LOSSTT IN MATH – Lower Secondary School Teacher Training In Mathematics
is a project partly supported by the European Commission under the Socrates programme – Comenius 2.1 action (Ref. No. 112318-CP-1-2003-1-IT-COMENIUS-C21).
It is therefore a project that, by the training of school education staff, aims at enhancing the quality of teaching and strengthening its European dimension.
Rationale of and background to the project
Scientific and technological development is fundamental for competitive knowledge society. This was clearly recognized by the Education Council of the EU which on May 2001 decided to put as one of the top objectives Increasing recruitment to scientific and technological studies
and by the European Commission that set up a Working Group on Increasing Participation in Math, Sciences and Technology
– WG on MST. The key issues addressed by the experts in the Working Group included 
- increasing the interest in MST from an early age;
- motivating more people to choose studies and careers in the fields of MST;
- securing a sufficient number of qualified teachers in MST subjects.
There is a general consensus that mathematical knowledge is the foundation of any scientific and technological understanding. Furthermore, in some sense it is a discriminating factor in our developed and globalised society. Great attention must therefore be drawn to the initial training of mathematics teachers.
Generally, school mathematics curricula are almost homogeneous in the European educational systems. However, mathematics teacher training systems in Europe do not reflect this homogeneity.Teacher training systems in the partner countries differ considerably.
At the preparatory stage of the project, preliminary comparison of the educational and teacher training systems as well as investigation of the past and current projects in this area was carried out.
Aims and objectives
In spite of differences in European mathematics teacher training systems the project aims at contributing to greater sharing of good practices in this field. In order to fulfil this task, changes in the curricula for lower secondary school mathematics teacher training are proposed as a result of the piloting of a number of educational modules.
The aim is to influence in a positive way not only teacher training, but also the school reality, through the development of mathematical education projects which intend to be more learner-friendly and attractive to pupils.
Furthermore, the project aims at facilitating the improvement of pupils’ achievement.
Final aim is to move policy makers in education to create the conditions for new mathematics teachers to find it less difficult to get a position in a non-home country, due to a possible common (at least) partly shared curriculum in teacher training institutions throughout the Europe.
Innovative features in the project
The project offers examples of didactical approaches and materials to be used in shaping shared curricula in completely different educational and cultural contexts, with respect to lower secondary school mathematics teacher training.
The proposed use of a foreign language in mathematics classes – hardly experienced in most of the partner countries – should offer the opportunity for higher awareness of the global knowledge required by European citizens.
Pedagogical and didactical approaches
The following pedagogical and didactical approaches were used:
- comparative study of materials
- analysis of textbooks and other teaching materials
- direct observation of teacher training courses and classes of mathematics in lower secondary schools
- analysis of audio and video recording of individual lessons.
Taking into account the present social demands and the increasing presence of immigrant pupils, specific attention was paid to the best practices which support interdisciplinary and intercultural approaches to mathematics education.
Special interest was given to practices which emphasise a more situated approach to learning and strengthen links to real life and authentic activities in the educational process.
Didactic practices using IT as a pedagogical tool were taken into account as well.
The project primary target group are mathematics teacher trainers in teacher training institutions of the partner countries.
The secondary target group are teacher trainees in mathematics at lower secondary level; these will be influenced by their trainers.
Some teacher trainers, provided with project materials and curricula units, tested them and proposed possible modifications to the project partners. This gave them the opportunity to reflect on their own teaching strategies and materials and thus increase their awareness and responsibility for their choices. Student teachers were stimulated to compare different didactical approaches and to have a critical view on the definition and selection of their own teaching methods.
All the above will have an implicit impact on their future pupils.
Main project outputs
- A set of didactic materials, based on selected best practices, to be used in lower secondary school mathematics teacher training, was produced, overcoming the difficulties related to the different training systems in the partner countries.
- The outlines of a possible common core of a curriculum for lower secondary school mathematics teacher training.
Both outputs are available on paper (in English
) and in a DVD version (the languages used correspond to the partner countries – CZ-DK-FR-IT-SK – and include EN).
The outputs of the project were produced in co-operation with all partners, under the continuous co-ordination of the co-ordinator Institution. In particular, each partner selected best practices in its country and circulated them to other partners before their discussion, final selection and piloting. Each selected best practice was simultaneously piloted at its author/proponent’s institution and at another partner institution at first, and at a third non-partner teacher training institution later. Each proposal was piloted in, at least, two different partner countries, thus allowing the project partners to have a more significant feedback.
The project web-site was designed and constructed under the direct responsibility of the co-ordinator after a common discussion on its structure.
- The didactic materials were made available to the Institutions with an accreditation in teacher training both in the partner and other European countries. Such dissemination made it possible to reach the primary and secondary target groups: mathematics teachers trainers and student-teachers in mathematics. Pupils in lower secondary schools are expected to benefit from the use of these didactical materials.
- The curricula overviews are primarily addressed to lower secondary school mathematics teacher trainers and their students in the partner and other European countries. These were delivered also to the educational policy makers.
- The web-site is available to the broad mathematics educational community.
Monitoring and evaluating of the project
The project was continuously monitored by the co-ordinator and each of the other project Working Team members.
The project Working Team meetings provided the opportunity for global monitoring of the activities so far carried out and their internal evaluation, step by step.
The external evaluation was required from Leo Rogers (United Kingdom), a prominent international expert in mathematics education; it was presented and discussed in specific evaluation meetings at the end of each of the first two years, before starting the new year activities, and during the third year, when all the materials were ready for the publishing (book and DVD).
Further opportunities for monitoring and externally evaluating the project activities were given by their presentations to the national and international community of researchers in Mathematics Education during Conferences and Workshops.
The data collection for the comparative study of lower secondary school mathematics teacher training systems and curricula required direct involvement of teacher training institutions in the partner countries.
The project partners undertook the specific task to keep continuously in contact with some mathematics teacher trainers in the partner countries and ask them to give evidence of good training practices. A few of these trainers were also asked to pilot the final collection of the best practices selected by the project Working Team.
After the final project outputs were widely distributed, the European teacher training institutions and their mathematical staff were finally asked to contribute to the piloting of the best of the above mentioned practices and to design their curricula according to the project final proposal.
The above activities therefore ensured continuous and direct information and dissemination of proposals, results and experiences of the project.
All outputs and products were made available to the public in the project web-site.
The project web-site makes the project results, experiences and outputs easily available to the lower secondary school mathematics teacher trainers and their students involved in initial training (future mathematics teachers) across Europe, thanks to the fact that, besides the languages of the partner countries (CZ-DA-FR-IT-SK), English was used.
The co-ordinator and the project partners will keep disseminating all the project activities, the in-progress and final results by their presentations to the national and international community of teacher trainers and scholars in Mathematics Education during Conferences and Workshops, which they are used to attending for many years.
The above measures should ensure a long-term exploitation of the project results.
Project partnership compositionCentro di Ateneo di Formazione e Ricerca Educativa – CAFRE of the University of Pisa (IT) (Project co-ordinator)
is the Centre in charge of research and training in the educational field. CAFRE members’ expertise includes the organization and the management of the Specialization School for Secondary Teachers – SSIS of Tuscany. They are University of Pisa scholars active in different subjects and have experience in participation and co-ordination of national and European trans-national co-operation projects, including Socrates/Comenius 3.1 and 2.1 projects. [http://www.cafre.unipi.it
]Skaarup Seminarium (DK)
is the oldest public College of Education in Denmark. It educates teachers for primary and lower secondary schools. The College also provides short courses for qualified teachers and diploma studies in general didactics. The experience of the institution in international projects, both as co-ordinator and partner, is wide and includes Erasmus, Lingua, Comenius 2.1 and Tempus projects. [http://www.skaarupsem.dk
]Institut Universitaire de Formation des Maîtres – IUFM of the Académie de Créteil (FR)
is responsible for the training of primary and secondary schools teachers (of general, technological or professional subjects). The global amount of its students and trainees is approximately 5.000, including the primary, the general secondary and the technical and professional secondary degree schools. The IUFM partners are the nearby Universities and the schools of the Académie de Créteil. [http://www.creteil.iufm.fr
]Department of Mathematics “Ulisse Dini” of the University of Florence (IT)
is the main Department at the University working in mathematics and mathematics education. Many professors and researchers at the Department are responsible for the training of upper and lower secondary school mathematics teachers attending the courses of SSIS of Tuscany at the University of Florence. Members of the Department are also involved in both national research projects in mathematics and mathematics education and international projects action plans, such as Erasmus and Comenius. [http://www.math.unifi.it
]Department of Mathematics and Computer Science of the University of Siena (IT)
is in charge of the organization and management of mathematics courses offered by the University of Siena to the SSIS of Tuscany. The Department is a partner of several national and international projects. [http://www.dsmi.unisi.it
]Faculty of Education of the Charles University in Prague (CZ)
prepares teachers for all types and levels of schools, specialists and scientists in the area of pedagogy, educational psychology and didactics. Depending on the type of study, the Faculty of Education awards Bachelor, Master and Doctor Diplomas and Degrees. In the area of international co-operation, the Faculty of Education focuses on various types of projects in the Socrates programme (Comenius, Lingua, Grundtvig, Minerva, Arion, Erasmus). [http://www.pedf.cuni.cz
]Matej Bel University (SK)
is located in Banska Bystrica. The main focus of its Pedagogic Faculty is to prepare teachers for elementary schools and lower secondary schools. In recent years, however, it has also offered study programs in social and theological professions. The graduates are awarded Bachelor, Master and Doctoral degrees. Department of Mathematics has recently been involved in Socrates programme (Comenius 3.1). [http://www.pdf.umb.sk
The project partners greatly benefited from the continuous monitoring by Leo Rogers (UK), mathematics education consultant and project evaluator. The suggestions, comments and remarks in his yearly reports have been very helpful for the project’s achievement.
An acknowledgement goes to Giuseppe Fiorentino (IT), technology consultant for the project, who crafted the project’s website and edited the book, the web-site, and the DVD.
Thanks also to the translators Marta Hosková and Hana Moraová (CZ), Solveig Gaarsmand (DK), Christine Alves Smith (FR), Catia Mogetta (IT) and Iveta Dzúriková (SK).
European Commission, DG for Education and Culture (2004). Implementation of "Education & Training 2010" work programme – WG on MST Progress Report