference for judging how to act in relation to their students has continued to be the phronetic philosophy of the programme. Publications detailing these findings are currently in process.

  4. 4.

    The first session was not videotaped so that prospective teachers had time to understand the purposes and methods of the study and make informed choices about whether to participate in the research.

  5. 5.

    The three beginning teachers were ‘chosen’ for accessibility reasons rather than because they had shown particular skills in, or understanding of, inquiry-based practice. For instance, though some beginning teachers volunteered to be videotaped in their first-year classrooms, their school principals would not allow the research to proceed (citing it as too much pressure for a beginning teacher). In addition, I was unable to include in the school-based component of the research those volunteers who accepted teaching positions in remote locations in distant provinces as well as those who did not gain a full-time teaching contract until after the school-based research component had begun.

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Acknowledgement

The research study described here was funded by the Alberta Advisory Committee for Educational Research.

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Correspondence to Jo Towers.

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Towers, J. Learning to teach mathematics through inquiry: a focus on the relationship between describing and enacting inquiry-oriented teaching. J Math Teacher Educ 13, 243–263 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10857-009-9137-9

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Keywords

  • Inquiry-based learning and teaching
  • Beginning teachers
  • Communicating beliefs