Standard P.4. Opportunities to Learn in Clinical Settings

Standard P.4. Opportunities to Learn in Clinical Settings

Clinical experiences are central to the preparation of teachers of mathematics at any level. But they are perhaps even more critical at the high school level than at other levels, given that many mathematics teaching candidates at the high school level may not have, as high school students, experienced mathematics instruction that promotes deep conceptual knowledge and development of mathematical practices and processes.

Central to providing effective clinical experiences for mathematics teacher candidates at the high school level are mentor teachers who themselves meet the expectations discussed in Chapter 2. These mentor teachers support candidates in overcoming the possibly implicit belief that “teaching as they were taught” will be adequate for their students’ learning because it (ostensibly) was adequate for theirs. Mentor teachers help candidates realize the limitations of typical instructional approaches in supporting the learning of rich mathematics by all students. They support the goals of the program to provide candidates continuity between experiences in university classrooms and their experiences in their clinical settings, so that candidates do not accept the dismissive mantra, “Don’t listen to those people in the ivory tower.”

Although many high school mathematics teacher candidates may have chosen their careers largely on the basis of their own enjoyment of mathematics, they need to build parallel enjoyment in helping all students (not just the students who already enjoy engaging in mathematics) to come to understand and appreciate mathematics. In effective programs, clinical experiences are carefully constructed to help candidates move beyond focusing on managing a classroom to truly engaging each and every student in doing mathematics.

In effective programs, candidates are supported in navigating the diverse cultures of high school mathematics teachers, noting that some teachers may initially be more committed to teaching mathematics than teaching children, and others may be only a few years older than the students they are teaching. Teachers engaged in improving their practice encounter the challenges of changing the very entrenched vision of high school into a more engaging, collaborative, interdisciplinary educational setting, while wrestling with traditional expectations of parents, policymakers, and other stakeholders about what high school mathematics should be. The inherent changes and diverse cultures require communities in which high school mathematics teachers can learn from one another and improve through collaboration.

Finally, candidates being prepared to teach a broader range of grades (e.g., 6–12 or 7–12) than high school need to have significant clinical experiences at both the middle and high school levels, given the differences between middle school and high school students. See Chapter 6 for further details on the clinical experiences needed by middle level candidates.