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ICME-12
Doctoral Programs in Mathematics EducationChallenges and a Vision
Robert E. Reys
University of Missouri-USA
Background
Doctoral programs in mathematics education vary greatly within and across countries. Some doctoral programs require K-12 teaching experience prior to admission. Others require collegiate teaching experience. Still others require no prior teaching experience. Some institutions require full-time residence for multiple years in order to complete a doctorate, other programs can be done on a part-time basis and a doctorate be completed while working full-time in another position. Still others can be done primarily via distance learning. Programs also vary greatly in the range and depth of mathematics content required, as well as the manner in which research competence is acquired. Institutions vary greatly in the number of faculty members as well as the number of graduate students. Some institutions have only 1 or 2 faculty members in mathematics education, whereas other institutions may have more than 10 faculty members. Some institutions graduate several new doctorates every year, whereas others programs graduate one doctorate in mathematics education every couple of years. Many different variations in doctoral preparation have been reported (Reys & Kilpatrick, 2001; Reys & Dossey, 2008).
Some people view this diversity in doctoral programs as a strength, others as an area of concern. It certainly raises at least one important question: Is there a central core of knowledge/experiences that doctorates in mathematics education possess? An equally important question is: Should there be a common core of knowledge for graduates with doctorates in mathematics education. That is, when someone says they have a doctorate in mathematic education, what is reasonable to assume about the knowledge they possess with respect to mathematics education.
If the answer to this question Is there a central core of knowledge that doctorates in mathematics education possess? is Yes, then several natural questions follow, including: What should constitute this common core of knowledge?
Who should decide what constitutes this common core?
How should it be delivered?
How should competence in mathematics education be assessed?
Should there be an accreditation of doctoral programs in mathematics education?
One could argue that answers to these questions would provide useful guidance to doctoral granting institution. Others may argue that such information would be too prescriptive, and therefore run the risk of curtailing creativity and uniqueness currently associated with doctoral programs in mathematics education.
A vision for the future
A vision for the future is that doctoral programs in mathematics education become more convergent. Does this mean that all doctoral programs in mathematics education would be alike? No, definitely not. Such convergence does not exclude interdisciplinary experiences, but it would insure that doctorates in mathematics education would share a common core of knowledge. Unless a common core of knowledge exists, it is hard to justify mathematics education as a discipline of study.
The Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators developed a document entitled Principles to Guide the Design and Implementation of Doctoral Programs in Mathematics Education that included the identification of core knowledge areas. Their core knowledge elements included, mathematics content; learning theory; mathematics curriculum, research, technology, assessment, and history of mathematics education. Policy and diversity have been other topics that have been recommended for inclusion of the core knowledge of doctorates in mathematics education. While a list of core knowledge may never be universally supported, it at least provides some talking points for those who have responsibility to develop and shape doctoral programs in mathematics education. If there is agreement that some refinement of this type of effort would be of value internationally, then perhaps some plans could be made to move at ICME-12 in that direction.
Ideally a core of knowledge will prepare doctoral students for their career as mathematics educators. This goal is challenging when the range of diverse career directions are considered. For example, while the majority of doctoral graduates in mathematics education take positions in higher education, other graduates take positions as K-12 classroom teachers, and mathematics supervisors. Still other graduates are employed by test development companies and textbook publishers. Even those employed in higher education assume a range of teaching responsibilities, that may include teaching mathematics content courses anywhere from undergraduate to graduate courses in mathematics, or teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in mathematics education. This wide range of career options underscores the difficulty in designing doctoral programs in mathematics education that adequately prepares everyone for their potential employment. Clearly designing a common core of knowledge for such diverse careers represents a significant and continuing challenge.
References:
Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators. (2003). Principles to Guide the Design and Implementation of Doctoral Programs in Mathematics Education, San Diego, CA: Author.
Reys, R. E. & Kilpatrick, J (Editors). (2001). One Field, Many Paths: U. S. Doctoral Programs in Mathematics Education, Providence, RI: American Mathematical Society/Mathematical Association of America.
Reys, R. E. & Dossey, J. A. (Editors). (2008). U.S. Doctorates in Mathematics Education: Developing Stewards of the Discipline. Providence, RI: American Mathematical Society/Mathematical Association of America.
Robert Reys, 121 Townsend Hall, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211, USA.
Phone 573-882-3740 Fax 573-882-4481 Email HYPERLINK "mailto:reysr@missouri.edu" reysr@missouri.edu PAGE 1
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