International Panel: Bridging Policy and Practice
A Focus on Teacher Preparation

A Note on the Basic Methodology Used
Prepared by Shailesh Shirali

In July 2002, the Park City Mathematics Institute (PCMI) organized its 2nd International Seminar on Mathematics Education Teacher Preparation. In the area of in-service, participants were asked to address the following question: What policies and strategies have been used successfully by universities, school districts, and other organizations to improve and sustain the quality of teacher education?

In preparation for the later specific discussions on in-service, each country was asked to bring along posters for display, research studies, text books, and so on that would help other members get a sense of the particularities of teacher education in their country. Further, each country was asked to give a presentation, exploring the questions listed above (as relevant for their country, of course). Each presentation was followed by a discussion. Members of the audience were asked to comment on what they found "promising" about the presentation (i.e., aspects which they felt held some promise in the context of the situation in their own country), and what they found "challenging" (i.e., aspects that would pose difficulties in the context of their country). This in turn was followed by a general discussion, centering on questions like the following:

  1. Where is the power located, i.e., who decides the content and timing of the programs?
  2. What are the unexamined assumptions that lie behind the ideas and policies? What kind of preparation do prospective teachers need (mathematical and non-mathematical)?
  3. How do local mathematicians interact with policy makers? Are programs assessed in any way, and if so by what criteria?
  4. Are policy decisions informed by any research studies?

Case studies of programs from each of the countries were examined to study the principles and assumptions that underlie the programs, and the research base that is their underpinning. Also examined were the question of what prospective teachers need to know, mathematical as well as non-mathematical (culture, traditions, etc), and how one can go about assessing a particular program.

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