Using Critical Incident Reflections: A Self-Study As a Mathematics Teacher Educator

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Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education


In this paper, I report the results of a 4-year study into how my students learn to become mathematics teachers during the combined 15-week methods and field placement course I teach. At the start of most weekly methods class meetings, groups of three or four students reported their critical incidents to each other, and then chose one incident to report to the whole class. Each student then submitted a written report of 10 critical incidents for grading. At the end of each semester, I administered a questionnaire about the usefulness of each of the elements of the course. Using these two main data sources, along with my own personal reflections on the course, this paper answers the question “What are the critical incidents preservice teachers encounter during their field experience, and what do they learn about teaching for understanding through reflecting on those critical incidents?” My analysis of the students’ incident reports found that the issues raised focused on four main areas: teaching and classroom management; student factors such as pre-requisite knowledge, understanding, resistance and motivation; issues concerning relationships with colleagues, students and parents; and school organizational issues such as policies and access to resources. Their learning about teaching for understanding focused on three broad areas: the conditions necessary to teach for understanding; facilitators of teaching for understanding; and barriers to teaching for understanding. The paper concludes with a discussion of the lessons learned about fostering reflection in novice teachers, and suggestions for further research.

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