Results of the study, and the Impact of Different Courses on Self-Efficacy
The qualitative analysis supported the quantitative data, demonstrating, that pre-service teachers felt their ability to teach mathematics improved after the mathematics methods courses. Interviews conducted with six pre-service teachers gave the following data on teachers’ self-perception: three teachers said that their rating was eight, one gave a mark of nine, and one gave seven points, while only one hesitated between eight and nine points. Such rating results (between seven and nine points) suggested that teaching courses taught respondents a lot about effective practices, techniques, and tools. However, they also suggested that interviewed pre-service teachers did not have enough experience and confidence to give themselves a rating of ten. The fact that the majority of interviewees acknowledged that there was always some room for improvement and growth suggests that actual working experience will improve their self-efficacy.Most of the pre-service teachers who took part in the current study thought that they had been not very skillful teachers of mathematics prior to taking the courses.
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It should be pointed out that even those respondents were confident in their content knowledge of mathematics, they had not thought of themselves as highly competent educators. On the other hand, it is apparent that after the courses, the participants became more confident in their ability to teach mathematics. It is also very important to point out that event those respondents who stated that they had forgotten the majority of the basic notions and had doubts regarding their ability to teach properly became much more confident in their content knowledge of mathematics after taking the courses. Thus, it is possible to summarize that students initially had had different perceptions of their skills, competence, and ability to teach, but almost all of them achieved significantly higher levels of self-efficacy after the courses.
All respondents suggested that mixed methods courses were more effective than content pedagogy courses. They explained that methods courses have more practical experiences in teaching mathematics.on the other hand, the content pedagogy courses interviewees stated that these courses were beneficial for bringing them back to the basic material and helped realize what their students usually did not understand. , they need to know the subject they teach and how to teach the concepts to students (Shulman, 1986). This particular finding is a good indicator of the fact that both content courses and mixed methods courses are important but mathematics method courses may have more beneficial effects on the pre-service teachers’ self-efficacy development than content pedagogy courses.
In addition, the thoughts divided almost equally when asking about the most effective element in the course. Two interviewees emphasized small group instruction; two focused on peer interaction; one gave preference to partner assignments, and one enjoyed hands-on activities. These results are consistent with previous research studies, according to which training and hands-on activities provide all necessary enactive mastery, which acts as an important source of self-efficacy beliefs for pre-service teachers (Bleicher & Lindgren, 2005; Bray-Clark & Bates, 2003; Cone, 2009; Tenaw, 2013; Turner, Cruz, & Papakonstantinou, 2004).
As for assessing the impact of content pedagogy courses and mathematics methods courses on perceived self-efficacy of pre-service teachers, other studies show that both pedagogical knowledge and content knowledge, as well as the knowledge of technologies which may be needed in the classroom (e.g., when teaching information and communication technologies) (Topkaya, 2010), are pivotal for the overall synthesis (=pedagogical content knowledge) of the pre-service teachers’ knowledge pertaining to both the subject matter that they are teaching (=content knowledge) and to the ways to teach it (=pedagogical knowledge) (Chai, Koh, & Tsai, 2010). The current study also suggests that both the content pedagogy courses and the mathematics methods courses (=content knowledge) are paramount for pre-service teachers; however, as has been noted above, mathematics methods courses might be more useful for pre-service teachers than content pedagogy courses, because they permit for achieving broader experience and knowledge pertaining to teaching mathematics.
This finding can further be supported by other research. For instance, according to a study by Capraro, Capraro, Parker, Kulm, and Raulerson (2005), pre-service teachers who possess good content knowledge of mathematics display significantly better pedagogical content knowledge, and the latter knowledge progresses better throughout their studies that that of those pre-service teachers who demonstrate poorer content knowledge of mathematics. Therefore, mathematics methods courses (or content knowledge courses) may be pivotal when it comes to developing pedagogical content knowledge among pre-service teachers of mathematics, though pedagogical courses also play a major role in these pre-service teachers’ development.
Characteristics of Teachers with Higher Self-Efficacy
Based on the responses of the interviews, the researcher identified the characteristics of pre-service teachers with high self-efficacy. It is expected that those pre-service teachers who participated in the study have a tendency to cope with difficulties, be more confident in their ability to teach, use new strategies, and be more motivated. Also, some of the respondents believed in their ability to differentiate their instruction to teach all students with a different background. Czernaik (1990) stated that teachers who possessed high standards of self-efficacy were the most likely to apply new methods in their classrooms and manage to teach all students with a different background. The participants described a variety of positive experiences and did not express any concerns about their ability to teach mathematics. The data collected from the interviews for this question generated numerous topics for discussion.
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Unfortunately, virtually no research that addresses the relationship between the characteristics of pre-service teachers and their self-efficacy has been found. However, it is worth noting that pre-service teachers may tend to overestimate their degree of self-efficacy, perhaps especially in the situation when they have children of their own, or when they are emotionally aroused about teaching (Pendergast et al., 2011); self-efficacy may also depend on the setting where they will teach (Siwatu, 2011).
Increasing Pre-Service Teachers’ Self-Efficacy
When it comes to the ways to increase the self-efficacy of teachers, the literature suggests that the level of self-efficacy may depend on four critical factors: 1) mastery experiences (that is, the experience of teaching students), 2) verbal persuasion (the impact of verbal assessments pertaining to the pre-service educator’s teaching ability), 3) vicarious experiences (such as the observation of the process of teaching carried out by colleagues, or modeling practices), and 4) emotional arousal of the pre-service teacher during his or her experience of teaching (Pendergast, Garvis, & Keogh, 2011, p. 47). Therefore, it might be possible to conclude that the participation of pre-service teachers in practices which involve these four aspects (e.g., the opportunity to practice; positive evaluation by colleagues and instructors; observing the teaching process and modeling classes; experiencing excitement about teaching activities) may have a positive effect on their self-efficacy. In addition, it is stated that mastery experiences have the most profound impact on perceived self-efficacy (Hoy & Spero, 2005); therefore, it is of paramount importance to provide pre-service teachers with the opportunity to have a practice of teaching students.
It is also noted that pre-service teachers, during the practice of teaching students as a part of these teachers’ education, often experience an increase in self-efficacy; however, they suffer from a decline of self-efficacy during their first year of teaching (Hoy & Spero, 2005). On the other hand, it is stressed that during the first year of teaching, the support that teachers receive (such as the provision of high-quality teaching resources, the support obtained from colleagues, parents, the administration, and the community) has a positive effect on these teachers’ self-efficacy (Hoy & Spero, 2005). Thus, similar support during the practice of teaching may help pre-service teachers increase their self-efficacy.
In addition, sometimes pre-service teachers overestimate their self-efficacy, which might lead to a shock when they experience their first teaching situation (Pendergast et al., 2011). Therefore, it may not be the best strategy to simply try to maximize pre-service teachers’ self-efficacy; adequate instruction in the subject that they need to teach (e.g., in mathematics) and in the pedagogical methods and their implementation may be vital if high self-efficacy is not to have any adverse consequences.
Self-Efficacy and Field Experience
When speaking about self-efficacy and field experience, the current study has found that pre-service teachers are convinced that they would have greater self-efficacy if they had field experience. A study by Gurvitch and Metzler (2009), on the other hand, compared the association between laboratory-based experience and field-based experience of teaching; it was found that teachers participating in laboratory-based practicum had significantly greater levels of self-efficacy than those taking part in a field-based practicum at one of the four stages of their practicum; however, both groups reached similar levels of self-efficacy at the final phase of practicum. It is suggested that this resulted from the more protected atmosphere of the laboratory experience (Gurvitch & Metzler, 2009). On the whole, however, it is apparent that practicum does help to increase self-efficacy of pre-service teachers (Gurvitch & Metzler, 2009, p. 441; Palmer, 2006), which supports the results of the current study.
All in all, the current study has revealed some facts pertaining to pre-service teachers’ beliefs about their self-efficacy and the factors which may have an impact on these beliefs. A review of the literature shows that the findings of the given research were consistent with the previous studies.
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Siwatu, K. O. (2011). Preservice teachers’ sense of preparedness and self-efficacy to teach in America’s urban and suburban schools: Does context matter? Teaching and Teacher Education, 27(2), 357-365.
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