Prospective Teachers (PTs) often enter their mathematics content courses believing that they know enough mathematics to teach elementary school. However, research has shown that much of PTs’ knowledge is procedurally based and lacks depth and conceptual understanding. One job of Mathematics Teacher Educators (MTEs) in mathematics content courses is to help PTs become more mathematically proficient, by relearning the mathematics that they believe they already know in deeper, more connected ways. We suggest that one way for MTEs to do this is to incorporate Transformative Learning Theory (TLT) into their mathematics content courses. TLT is an application of andragogy, which are the methods or techniques used to teach adults. Through TLT, learners participate in a process where they are presented with a disorienting dilemma that perturbs their prior understandings. Learners work through the dilemma by critically reflecting on their prior understandings and participating in rational discourse with others. Ultimately, learners are tasked with making connections between their prior understandings and their new knowledge. In this paper, we describe a cycle of transformative learning theory and give examples of incorporating TLT into mathematics content courses for PTs through lessons on proportional reasoning and whole number concepts. We conclude by discussing general considerations and resources for incorporating TLT into mathematics content courses and how this helps PTs develop the five strands of mathematical proficiency (National Research Council, 2001).
Johnson, K. & Olanoff, D. (June 2020). Using transformative learning theory to help prospective teachers learn mathematics that they already “know”. In A. Appova, R. M. Welder, and Z. Feldman, (Eds.), Supporting Mathematics Teacher Educators’ Knowledge and Practices for Teaching Content to Prospective (Grades K-8) Teachers. Special Issue: The Mathematics Enthusiast, ISSN 1551-3440, vol. 17, nos. 2 & 3, pp. 725–769. ScholarWorks: University of Montana. Retrieve (open access) from: https://scholarworks.umt.edu/tme