Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Department of Mathematics: Mathematics Education
In this study I investigated teachers’ learning through practice. Teachers learn in teacher preparation programs and in professional development, but the most personal learning occurs in practice. Teachers spend much of their time isolated from colleagues, participating in classroom communities instead of professional communities. If teacher educators want to understand the potential for learning in the space where teachers spend much of their time it is necessary to investigate the learning that is occurring in classroom practice. To pursue this end, I explored one secondary mathematics teacher’s learning in practice. I observed and video-recorded this teacher’s classroom practice for one unit of instruction in two sections of the same course. I conducted interviews before and after the observations, asked him to record reflections about his planning and teaching, collected all of his lesson plans and materials, and observed his interactions with colleagues on a teacher inservice day. I analyzed the results qualitatively (Miles, Huberman, & Saldaña, 2014) with Wenger’s (1998) Communities of Practice (CoP) framework. Using the CoP framework, I posited the teacher’s practice as the driving force for coherence in communities, for the negotiation of meaning in experience, and for identity formation. Thus, in characterizing the teacher’s communities of practice, negotiation of meaning, and identity I painted a picture of the teacher’s practice. Through this picture of practice, I viewed learning as belonging in community, learning as experiencing meaning, and learning as becoming a particular type of person. My analysis revealed five important ideas. First, engagement in collegial communities is important for the development of practice. This was revealed in the minimal engagement with mathematics teachers that stifled the teacher’s learning. However, it was also demonstrated by the safe haven and significant learning in the teacher’s coaching community. Second, teachers can leverage opportunities for professional learning through practice, but may need assistance to recognize the potential for change. The teacher in this study learned through his participation with his fifth hour class, but also failed to leverage the opportunity for optimal growth. Third, learning through practice may best be accomplished through a process that combines reflective and projective participations. When the teacher reflected on his participation with students and projected that onto a hypothetical participation from the student’s perspective he produced significant learning. Fourth, the work of identity formation in teaching is significant, difficult, and emotional. This implies the need to focus educational efforts on supporting identity transformations. Finally, learning through practice is significant. This implies the need to focus educational efforts on helping teachers learn through practice and positively leverage the opportunities for professional growth presented in their own practice.
Rupnow, Theodore John, "Secondary Mathematics Teachers' Learning through Practice: the Case of Rudy" (2016). Theses and Dissertations. 633.