Designing Approximations of Practice and Conceptualizing Responsive and Practice-Focused Secondary Mathematics Teacher Education

Matthew P. Campbell, Rebekah Elliott


Emphasis on opportunities for teacher candidates to investigate and enact the work of teaching in settings of reduced complexity—what are called “approximations of practice”—offers a promising path toward preparing more ambitious and equitable mathematics teachers. However, these approaches also face the risk of not preparing individuals for the socially- and culturally-defined work of teaching they are called to do in schools. In this paper, we discuss findings from ongoing design-based research in secondary mathematics teacher education around considerations for approximations of practice that are more “responsive” to school settings. We discuss analyses of methods courses and concurrent student teaching placements. Two main design considerations have emerged around the way in which approximations of practice are tied to the content and goals of school classrooms and in terms of how they account for the complexity of teaching practice. From these findings, we propose future design and research opportunities.


secondary mathematics teacher education; practice-focused teacher education; approximations of practice; teacher education design; design-based research

Full Text:



Anderson, L. M., & Stillman, J. A. (2013). Student teacher’s contribution to preservice teacher development: A review of research focused on the preparation of teachers for urban and high-needs contexts. Review of Educational Research, 83(1), 3-69.

Auerbach, C. F., & Silverstein, L. B. (2003). Qualitative data: An introduction to coding and analysis. New York, NY: New York University Press.

Ball, D. L. & Cohen, D. K. (1999). Developing practice, developing practitioners: Toward a practice-based theory of professional education. In L. Darling-Hammond & G. Sykes (Eds.), Teaching as the Learning Profession: Handbook of Policy and Practice (3-32). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Ball, D. L., & Forzani, F. M. (2009). The work of teaching and the challenge for teacher education. Journal of Teacher Education, 60(5), 497-511.

Ball, D., & Forzani, F. (2011). Building a common core for learning to teach and connecting professional learning to practice. American Educator, 35(2), 17–21, 38–39.

Ball, D. L., Thames, M. H., & Phelps, G. (2008). Content knowledge for teaching: What makes it special? Journal of Teacher Education, 59(5), 389-407.

Boerst, T., Sleep, L., Ball, D., & Bass, H. (2011). Preparing teachers to lead mathematics discussions. Teachers College Record, 113(12), 2844-2877.

Chapin, S. H., O’Connor, C., & Anderson, N. C. (2009). Classroom discussion: Using math talk to help students learn. Sausalito, CA: Math Solutions.

Clift, R. T., & Brady, P. (2005). Research on methods courses and field experiences. In M. Cochran-Smith & K. M. Zeichner (Eds.), Studying teacher education: The report of the AERA panel on research and teacher education (pp. 309–424). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Cobb, P., Zhao, Q., & Dean, C. (2009). Conducting design experiments to support teachers' learning: A reflection from the field. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 18, 165-199.

Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation. (2013). CAEP accreditation standards and evidence: Aspirations for educator preparation. Retrieved from final_board_approved1.pdf.

Darling-Hammond, L. (2010). Teacher education and the American future. Journal of Teacher Education, 61(1-2), 35-47.

Darling-Hammond, L., Wei, R. C., Andree, A., Richardson, N., & Orphanos, S. (2009). Professional learning in the learning profession: A status report on teacher development in the United States and abroad. Retrieved from

Design-Based Research Collective. (2003). Design-based research: An emerging paradigm for educational inquiry. Educational Researcher, 32(1), 5-8.

Edelson, D. C. (2002). Design research: What we learn when we engage in design. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 11(1), 105-121.

Feiman-Nemser, S., & Buchmann, M. (1985). Pitfalls of experience in teacher preparation. Teachers College Record, 87, 53-65.

Franke, M. L., Kazemi, E., & Battey, D. (2007). Mathematics teaching and classroom practice. In F. K. Lester (Ed.), Second Handbook of Research on Mathematics Teaching and Learning (pp. 225-256). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

Forzani, F. M. (2014). Understanding “core practices” and “practice-based” teacher education: Learning from the past. Journal of Teacher Education, 65(4), 357-368.

Ghousseini, H., & Herbst, P. (2014). Pedagogies of practice and opportunities to learn about classroom mathematics discussions. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education. Advance online publication. doi:10.1007/s10857-014-9296-1.

Grossman, P., Hammerness, K., & McDonald, M. (2009). Redefining teaching, re-imagining teacher education. Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice, 15(2), 273-289.

Grossman, P., & McDonald, M. (2008). Back to the future: Directions for research in teaching and teacher education. American Educational Research Journal, 45(1), 184-205.

Gutiérrez, K. D., & Penuel, W. R. (2014). Relevance to practice as a criterion for rigor. Educational Researcher, 43(1), 19-23.

Gutiérrez, R. (2011). Context matters: How should we conceptualize equity in mathematics education? In B. Herbel-Eisenmann, J. Choppin, D. Wagner, & D. Pimm (Eds.), Equity in discourse for mathematics education: Theories, practices, and policies (pp. 17-33). New York: Springer.

Hammerness, K., Darling-Hammond, L., Bransford, J., Berliner, D., Cochran-Smith, M., McDonald, M., & Zeichner, K. (2005). How teachers learn and develop. In L. Darling-Hammond, & J. Bransford (Eds.), Preparing teachers for a changing world. What teachers should learn and be able to do (pp. 358–388). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Educational Series.

Jackson, K., & Cobb, P. (2010, May). Refining a vision of ambitious mathematics instruction to address issues of equity. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Denver, CO.

Jackson, K., Garrison, A., Wilson, J., Gibbons, L., & Shahan, E. (2013). Exploring relationships between settings up complex tasks and opportunities to learn in concluding whole-class discussions in middle-grades mathematics instruction. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 44(4), 646-682.

Kazemi, E., & Hubbard, A. (2008). New directions for the design and study of professional development: Attending to the coevolution of teachers’ participation across contexts. Journal of Teacher Education, 59, 428- 441.

Kazemi, E., Lampert, M., & Franke, M. (2009). Developing pedagogies in teacher education to support teachers' ability to enact ambitious instruction. In R. Hunter, B. Bicknell & T. Burgess (Eds.), Crossing divides: Proceedings of the 32nd annual conference of the Math Education Research Group of Australasia. Palmerston North, NZ: MERGA.

Kilpatrick, J., Swafford, J., & Findell, B. (Eds.) (2001). Adding it up. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Kumashiro, K. K. (2010). Seeing the bigger picture: Troubling movements to end teacher education. Journal of Teacher Education, 61(1-2), 56-65.

Lampert, M., Franke, M. L., Kazemi, E., Ghousseini, H., Turrou, A. C., Beasley, H., Cunard, A., & Crowe, K. (2013). Keeping it complex: Using rehearsals to support novice teacher learning of ambitious teaching. Journal of Teacher Education, 64(3), 226-243.

Lampert, M., & Graziani, F. (2009). Instructional activities as a tool for teachers' and teacher educators' learning. The Elementary School Journal, 109(5), 491-509.

Leinhardt, G. (2001). Instructional explanations: A commonplace for teaching and locating contrast. In V. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of research on teaching (4th ed., pp. 333-337). Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association.

Leont’ev, A. N. (1981). The problem of activity in psychology. In J. V. Wertsch (Ed.), The concept of activity in Soviet psychology. Armonk, NY: Sharpe.

McDonald, M., Kazemi, E., & Kavanagh, S. S. (2013). Core practices and pedagogies of teacher education: A call for common language and collective activity. Journal of Teacher Education, 64(5), 378-386.

National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. (2010). Transforming teacher education through clinical practice: A national strategy to prepare effective teachers (Report of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Clinical Preparation and Partnerships for Improved Student Learning). Retrieved from

National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, & Council of Chief State School Officers. (2010). Common Core State Standards. Washington, DC: Authors.

Rogoff, B. (2003). The cultural nature of human development. New York: Oxford University Press.

Stein, M. K., Engle, R. A., Smith, M. S., & Hughes, E. K. (2008). Orchestrating productive mathematical discussions: Five practice for helping teachers move beyond show and tell. Mathematics Thinking and Learning, 10, 313-340.

TeachingWorks. (2014). The work of teaching: High-leverage practices. Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Education (2015). Improving teacher preparation: Building on innovation. Retrieved from

Valencia, S. W., Martin, S. D., Place, N. A., & Grossman, P. (2009). Complex interactions in student teaching. Journal of Teacher Education, 60(3), 304–322.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind and society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Wertsch, J. V. (1991). Voices of the mind. A sociocultural approach to mediated action. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Wertsch, J. V., Minick, N., & Arns, F. J. (1984). The creation of context in joint problem-solving, ln B. Rogoff & J. Lave (Eds.), Everyday cognition: Its development in social context. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Windschitl, M., Thompson, J., Braaten, M., & Stroupe, D. (2012). Proposing a core set of instructional practices and tools for teachers of science. Science Education, 96(5), 878-903.

Wiseman, D. L. (2012). The intersection of policy, reform, and teacher education. Journal of Teacher Education, 63(2), 87-91.

Zeichner, K. (2012). The turn once again toward practice-based teacher education. Journal of Teacher Education, 63(5), 376-382.


  • There are currently no refbacks.