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Transference of teaching and learning theories and practices from literacy to mathematics in elementary education

Kathleen C Itterly, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Educational researchers concur that meaningful teacher development is an essential ingredient for educational reform. One professional development model, the Learning Network, provides in-depth, job-embedded mentoring support for teachers by trained teacher leaders. The program developers maintain that teachers who are exposed to a reflective, constructivist learning process centered around literacy will eventually generalize the understandings and practices to other content areas. The purpose of this qualitative case study was to examine whether the theories and practices of learner-centered teaching in literacy (i.e., the Learning Network) transfer to mathematics during the implementation of a new constructivist math curriculum (Investigations). Two second grade teachers from a suburban school district, one at an early career stage, the other in a late stage, participated in the study. Data were collected from six sources: initial personal data surveys, stimulated recall interviews centered around videotaped mathematics lessons, semi-structured interviews, classroom observations from two different researchers, self-reported classroom practices, and formal classroom documents. Analysis of the data was triangulated across data sources and among an external researcher, the research participants, and this researcher who independently coded the transcribed stimulated recall interviews. The theoretical underpinnings of the Learning Network model (Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development, Brian Cambourne's Conditions of Learning, and the Teaching and Learning Cycle) provided the framework for the study. Results indicated that each teacher had transferred aspects of the Learning Network model into her practices, although the depth of transfer differed. The early career stage teacher referred to the theoretical basis of her actions in vague terms. Much of her self-reported transfer centered around methodology, efficiency, and organizational issues. The veteran teacher expressed specific references to the theoretical basis for most of her actions. Her mathematics practices reflected transfer of most of the Learning Network components. Results of this study suggest that teachers need and desire continued, long-term, individualized support to transfer constructivist theories and practices from one content area to another. The frequency of mentoring support is not as critical as the skillfulness of the mentor. Finally, implementation support meetings need to be regularly scheduled to provide teachers continued development through collegial discussions.

Subject Area

Elementary education|Curricula|Teaching|Teacher education

Recommended Citation

Itterly, Kathleen C, "Transference of teaching and learning theories and practices from literacy to mathematics in elementary education" (1998). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9823744.