DISSERTATION DEFENSE ANNOUNCEMENT Ed.D. Program: Timothy P. Hart-Ruiz “The Implementation of Math Conferences in an Elementary Classroom by Early-Career Teachers: Struggles in Agency and the Messy Middle”

3:30 pm - 5:30 pm

Most elementary teachers (ETs) have majors in the humanities as undergraduates and much of the pedagogical training in a teacher preparation program tends to focus on literacy, so many ETs lack math pedagogical content knowledge and have a stronger knowledge of, and how, to teach literacy (Malinsky, et al., 2006; Bursal & Paznokas, 2006; Novak & Tassell, 2017; Gonzalez-DeHass, et al., 2017). The need for a deeper knowledge of mathematics, and how to teach it, exists during teacher training, and it is not necessarily narrowed when preservice ETs start working in the field (Lui & Bonner, 2016; Newton, 2017; Fuller, 1997). Most ETs are not prepared to effectively teach math, and this results in an over-reliance on curriculum guides and procedural explanations of mathematics during instruction (Fuller, 1997; Lui & Bonner, 2016; Newton, 2017). Considering their training and background, it is not surprising that ETs utilize strengths by using literacy structures in math, and this three-paper dissertation explores how a group of early-career ETs implemented math conferences as a way to support deepening student learning in math and increasing teacher understanding of student thinking during math instruction (Munson, 2018; Picha, 2022).

Each paper explores different elements of how early-career teachers implement this new practice and the ways that collaboration, school culture and climate, administrative supervision and support, professional development, and classroom structures either support successful implementation and spur teacher learning, or mire early-career teachers in the messy middle. The messy middle is the place before feeling completely competent with an instructional practice, and where teacher learning is filled with approximation, failure, reflection, and success. Findings indicate that specific factors like support, time to observe colleagues, having practices modeled, and time to collaborate support teacher learning and growth. Similarly, some factors like school culture, conflicting feedback, viewing teaching as a series of discrete practices, and limited understanding of the conceptual underpinnings for instructional approaches impede growth and keep teachers in the messy middle. Implications for practice and suggestions for future research result from the findings of this study.

To access the Zoom link required to attend, please contact academic.services@gse.rutgers.edu.