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What is the relationship between the professional knowledge of a Mathematics supervisor and his professional role?

José Jacinto Castro Silva

ABSTRACT

The current study lies within the area of the Mathematics teachers' professional knowledge, namely in the context of the pre-service teacher education, and it focuses on the school supervisor teacher. The main purpose is to understand the relationship between the professional knowledge of the Mathematics supervisor (in high school) and the fact that he performs such roles.

Thus, the following research questions were raised:

(i) According to the supervisors, what are the priorities for the teaching of Mathematics?;

(ii) What does the supervisor think about the kind of didactic knowledge he should have?;

(iii) How does he see his role as field supervisor of new teachers?;

(iv) What is the profile a supervisor teacher education should have as a person, that is, what personal qualities should he have?

Therefore, I carried out a theoretical survey related both to the issue I was studying and to its concepts. As far as the teachers' professional knowledge is concerned in the fields of skills, tradition and beliefs, and within the perspective of the initial training practices, I chose to approach supervision and mentoring as professional development strategies. I paid special attention to the teacher/supervisor as a reflexive one, who appears as a key-component to the follow-up process of the new teachers in a training situation, aiming to understand his/her thoughts and actions, as well as how he operates his knowledge and know-how.

In this sense, I chose an interpretative qualitative methodological approach and have carried out analytical study cases on three school pre-service supervisors, based on two semi-structured interviews and on two observations of each supervisory work sessions with her training group.

In order to build each case, according to a profile as accurate as possible of each study participant, I structured it on five categories:

(A) - Professional path and experience. In this category I refer to the person, the teacher and the supervisor, describing her academic path as a student, her professional path as a teacher and her professional path as a supervisor.

In the (B) category -View on Mathematics, I analyse the way each supervisor sees Mathematics and the way each teacher faces the importance of this subject.

As far as (C) category is concerned - Relation with Mathematics, I assume it is about how each supervisor establishes her relationship with Mathematics as a teacher supervisor.

As for (D) category - Knowledge about Mathematics teaching and learning, I describe how each participant integrate the practices referring to Mathematics teaching and learning knowledge as teachers and supervisors, as well as the way they approach their contents, from a didactic point of view.

As for category (E) - Interpersonal relationships, I analyse how teachers face their professional days, that is, their relationship with their students, with their colleagues and with the community in general, not excluding the relation supervisor /pre-service teachers during their practicum.

To conclude this study, I present a reflexive analysis about data, emphasising the supervisors' common aspects in what brings them together and in the features that distinguish them as far as the five categories under analysis are concerned, so:

The three supervisors, although with peculiar professional development, present similar attitudes towards the profession. They like teaching and they feel strongly motivated to it. Regarding their background as supervisors, the three of them seem to present similar kinds of supervision and similar performance as far as the role of supervision is concerned, it is fundamental in the guidance of the new teacher. The three supervisors have a good relation with Mathematics and they claim that they try to develop it with their students as well. They even consider it is indispensable to have a good relation with Mathematics in order to teach this subject. Concerning the teaching and learning of Mathematics, the supervisors believe that it should be student-centred. On the other hand, they are familiar with education and emphasise the didactic knowledge of the context as an assumption to teach.

For the supervisors of this study, friendliness is essential for a good relationship between supervisors and new teachers.

Finally, I point out a set of recommendations and limitations deriving from this study as well as a set of educational implications and recommendations for future research works.

Key-words: Professional development; Professional knowledge; Reflexive teacher; Professional practice; Mathematics teacher; Supervisor teacher; Know-how; Supervision; Mentoring.

 

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