From beliefs to patterns of participation – shifting the research perspective on teachers
Jeppe Skott, Dorte Moeskær Larsen and Camilla Hellsten Østergaard
Belief research was introduced to mathematics education in the early 1980s. It challenged the primarily cognitive and mathematical agenda of the time by investigating the character and significance of mental meta-constructs called beliefs. Particular attention has ever since been paid to teachers’ beliefs and their role in instruction.
Belief research has been troubled by conceptual and methodological problems since its early beginnings, and most of these are still unresolved. This indicates that it may be time to adopt a different perspective, if we are to understand the role of the teacher for the practices of the mathematics classroom.
Elsewhere we have discussed the problems of belief research at some length and suggested an alternative that we call patterns-of-participation research (e.g. Skott, 2009, 2010). In the present article we briefly recapitulate some of the arguments underlying this suggestion, but our main interest is to use the patterns-of-participation approach for empirical purposes. Consequently the article consists of two main sections. First we summarise some of the problems of belief research and present the contours of our alternative, patterns-of-participation research. Second, we in a much longer section present and analyse data on the case of a teacher, Susanne, whom we follow prior to and after her graduation from college. The overall intention is to suggest a change of research perspective from beliefs to patterns of participation.
Jeppe Skott, PhD, is a professor of mathematics education at the Linnaeus University, Sweden, and an associate professor in the same field at the Danish School of Education. His main research interest is in the teacher’s role for classroom interaction, but he has also written on theory-practice relationships in mathematics education. Besides he has been involved in educational development in different countries in Europe, Africa, and Asia.
Dorte Moeskær Larsen
Dorte M. Larsen, MA, is a lecturer at University College Capital, Copenhagen. She teaches mathematics and mathematics education to prospective and practising teachers. Her main research interest is teacher development during their pre-service education and immediately after their graduation, especially the role of the practicum for the students’ professional development.
Camilla Hellsten Østergaard
Camilla Hellsten Østergaard, MA, is a lecturer at University College Capital, Copenhagen. She teaches mathematics and mathematics education to prospective teachers. Her main research interest is teacher development during their pre-service education and especially how they change their participation in the social practices at their schools in the first few year after their graduation.