An Examination of Mathematical Knowledge for Teaching in Professional Development Settings
Researchers have laid the foundation for what mathematics teachers need to know, a construct referred to as Mathematical Knowledge for Teaching (Ball, Thames, & Phelps, 2008). There is, however, a lack of robust research regarding how Mathematical Knowledge for Teaching (MKT) is developed within professional development settings. The purpose of this qualitative research study, therefore, was to examine how different foci of professional development revealed different domains of MKT. In the immersion setting, the professional development focused on engaging teachers in discourse surrounding teachers' completion of mathematical tasks. In the practice-based setting, the professional development focused on engaging teachers in discourse surrounding student work associated with the mathematical tasks. To capture the domains of MKT in the two professional development settings, the researcher collected data from two groups of participants within two different schools. Each group of participants attended four professional development sessions in which video recorded professional development sessions, participant weekly reflections, and observation guides captured emerging MKT domains. To answer the research questions, the researcher utilized qualitative means for analyzing data taken from each of the data sources. Transcriptions from the recorded sessions and the participant weekly reflections provided the researcher with the bulk of her findings. In reviewing the domains represented from the immersion setting data, the domain that appeared more often than the rest was knowledge of content and students. In reviewing the domains represented from the practice-based professional development data, the domain that appeared more often than the rest was specialized content knowledge. At times, other MKT domains were present in participants' conversations and written work; however, knowledge of content and students and specialized content knowledge were the most prevalent. Two findings stemmed from this study. One, identifying the domains of MKT is difficult when the ideas of the participants are flawed both mathematically and pedagogically. Two, different professional development sessions lead participants to focus on different domains of MKT. To this end, the goal of professional development should drive the type of professional development setting employed when developing teachers' MKT.