Investigating mathematics teacher learning within an in-service community of practice: The centrality of confidence

Graven, Mellony
September 2004
Educational Studies in Mathematics;2004, Vol. 57 Issue 2, p177
Academic Journal
This paper is part of a broader study that draws on Wenger's (Wenger, E.: 1998, Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity, Cambridge University Press, New Work) social practice perspective to investigate teacher learning. The study extends Wenger's complex model of interrelated components of leaning (as meaning, practice, identity and community) to describe and explain teacher learning that occurs within a mathematics senior-phase in-service program that was stimulated by curriculum change. The study uses qualitative ethnography in which the researcher performs the dual role of both coordinator and researcher of the in-service practice. In a longitudinal study the phenomenon of confidence emerged in teachers' descriptions and explanations of their learning. In this paper I explore this phenomenon both empirically and theoretically. The extension of Wenger's (1998) theory to include the overarching and interacting component of confidence is embedded in and derived from data analysis of 10 teachers' learning, over a 2-year period, during a time of radical curriculum change. Since it would be incoherent within this framework to draw on psychological explanations of confidence I set out to explore confidence from within a social practice frame in a way that is grounded in data of the teachers in this study. The paper offers a concept of confidence in relation to teacher learning as 'learning as mastery', and confidence as both a product and a process of learning. Teachers can at once state their confidence as mathematics teachers, and their confidence to admit to what they do not know and still need to learn. It is argued that this is a primary condition for ongoing learning in a profession like mathematics teaching. In addition, the paper provides a critique of the applicability of Wenger's work to the context of teacher education and in particular highlights the absence of the notion of confidence within his work.


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