Scafolds for Learning: A Sociocultural Approach to Reforming Mathematics Teaching and Teacher Education

Merrilyn Goos

Abstract


Most research interest stimulated by the mathematics education reform movement
has been centred on schools, and on supporting teachers in implementing inquiry
based teaching approaches in mathematics classrooms. This paper argues that
similar research efforts need to be invested in pre-service teacher education if
genuine and lasting reform of mathematics teaching is to be achieved. Parallels are
drawn between two separate studies which applied sociocultural theories of learning
to explore the nature of expert scaffolding in structuring learners' thinking. The first
study, set in a senior secondary school classroom, shows how the teacher's
scaffolding helped students to engage critically and independently with
mathematical tasks. However, for many student teachers the supervised practicum
continues to offer more traditional models of teaching. A way of resolving this
dilemma is suggested by the second study, which investigated the actions of a
mentor in scaffolding student teachers' post-lesson reflections. It is proposed. that
such a mentor may play a useful role in the professional development of supervising
teachers.

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