International Panel: Bridging Policy and Practice
A Focus on Teacher Preparation
Presentation 2: An Example of an Innovative Pre-service Teacher Education Activity in Sweden
download PowerPoint Presentation 2
In addition to the information presented in the tables that describe the context and content of pre-service and in-service education in Sweden, the presentation described recent reforms to teacher preparation policy and programs and compared the current approach to the previous approach. The paragraphs below summarize these features of the presentation.
Teacher Education in Sweden (2001-2002)
The revised teacher preparation program consists of one integrated program for all teachers (from pre-school to upper secondary level). Each university that offers a teacher preparation program designs it within the common frame. However, the system allows for a great deal of flexibility and student choice, so significant differences may exist among the programs offered at different universities. The shared elements of the preparation programs include three main features. These are: courses in general teacher studies that all students take, orientation courses that allow students to develop a teaching profile, and specialization courses that allow for greater depth or breadth. Students who intend to become mathematics teachers focus their orientation and specialization courses on mathematics and/or science courses. These courses also involve content in didactics/pedagogy.
The current program is similar in length and basic content to the previous program, but the content of the current program has been reorganized and focuses more attention on didactic elements. Students still complete nine semesters of coursework and a degree paper. However, students preparing to teach lower and upper secondary level mathematics at Stockholm University now also complete a semester of student teaching and a period of mentored teaching after graduating from the program. To review full details about the reform, see Appendix C.
The second part of the presentation included a video that portrays a group activity designed to encourage prospective teachers to connect their mathematical knowledge with pedagogical knowledge. This pre-service activity relates to recent reforms that aim to connect training with practice. In this example, teachers practice analyzing the mathematical demands of a real-world math problem, evaluate the content in the textbook for adequacy, and set expectations for what students at different grade levels might learn from the activity. They also discuss how their experience trying to complete the activity would influence the selection of materials for their students to use. The paragraphs below describe the features of the activity.
The project is presented through a video recording from one working session among teacher-students. The group work is part of a course in statistics. The teaching and learning in this and other courses has been changed as part of a development project called "To develop the ability of teacher-students to reason mathematically". The project began in 2001 and will last through 2003. It is funded by the Swedish Council for Renewal of Higher Education.
The members of the project group are from the department of mathematics and science at Kristianstad University, and the project leader is Barbro Grevholm, a newly appointed professor in Mathematics Education (Didactics of Mathematics) at Agder University, Norway, previously affiliated with Kristianstad University and Luleaa University of Technology. Grevholm and the students participating in the activity have kindly permitted use the videotape for the international seminar. More information about the project is available in the project proposal, which can be accessed by going to the website at http://www.hgur.se/.
This is a 3-credit course in statistics for prospective teachers in their third year. The course is part of a bigger course (15 credits, or _ of one semester of full time study) in mathematics and mathematics education about statistics, geometry, and functions in which subject area and didactical aspects are integrated. The students are future teachers for years 4 - 9 in compulsory school. They have already completed their practice teaching at schools. The course work consists of lectures, laboratory work, problem-solving sessions, and individual work. These are complemented with co-operative learning in "natural study groups." The session described below is from one of these study groups.
The session took a little more than one hour, and the whole session was filmed so that it could be reviewed later. The participants are five teacher students in year 3. The task for the session was to answer four questions based on the following scenario, and report back to a lead teacher.
A 20-minute excerpt of the session was edited to show the participants attempting to answer three of the questions. Ultimately, they have to determine whether the expressed relationship between the values can be true, decide what the advantages are of considering each value, describe what they learned from the task of thinking about the issues, and talk about it in relation to students in grades 4-9.
The excerpt begins at a point, a couple of minutes into the session, where a participant says, "I don't know what mode is." The participants look through the materials to find out what mode is. They come away thinking that mode refers to the highest salary, rather than the most frequent salary. Next they define median, which they understand correctly. Later they return to the mode and find a definition in a different book. They come to a new misunderstanding that in order to be a mode, more than half of the salaries have to be equal to that number. Later they come to a correct understanding. When they discuss what students in years 4-9 would learn from this activity, they have very high expectations considering the difficulties they had as a group.
The film shows that they have an additional set of materials (texts) for students in grades 5-9. They compare the contents to the larger curriculum and use this to form their expectations. They also share recollections of their own statistical knowledge in those grades and discuss how textbooks are used when deciding what to expect. They introduce ideas from their own practice and critique the books.
Promises and Challenges Related to the Approach in Sweden
Seminar participants were intrigued by the plan for core experiences for all prospective teachers followed by specialization. The inclusion of pedagogy as well as content was considered desirable. The notion of a nationwide plan for preparing teachers seemed promising although some raised concerns about how this might work in areas where universities had a great deal of autonomy.
The video of pre-service teachers engaging in a real learning process provoked a rich discussion among the participants. They particularly appreciated the way the experience provided a model for continuing to learn after the students are finished with their formal coursework. Among the challenges raised were the facts that such experiences take a long time and, thus, make covering the many important concepts difficult and that experiencing the process themselves as learners may not translate into their own view of what teaching might be.
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