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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Journey to Becoming Constructivist, Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, Secondary Mathematics Teacher
by Young, Gerald, Ed.D., Portland State University, 2014, 287; 3668811
Abstract (Summary)

The purpose of this research study is to describe and analyze the self-reported experiences of exemplary high school mathematics teachers who underwent personal and professional transformations in order to develop and use a standards-based, constructivist (SBC) teaching paradigm in their classrooms. These teachers were all past recipients of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST), an award that required them to demonstrate that their mathematics instruction was rigorous in the manner described by the NCTM standards.

The following research questions are addressed: (a) What are the paths SBC secondary mathematics teachers who received the PAEMST pursued to become highly effective?, (b) What obstacles and challenges did they encounter and how were these obstacles overcome?, and (c) What sustained them on their journeys? The research methodology used to be a narrative inquiry. Following a wide survey of PAEMST recipients, five volunteer participants were chosen for the study. Data were collected from each participant using a one-to-one interview and the written section of each participant's PAEMST application. A narrative was written for each participant describing the path they had followed to become a highly effective high school mathematics teacher. The narrative was sent to each participant, and a follow-up interview was conducted via telephone amending the narrative to reflect the participant's additions and deletions. From the five amended narratives, eight themes were identified: (a) influences; (b) education; (c) professional development; (d) NCTM standards; (e) teaching style: beginning, current, or end of a career; (f) obstacles; (g) personality traits and personal beliefs; and (h) student influence.

Several of the themes were supported by previous research. However, this research study discovered two new findings. First, the five participants had common characteristics and beliefs: (a) belief in their students, (b) persistence, (c) belief that professional development is vital for teacher growth, and (d) passion about mathematics and about conveying that passion to their students. The second research finding pertained to the influence that their own students had on all of the five participants. All the participants purposely sought out their students' thoughts about the classroom curriculum and about the instruction they received. The teachers considered their students part of the classroom learning community, and they honored and acted on their input.

Finally, in addition to describing the trajectory of five PAEMST winning teachers, this study offers recommendations for students studying to become high school mathematics teachers, teacher educators, and educational researchers. For these students, their teaching preparation courses need to be taught adhering to the four principles of learning: activity, reflection, collaboration and community. According to this research, the model of teacher preparation courses that emphasize the teaching of the above four principles using a traditional teacher-directed method does not prepare future mathematics teachers for the use of SBC teaching in their classrooms. Suggestions about further research are addressed.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Narode, Ronald
Commitee: Chaille, Christine, Henry, Samuel, Palimiter, Jeanette
School: Portland State University
Department: Education
School Location: United States -- Oregon
Source: DAI-A 76/05(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Mathematics education, Teacher education, Secondary education
Keywords: Constructivism, Mathematical rigor, Mathematics teaching, Standards-based
Publication Number: 3668811
ISBN: 978-1-321-44109-3
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