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Teaching assistants learning how students think. (English)
Hitt, Fernando (ed.) et al., Research in collegiate mathematics education. VII. Providence, RI: American Mathematical Society (AMS); Washington, DC: Mathematical Association of America (MAA) (ISBN 978-0-8218-4996-5/pbk). CBMS Issues in Mathematics Education 16, 143-169 (2010).
Summary: Teacher knowledge at the college level remains a largely an unexplored subject, despite the importance of such knowledge to college teaching and the preparation of future teachers at the high school and college level. In this paper, we investigate knowledge of student thinking in a group of current and former teaching assistants (TAs) who have taught in the Emerging Scholars workshop model. Using data from interviews with eight TAs at two different large public institutions, we report on TA knowledge of student solution strategies and difficulties, student coping skills and student conceptions in the area of limits. When presented with a challenging problem, most participants exhibited extensive knowledge of student stragtegies and difficulties. They also demonstrated an awareness of the most common student misconceptions of limits found in the literature. Several less common misconcetptions were not mentioned by most of the TAs. We also report on the ways the TAs described gaining this knowledge. They described acquiring knowledge of student thinking in various ways, including while observing students work on problems, writing problems themselves, and grading homework. Furthermore, analysis of the interviews indicated that these different activities produced different types of knowledge. For instance, observing students work problems gave participants very fine-grained details of problem solving methods but left out students’ final conclusions - which TAs learned about through grading. We propose a framework for understanding TA learning about student thinking, hypothesizing a duality between the types of student-teacher interaction and the types of knowledge TAs have access to. We conclude the paper by discussing implications of this work for the professional development of teachers as well as for future research into teacher knowledge at the college level.
Classification: B55
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