Preservice teachers' learning through discourse-intensive mathematics instruction
Anderson, Nancy C.
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Even though discourse-intensive mathematics instruction is a widely endorsed pedagogy for preservice elementary teachers, much still remains unknown about how this type of instruction affects student learning. This study investigated the relationship between talk moves that prompted preservice teachers to respond to each other's contributions and their learning about division of fractions. Participants in two sections of a college mathematics class for preservice elementary teachers received three days of instruction on division of fractions. The learning goals were identical between groups. Participants in both groups completed tasks in small groups before talking about their solutions and strategies during whole-class discussions. The instructor used collegial talk moves in the treatment group only to ask participants to restate, evaluate, or add on to each other's explanations (e.g., "Who can repeat what Tim just said?"). Participants completed the Division of Fractions Test before and after the instruction. Whole-class discussions were recorded and transcribed. A normalized gain score was calculated for each participant using pre- and post-test scores from the Division of Fractions Test. An unpaired t-test showed no evidence of a significant difference in mean gain score between the control and treatment groups (t(24)=0.65, p=.52). Analysis of the whole-class discussions in the treatment group revealed two possible reasons why the collegial talk moves did not affect learning beyond the other aspects of the instruction. First, collegial talk moves that prompted participants to repeat and add on to each other's contributions typically provided participants with opportunities to contribute only parts of longer explanations. These moves were rarely used to ask participants to articulate entire explanations from start to finish. Collegial talk moves that prompted participants to evaluate each other's explanations were often ineffective at refocusing the discussion on targeted mathematical ideas. Research should continue to investigate the effect of collegial talk moves when they are used to provide preservice teachers with opportunities to deliver complete and correct explanations during whole-class discussions. There is also a need to examine how preservice teachers interpret prompts to evaluate the merits of a mathematical explanation.
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