AN EVALUATION OF A 4 – 8 MATHEMATICS TEACHER PREPARATION PROGRAM AT A LARGE STATE INSTITUTION IN TEXAS
Teacher education programs are in need of data-driven systematic program evaluations to discuss the status quo of the program and to reflect upon ways to improve pre-service teachers’ learning. This study provided a springboard for future teacher preparation evaluation studies by examining the 4 – 8 mathematics teacher preparation component of the teacher preparation program at a large state institution in Texas. The research questions for this study were: (1) To what extent is the 4-8 mathematics teacher preparation program consistent with state standards for mathematics teacher preparation? (2) What content and pedagogical content knowledge can 4-8 mathematics pre-service teachers demonstrate at their respective points in the program? (3) What are the pre-service teachers’ perceptions of preparedness for teaching mathematics? The first research question was addressed by conducting a document analysis of course syllabi and learning resources available on the course websites. A TExES matrix was developed and used to examine how well the courses in the program aligned with the state standards. A paper/pencil assessment called Diagnostic Mathematics Assessments for Middle School Teachers (DTAMS) was used to answer the second research question. The third research question was addressed by examining students’ written responses from an anonymous web-based survey. Included in the study were 4-8 mathematics certification students who were enrolled in the content, method, and student teaching courses Fall 2010 – Spring 2011. Twenty nine pre-service teachers participated and completed DTAMS testing. Twenty three pre-service teachers completed the anonymous survey. The study reported the following outcomes. First, the study found that the mathematics courses met state standards covering about 83% of the mathematics-related TExES learning outcomes and mathematics education courses met standards covering all mathematics education-related TExES learning outcomes. Second, the study found that pre-service teachers in the content and method courses displayed the strongest knowledge in Number Computation, followed by Algebraic Ideas, Geometry/Measurement, and Probability/Statistics. Pre-service teachers displayed the highest scores for Memorized/Factual Knowledge, followed by Conceptual Understanding, Reasoning/Problem Solving, and Pedagogical Content Knowledge. Pre-service teachers had higher Memorized/Factual Knowledge than Pedagogical Content Knowledge. The pre-service teachers’ overall content knowledge was not strong, and the two lowest-performing content knowledge areas were Geometry/Measurement and Probability/Statistics. Third, the study found that pre-service teachers did not feel that they were well prepared in Probability/Statistics and Geometry/Measurement, and that pre-service teachers did not demonstrate a clear pattern for the program’s coverage of the other strands. Pre-service teachers’ written responses provided the following themes: (1) Pre-service teachers had low confidence in content knowledge, (2) Pre-service teachers wanted early exposure to pedagogy in the program coursework, and (3) Pre-service teachers wanted to learn to connect theory with practice. Overall, the picture emerging from this study was of (1) pre-service teachers dedicated to teaching yet demonstrating low knowledge of content and pedagogy and of (2) the program in difficulty of building a pedagogical prowess upon low confidence and knowledge in mathematical content. The study recommends future studies about how the intended curriculum is being implemented and about the process of pre-service teachers’ learning of college mathematics.