Viewing Mathematics in New Ways: Can Electronic Learning Communities Assist?

Sandy Schuck, Gerry Foley

Abstract


Prospective primary school teachers often see mathematics as being a rigid,
inaccessible subject. Their fixed ideas about the nature of mathematics and
mathematics education can often impede their learning, and future teaching. This
paper considers research literature which suggests that a learning community can be
a powerful agent in helping students reflect on their own beliefs, and that computer mediated
conferencing tools can be effective in developing an electronic learning
community. The paper goes on to investigate a web-based intervention that
encouraged dialogue about mathematics between an international community of
mathematics educators and the student teachers' local learning community. Data
from two surveys and from the students' reflective journals show that this
intervention encouraged them to examine and evaluate their own beliefs. In
addition, some of the factors that inhibited the effects of the intervention are
identified and discussed, in particular, the influence of the practicum on students'
beliefs.

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