Identity development of preservice elementary teachers of mathematics from teacher education program to student teaching
Drawing on Lave and Wenger (1991) this study explores how preservice elementary teachers develop themselves as teachers of mathematics, in particular, from the time of their teacher education courses to their field experiences. This study also researches the critical experiences that contributed to the construction of their identities and their roles as student teachers in their identity development. The stories of Jackie, Meg, and Kerry show that they brought different incoming identities to the teacher education program based on their K-12 school experiences. The stories provide the evidence that student teachers' prior experience as learners of mathematics influenced their identities as teachers, especially their confidence levels in teaching mathematics. During the mathematics methods class, student teachers were provided a conceptual understanding of math content and new ways to think about math instruction. Based on student teachers' own experiences, they reconstructed their knowledge and beliefs about what it means to teach mathematics and set their goals to become the mathematics teachers they wanted to be. As they moved through the program through their student teaching periods, their identity development varied depending on the community of practice in which they participated. My study reveals that mentor relationships were critical experiences in shaping their identities as mathematics teachers and in building their initial mathematics teaching practices. Findings suggest that successful mentoring is necessary, and this generally requires sharing common goals, receiving feedback, and having opportunities to practice knowledge, skills, and identities on the part of beginning teachers. Findings from this study highlight that identities are not developed by the individual alone but by engagement with a given community of practice. This study adds to the field of teacher education research by focusing on prospective teachers' identity constructions in relation to the communities of practice, and also by emphasizing the role of mentor in preservice teachers' identity development.