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Emerald Article: Incorporating learning study in a teacher education program in Hong Kong: a case study Mun Yee Lai, Yin Wah Priscilla Lo-Fu

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To cite this document: Mun Yee Lai, Yin Wah Priscilla Lo-Fu, (2013),"Incorporating learning study in a teacher education program in Hong Kong: a case study", International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies, Vol. 2 Iss: 1 pp. 72 - 89 Permanent link to this document: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/20468251311290141 Downloaded on: 16-01-2013 References: This document contains references to 60 other documents To copy this document: permissions@emeraldinsight.com

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Incorporating learning study in a teacher education program in Hong Kong: a case study

Mun Yee Lai

School of Teacher Education, Charles Sturt Universtiy, Bathurst, Australia, and

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The Hong Kong Institute of Education, Hong Kong, China

Abstract

Purpose The purpose of this paper is to report a case study of how learning study was incorporated in teacher education programs in Hong Kong. It aims to share the success of the program and to disseminate how pre-service teachers enhanced their mathematical content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge by practising learning study. Building on the work, this paper suggests incorporating the framework of learning study, a theory-guided pedagogical principle, as an integrated subject of mathematics pedagogy and teaching practice in teacher education programs. Design/methodology/approach In total 32 pre-service teachers learning journals of their reflections of learning processes were analyzed. The analysis of data and reporting of findings are linked tightly to how pre-service teachers enhanced their mathematical content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge by practising learning study. Findings The 32 pre-service teachers noted that the learning study subject fostered their understanding of relationship between theory and practice and their understanding of transforming knowledge into action. In particular, they came to understand that knowledge of pupils and content involves a particular mathematical idea or procedure and familiarity with students prior knowledge and misconceptions. They also reported that they understood better what mathematics pedagogy content knowledge means and what components it includes. Originality/value The suggestions of incorporating the framework of learning study in teacher education programs is supported and manifested by the positive feedback and comments of the 32 pre-service teachers who underwent the entire learning process of learning study in Hong Kong. The findings demonstrate how pre-service teachers mathematical content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge were enhanced by practising learning study. Keywords Mathematics, Learning studies, Teachers, Education colleges, Hong Kong, Mathematics content knowledge, Pedagogical content knowledge, Theory of variation, Pre-service teacher education Paper type Case study

International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies Vol. 2 No. 1, 2013 pp. 72-89 r Emerald Group Publishing Limited 2046-8253 DOI 10.1108/20468251311290141

1. Introduction Traditional teacher education programs are often criticized for their failure to prepare pre-service teachers for the realities of the classroom (Eilam and Poyas, 2009; Goodlad, 1990; Korthagen and Kessels, 1999; Korthagen et al., 2006). Researchers (Eilam and Poyas, 2009; Ethel and McMeniman, 2000; Jaworski, 2006; Korthagen and Kessels, 1999) explain that this failure is a result of the disconnection between theory and practice in teacher education programs. The cause of the problem is related to issues about what is the most relevant knowledge for teaching (Korthagen and Kessels, 1999) as pre-service teachers often perceive that much of the formal university work appears

The authors would like to acknowledge Professor Jo-Anne Reid and Dr Sandie Wong for their insightful comments and feedback on earlier versions of this paper.

irrelevant when viewed from the perspective of classroom practice (Bromme and Tillma, 1995; Russell, 1989). Zeichner and Tabachnick (1981), for instance, found in their study that educational concepts developed during teacher education were diminished during field experience. One way to reconcile the dilemma of the theorypractice nexus is to make an explicit integration of theory and practice, from which pre-service teachers can utilize and transfer their knowledge of content and educational principles as they become more knowledgeable about teaching. Researchers such as Jaworski (2006) propose the idea of Teaching as learning, in practice (Lave, 1996), which describes the process of growth in teaching as a continuous participation in practice ( Jaworski, 2006). Likewise, Reid (2011) argues that it is time to (re)turn to a focus on practice in initial teacher education (p. 294). In this paper, we argue that new era teacher education programs need to link closely to professional development within schools (Bullough and Kauchak, 1997; Darling-Hammond, 1994) and to engage pre-service teachers in continuous participation in practice (Jaworski, 2006). From this position, questions arise as to what is the entry point for practice and what should be practised, all of which are relevant to actual classroom teaching by pre-service teachers. Research (e.g. Borko and Livingston, 1989) indicates that there are qualitative differences between the thinking and actions of expert teachers, novice teachers and pre-service teachers. To explain the differences, Borko and Livingston (1989) employ the framework of complex cognitive skill (Leinhardt and Greeno, 1986) which is characterized by the process of transforming subject matter knowledge into forms that are pedagogically powerful and yet adaptive to the variations in ability and background presented by the students (Shulman, 1987, p. 15). Among the different components of complex cognitive skill, Borko and Livingston (1989) point out that propositional structures for pedagogical content knowledge seem to be virtually nonexistent in novice and pre-service teachers knowledge systems, even though these are major components of learning to teach. Propositional structures refer to teachers factual knowledge about components of the teaching-learning situation such as the students in their classroom, subject matter and pedagogical strategies (Borko and Livingston, 1989). Additionally, some researchers (such as Wilson et al., 1987) have argued that the transformation of teaching knowledge has to occur within teaching practice as this process of transformation is associated with the planning and design of instructional activities, evaluation and reflection (Leikin and Zazkis, 2010). Relating this work to mathematics teacher education, we are working with the presumption that practising mathematical content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge is the entry point for practice in teacher education programs. In order to facilitate pre-service teachers learning to teach mathematics, and to foster their transformation of teaching knowledge, this paper suggests the incorporation of the framework of learning study, a theory-guided pedagogical principle, as an integrated subject of mathematics pedagogy and teaching practice, in teacher education programs. A learning study framework, grounded in the theory of variation (see Marton and Booth, 1997), is speculated to provide a platform for pre-service teachers to understand, assimilate and practise the different components of mathematical content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge specialized content knowledge; knowledge of content and students; and knowledge of content and teaching all of which are found lacking in novice and pre-service teachers knowledge system (Borko and Livingston, 1989). Prior to a genuine classroom teaching experience, use of learning study allows pre-service teachers to be engaged in teaching activities such as

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analyzing and assessing student work; and to create lesson plans that meet both curriculum requirements and students needs in a relatively safe environment free from judgment by a supervising teacher or a classroom of students (Koirala et al., 2008). 2. Mathematical content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge for mathematics and its structure No one would argue the fact that teachers mathematical content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge are crucial to their capacity for providing high-quality teaching (Lowery, 2002; Ball et al., 2005; Cheang et al., 2007; Silverman and Thompson, 2008; Ball et al., 2008). However, the actual nature of innovative preparation programs for enhancing pre-service teachers mathematics and pedagogical knowledge and the extent of that knowledge as applied to their classroom teaching are still unknown. Particularly striking is the lack of understanding of the dimensions of intersection and connection between mathematics content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge for effective teaching. Shulman (1986) proposed a special domain of teacher knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, which bridges subject matter knowledge, knowledge of pedagogy and classroom teaching. Shulman (1986) defined pedagogical content knowledge as an understanding of what makes the learning of specific topics easy or difficult: the conceptions and preconceptions that students of different ages and backgrounds bring with them to the learning of those most frequently taught topics and lessons (p. 9). In other words, pedagogical content knowledge includes familiarity with topics children find interesting or difficult, the representations most useful for teaching an idea, and learners typical errors and misconceptions (Hill et al., 2004, p. 12). Though Shulmans work could provide a conceptual orientation and a set of analytic distinctions on the nature and types of knowledge needed for teaching a subject (Ball et al., 2008), the question about what exact professional knowledge of mathematics for teaching, tailored to the work teachers do with curriculum materials, instruction, and students (Ball et al., 2005, p. 16) is still unsolved. Ball et al. (2008) extend Shulmans notion of subject content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge to pursue a better understanding of his idea on the relationship between them. The analysis of the mathematical demands of teaching (Ball et al., 2008) further divided Shulmans content knowledge into common content knowledge and specialized content knowledge; and his pedagogical content knowledge into knowledge of content and students and knowledge of content and teaching. We explain these concepts below. 2.1 Common content knowledge Ball et al. (2008) define this as the mathematical knowledge and skill used in settings other than teaching. It is the common mathematical knowledge that is not unique to teachers but is used by teachers to recognize and judge wrong answers and definitions. By common, Ball et al. do not mean that everyone should have this knowledge. Rather, they see it as unspecialized understandings. For example, a teacher, a nurse and an electrical engineer should all know what decimals are between 1.1 and 1.2. They are also able to tell 0.5 is a half; and to do addition of fractions, multiplication of decimals etcetera. 2.2 Specialized content knowledge This is the mathematical knowledge and skill unique to teaching, such as a conceptual understanding of mathematics (Ball et al., 2008). Conceptual understanding of

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mathematics consists of logical relationships constructed internally and existing in the mind as a part of a network of ideas (Van De Walle, 2004). It reflects an understanding of why a procedure works (Hiebert and Wearne, 1986) or of whether a procedure is legitimate (Bisanz and Lefevre, 1992). Scholars such as Ball and Bass (2003), Hill et al. (2004), Ball et al. (2005) and Hill et al. (2005) provide a further definition of conceptual understanding by pointing out the demand of interplay between mathematical procedures and the specific mathematical concepts for interacting productively with students. Thus, specialized content knowledge involves the knowledge of decompressed mathematical knowledge that can make features of particular content visible to, and learnable by, students (Ball et al., 2008). For example, teachers are required to understand the difference between measurement and partitive models of division or the mathematical development of informal units to formal units in length. Another example, most people are able to tell others to add a zero to the number when you multiply by ten and move the decimal point one digit to the left when you divide by ten. However, teachers are required to hold unpacked mathematical knowledge which goes beyond the kind of tacit understanding of place value needed by most people (Ball et al., 2008). Thus, specialized content knowledge refers to the knowledge that requires conceptual demands of mathematics different from the mathematical understandings needed by other practitioners of mathematics (Silverman and Thompson, 2008). 2.3 Knowledge of content and students This is the combination of knowing about students and knowing about mathematics. Teachers should know the aspects of mathematics which are sensitive to students understanding and which must be made visible to students during classroom instructions (Silverman and Thompson, 2008). In order to provide visible mathematics instruction, teachers should be able to anticipate their students thinking, understanding, confusions and misconceptions (Ball et al., 2008). Developed from this idea, knowledge of content and students includes anticipating students responses and motivation for learning, and interpreting students emerging and incomplete thinking (Ball et al., 2008). In short, it is the knowledge of common student conceptions and misconceptions about particular mathematical content (Ball et al., 2008). Using a task in which a child is asked to order decimal numbers is a good example to illustrate this point. Knowing that students often choose the decimal numbers with more decimal places as the larger one (Resnick et al., 1989) means that a teacher can anticipate this as a common student response. Thus, knowledge of content and students requires the teachers cognitive interaction across specific mathematical content understanding, familiarity with students and students mathematical thinking (Ball et al., 2008). 2.4 Knowledge of content and teaching This combines knowing about teaching and knowing about mathematics. Ball and Forzani (2009) point out that helping students to learn mathematics content knowledge and skills not only requires teachers strong content knowledge but also their capacity to make mathematics accessible to students. Knowledge of content and teaching refers to the knowledge that requires teachers to decide how to use time in each lesson, determine the key learning points (i.e. the object of learning (OL)), choose appropriate examples, models and materials for instructional purposes, sequence the learning activities that fit students learning path, ask appropriate questions in an appropriate order for scaffolding learning; and choose appropriate precise or unambiguous language that is pedagogically preferable for constructing concepts. Careful advance

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thought about such factors can make mathematics more sensible to, visible to and learnable by students. Knowledge for teaching should be shaped as structures of mathematics as it is learned and not only in its finished logical form (Ball et al., 2005). Accordingly, teachers can structure the next step in the students development; and oversee and assess the learners progress (Ball and Forzani, 2009). 3. Conceptual framework of learning study In this paper, the framework of learning study is suggested as a means for empowering pre-service teachers mathematical content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge. This framework was developed by a Hong Kong research team (Lo et al., 2005). It is in part related to the systemic efforts of Japanese teachers in conducting indepth research into their own lessons through lesson study (Lo and Ko, 2002; Pang and Marton, 2003; Lo et al., 2004) and also bears some relation to teaching study in mainland China. However, the Hong Kong model, learning study is theoretically grounded in variation theory (Marton and Booth, 1997; Pang and Marton, 2003; Marton and Tsui, 2004), which was originally developed at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden by Ference Marton, as part of what he calls phenomenography. This theoretical framework has the following characteristics:

. .

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it focusses on the OL; it is premised on three types of variations. (i.e. variation in students prior understandings (V1); variation in teachers conceptualization of the subject topic (V2); and using variation theory as a pedagogical tool (V3); and the patterns of variation (Lo and Marton, 2012) facilitate the discernment of the critical features.

Learning study is a staged, researchful process that involves (pre-service) teachers as active researchers into their students learning. In what follows, we explain the model in detail before turning to our discussion of its use in pre-service teacher education and a case study of incorporating learning study in teacher education programs in Hong Kong. 3.1 What is OL? Central to variation theory is the philosophical notion of intentionality (Brentano, 1874). According to Brentanos principle of intentionality, one cannot think without thinking about something; one cannot be conscious without being conscious of something. Thus to say I learnt without identifying what has been learnt is meaningless. Learning must have an object and in the context of learning study, this is called the OL. When learning occurs, it will therefore always have an object. For any given lesson, on any given topic, it should therefore be possible to quite closely define the intended OL. Lo and Marton (2012) point out that to see or experience an OL in a certain way requires the learner to be aware of certain features which are critical to the intended way of seeing the object. With any given topic, there will be a number of critical features that need to be identified, if the OL is to be discerned. Lo and Marton (2012) comment that when students do not learn, it may not be due to a lack of ability but due to a focus on aspects other than the critical aspects. 3.2 What are the three types of variations? 3.2.1 Variation in students prior understandings what is to be taught (V1). It has long been recognized that students prior conceptions and misconceptions can have a major

impact on what they learn, especially in mathematics (Nesher, 1987; Clement et al., 1989; Smith et al., 1994). As prior understanding is so influential on learning, teachers need to be fully alert to this as a phenomenon and take it into account when planning, conducting and analyzing lessons. Students prior knowledge is captured within the process of learning study in the concept of variation (V1), where there are three main ways of identifying students prior conceptions: student interviews, pre-test and constant observation during the lesson. Any topic can have different objects of learning, depending on particular students prior understandings from which a precise focus can be chosen. Identifying prior understandings also has a major bearing on the process of identifying the critical features for any given lesson. Students vary in their prior understandings and it is the aim of the learning study model to identify these and act on them in planning and teaching a given lesson. In the process of planning a lesson, students are interviewed. The interviews take two different forms. Teachers or collaborating researchers interview students who have learnt this topic in the previous year, to find out what they retained and also misconceptions that they appear to retain. Teachers or collaborating researchers also conduct an interview with a random selection of students from classes which will be taught the topic, to try to find out some of the prior understandings that they will bring to their learning. As this only represents a small sample it cannot be definitive, and teachers therefore need to be continually alert when teaching the lesson, as other conceptions and misconceptions may emerge. The results of these two forms of interview feed into discussions about the precise OL, the critical features that need to be addressed in the lesson and ultimately the overall sequence of the lesson content, so that the process of learning is progressive. The pre-test is also part of the overall process of gathering information about students prior understanding. The group interviews provide a sample guide to understand students thinking and they assist in the design of the pre-test. As the pre-test is given to all students participating in the learning study, it is able to reveal conceptions and misconceptions at a more individual level, to aid information gathered from the group student interviews. The pre-test is diagnostic in nature, so that it opens up space for students to freely express themselves and their own ideas. 3.2.2 Variation in teachers conceptualization of the subject topic and in their ways of dealing with the particular OL (V2). There is often a major problem with teachers conceptualization of the subject topic in mathematics as some teachers do not have a strong mathematics background. Usually, it is not appropriate to give mathematics teachers a pre-test, as is done with students. However, if students are to gain in their learning, it is imperative that they are taught properly and accurately. The process of identifying teachers misconceptions and reconstructing teachers conceptual understanding of the topics being taught has to be handled with subtlety within the learning study process. This is accomplished over the many discussions that form part of the overall process of a learning study, many of which occur before the practical teaching cycles begin. They may arise, for instance, in the context of discussing students misconceptions. Other occasions when teachers are able to examine their own conceptual understandings include the marking and analysis of the pre- and post-test, engaging in the lesson observation and the post-lesson analysis. For example, reading through and analyzing the results of the pre- and post-tests involves an attempt to try to get into the minds of the students, to work out what they are actually thinking when providing their answers. What students say in their answers may not reflect what they mean and teachers therefore have to act as detectives. In doing so, teachers own

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understandings of the topic being discussed are up for scrutiny. Through engaging in this process of analysis, teachers are thereby gaining practice in reflective professional development. Open discussions between teachers are encouraged in planning meetings and in the post-lesson conferences. Through in-depth discussion, teachers are able to shape and/or re-shape their own understandings and re-conceptualize the related mathematics knowledge in the process of interactive dialogue. The topic of the conversation is invariably focussed on the OL, its critical features and the overall lesson plan. In the process, teachers not only advance their personal understanding of the topic. Through listening to each other, they also apply their ongoing re-conceptualizations to the lesson plan. A second form of teachers variation (V2) relates to their previous experience of teaching the same or a similar topic. This is brought into the discussions in recognition of the fact that teachers vary considerably in the way they teach a lesson, even when staying close to the textbook. The tacit, personal, practical knowledge (Elbaz, 1983; Connelly and Clandinin, 1995) that teachers have developed about their students, their pedagogical content knowledge (Shulman, 1986), their understanding of the content, etcetera, are valued, sharpened and made explicit when the teachers and researchers share their ideas in meetings before the research lesson, when observing team members teaching and when engaging in professional dialogue in post-lesson conferences. 3.2.3 Using variation as a pedagogical tool (V3). In addition to variations in students and teachers conceptions, and in the different approaches to pedagogy that teachers have previously employed, theory of variation is used as a pedagogical tool in learning study. As noted previously, in the framework of learning study, considerable emphasis is placed on inducing discernment of the OL through exposing students to variations in the way they experience phenomena. According to the theory of variation, a key feature of learning involves experiencing a phenomenon in a new light (Marton, 1999). In other words, learning amounts to being able to discern certain aspects of the phenomenon that one previously did not focus on or which one took for granted, and simultaneously bring them into ones focal awareness (Lo et al., 2006, p. 3). Variation theory is posited on the view that when certain aspects of a phenomenon vary while its other aspects are kept constant, those aspects that vary are discerned (Lo et al., 2006, p. 3). This means that in order for students to discern the OL they need wto experience how the critical features of the OL are varied and not varied. Accordingly, certain invariances characterize certain ways of experiencing a phenomenon, and bring about particular ways of experiencing a particular phenomenon (Marton and Booth, 1997). This is how different students learning outcomes came about (Marton and Morris, 2002; Marton and Tsui, 2004). In planning a lesson, it therefore becomes important to use variation in designing teaching episodes and classroom activities. A crucial point in the use of variation is that it should be controlled and systematic in every case. What is varied and what remains invariant is intended to have direct impact on the students discernment of the OL. Therefore, it is necessary to pay close attention to what varies and what is invariant in a learning situation, in order to understand what it is possible to learn in that situation and what it is not (Lo and Marton, 2012). When using different patterns of variation in classroom teaching, Marton cautioned about the haphazard way in which teachers vary too many things at one time (Lo and Marton, 2012). By systematically keeping some things invariant while others are varied and then changing what is varied and what remains invariant, students are able to see (to directly perceive or intuit) the OL.

Because of the limitation of space in this paper, the functions of four patterns of variation will not be explained in detail. To guide teachers in the possible ways of using of variation, the patterns of variation are referred to Lo and Martons (2012) study. 3.3 Steps in a learning study cycle Using this framework, a learning study group usually comprises two or more preservice teachers (i.e. researchers) teaching the same subject at the same level in the same school. These comprise the research team, where each member contributes his/ her own expertise, and each member is accorded equal status. Usually each week, as timetabling permits, the group meets for about an hour to work on the research lesson. The whole cycle takes about 10-12 weeks/meetings. Figure 1 is a flow chart of procedures involved in conducting a typical learning study. A learning study goes through a number of steps, though these are not necessarily in a fixed sequence. Some steps may occur simultaneously and there may be iteration cycles when certain steps are revisited. Nevertheless, the diagram above provides a summary of the processes usually adopted. This is the cycle that is usually employed in the context of pre-service teacher education in Hong Kong. The following section presents a case study of incorporating learning study in teacher education programs in Hong Kong. It aims at sharing the success of the program and to disseminate how pre-service teachers enhanced their mathematical content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge by practising learning study.

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4. A case study of incorporating learning study in teacher education programs in Hong Kong 4.1 Methods and findings 4.1.1 Background. Learning Study was first introduced in Hong Kong in 1999 (Lo, 2009). In Lo and Martons (2012) study, it is reported that over 300 learning studies have been developed through various projects of the Hong Kong Institute of Education, and afterwards many schools developed learning studies on their own. As many studies such as Lo et al. (2005), Elliott and Yu (2008) and Cheng (2009) consistently found learning study contributes to teachers professional development and the learning of researchers. Since 2008, the Hong Kong Institute of Education has incorporated learning study as a core subject in the second year of all primary school teacher education programs. The authors of this study were members of a team teaching learning study in mathematics in the Institute at the time of the study. 4.1.2 The research process. The learning study subject was delivered in two stages in a semester. In the first stage, the framework of learning study and theory of variation were taught and discussed thoroughly in one three-hour lecture each week for six weeks. The theory of OL and the theoretical groundings to understanding some of the necessary conditions for learning (Lo and Marton, 2012) were also examined in the lecture. In the second stage, pre-service teachers worked in groups of four on implementing two cycles of learning study in primary schools. With the lecturers guidance, pre-service teachers first identified the OL and the critical features of a given topic. Second, according to the identified OL and critical features, they designed a pre-test and administered it to two classes of primary students. They then interviewed some of the students in order to better understand students prior knowledge of the topic being taught. Third, based on their findings and grounded in the theory of variation, they planned a lesson in which sequenced classroom activities that could address the identified OL and critical features of the given topic were the focus. Finally, they gave a lesson to a class of primary students in the first cycle. After the lesson, there was one post-lesson meeting. In the meeting, pre-service teachers evaluated their teaching and refined the teaching where they considered it necessary for the second cycle. They then gave the refined lesson to another class of students. The subject matter topic was Introduction to Fractions. We choose this topic as the pre-service teachers believed that the topic was well suited for them to practise their content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge because fractions is an abstract topic which demands adequate mathematical knowledge from teachers and many pupils experience conceptual difficulties related to fractions such as mixing up of concepts of a group of objects and a continuous object; and mixing up of concepts of whole number and decimals. Pupils of Grade 3 aged eight were invited to participate in the research lessons. To evaluate the pre-service teachers teaching and to reflect on their own learning, pre-service teachers were required to disseminate their results in a PowerPoint presentation and to write a three-page learning journal to summarize their learning processes. In this paper, our purpose of presenting the case is, through analyzing pre-service teachers learning journals, to share the success of this program and to disseminate how pre-service teachers enhanced their mathematical content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge by practising learning study. 4.1.3 Participants. About 60 pre-service teachers who enrolled in the primary school teacher education programs and who took primary mathematics as their major teacher training subject enrolled in learning study in mathematics in 2009. The pre-service

teachers were well informed that their PowerPoint presentations and learning journals would be used for research purposes at the beginning of the semester. A total of 32 pre-service teachers signed and returned their consent forms for allowing the authors to use their work for this study. The PowerPoints and learning journals of those pre-service teachers who indicated that they did not want to participate in this study were either returned or destroyed. In this study, 32 pre-service teachers learning journals were analyzed and reported. 4.2 Findings the learning journal Demonstrating how the learning study framework is grounded on the theory of variation provides pre-service teachers with a platform for understanding, assimilating and practising the different components of mathematical content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge specialized content knowledge; knowledge of content and students; and knowledge of content and teaching. The analysis of data and reporting of findings set out below is linked tightly to the three categories of knowledge. The argument is constructed from the perspective of how preservice teachers changed in belief in teaching and learning; and how they acquired these three categories of knowledge. 4.2.1 Specialized content knowledge. 4.2.1.1 Pre-service teachers awareness of including conceptual understanding in teaching. One of the most frequently occurring reflections from pre-service teachers was that before doing the learning study subject, they perceived mathematics teaching as teaching for numeracy and proficiency, each of which are procedural understandings. Further, they did not know what conceptual understanding and mathematical reasoning were required in teaching mathematics. ve understanding of After practising learning study, they became aware of their na specialized content knowledge especially the conceptual understanding of mathematics and came to recognize its impacts on students learning. They also came to realize that high-quality teaching requires teaching both procedural and conceptual understandings. One pre-service teacher commented:

Mathematics always includes different conceptual topics. If students cannot fully grasp the concepts, they will find it very difficult in keeping up with progress. So mathematics teachers have responsibility to teach students the correct mathematical concepts with conceptual understanding and should not only focus on proficiency in algorithms. In the two cycles of teaching, we observed that the majority of pupils followed closely their teachers teaching on problem solving methods and calculations. If a teachers own subject knowledge is incompetent, it will directly affect students learning. So being a pre-service teacher, I will pay extra effort on enhancing my mathematics content knowledge especially those related to conceptual understandings.

4.2.1.2 Pre-service teachers understanding of specialized content knowledge. Through the lectures and two cycles of teaching, the pre-service teachers acknowledged that they had had the opportunity to simulate and practice the process of identifying the OL and its critical features of a given topic. They claimed that they came to have better understanding of specialized content knowledge in mathematics. For example, specialized content knowledge of fractions requires understanding different interpretations of a/b for a group of objects and a continuous object two preservice teachers noted:

I learnt that, before planning a lesson, we should divide a topic into numbers of object of learning, for example, the introduction of fractions involves two sub-concepts and they are part-whole of a group of objects and part-whole of a continuous object. So, the outcome of a/b

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of a group of objects is not the same as that of a/b of a continuous object. Thus the breakdown of a topic into small objects of learning allows teachers to identify easily the critical features of the given concept and in turn make the knowledge more comprehensible to and learnable by students. We believe that fractions are one of the most difficult topics in primary school mathematics curriculum. It is because the meaning of fractions and the size of fractions, all of which include the part-whole concept, are not easy to be understood by Grade 3 students. For example, what do the numbers of numerators and denominators represent, how to know a whole is divided equally, why a proper fraction has to be less than one and so on are very abstract concepts and all these are what our pre-service teachers need to learn and practice.

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4.2.2 Knowledge of content and students. 4.2.2.1 Intersecting knowledge of content and knowledge about pupils. Another frequently occurring reflection from pre-service teachers was that they had not previously realized that they needed to anticipate pupils misconceptions about particular mathematical content in designing their lessons. Because of the hierarchical structure of mathematics, they had previously perceived that mathematics teaching needed to closely follow this hierarchical structure. That was, they had not recognized that mathematics teaching required knowledge at the intersection of content and students (Ball et al., 2008). Through doing the learning study subject, they came to understand that knowledge of pupils and content is an amalgam, involving a particular mathematical idea or procedure and familiarity with what pupils often think or do (Ball et al., 2008, p. 401). Three preservice teachers made the following notes:

Before doing the Learning Study subject, I perceived that teaching was to transmit pieces of knowledge to students. I was meant to plan the sequence of teachings in the way that the knowledge was structured. After the two cycles of teaching, I realized that teaching is to enable students to learn, to help students to cope with and overcome their learning difficulties, To achieve this goal, teaching should be structured in the way that it meets pupils learning needs and ways of thinking. The planning of a lesson is to make an appropriate connection between students prior knowledge and the learning content. The assessment of students prior knowledge is to measure, firstly, how far they had already mastered the content knowledge, secondly how much they do not know, and thirdly what misconceptions have already influenced their learning. All these kinds of information give clear direction to the design of teaching. So, teaching is not only a matter of how to shape a lesson to match the structure of knowledge but also a matter of how to make the best use of students prior knowledge in order to meet their learning needs.

4.2.2.2 Addressing students difficulties and misconceptions in teaching. The preservice teachers acknowledged that by analyzing students pre-test, they learnt what understanding and misconceptions students held. They noted that this knowledge increased their ability to interpret students mathematical ideas and to examine students work. They also commented that it enhanced their ability to address students misconceptions and to build on students understanding in their instructional decisions and actions. Furthermore, they said that they became aware of their use of mathematical language in teaching. The following are the typical comments in their learning journals:

The results of pre-test showed that in general, students had a clear concept of equipartitioning a group of objects. But their understanding of equally dividing a

continuous object was very vague. They did not know what factors, other than the identical shape of each of the divided parts, also determined that the object was divided equally. Therefore, we set equally partitioning a continuous object as the object of learning for the first teaching cycle. In the lesson, activities which included judging intuitively an object being divided equally and overlapping divided parts for judging an object being divided equally, were the starting points for classroom discussion. To develop the concept of equipartitioing a continuous object, students were required to divide a rectangle in three different ways. Through doing so, students learnt that identical in shape of divided parts was not the only determinant of an object being divided equally. We had great difficulties in using proper mathematical language, which students of Grade 3 could understand, to write up questions of pre-test. We also did not know how to use children language to give instructions during teaching. Through the two cycles of teaching and with lecturers guidance, we had chance to practise and finally came to realize that simple sentence with least adjectives and conjunctives was easier to be understood by young children.

4.2.3 Knowledge of content and teaching. The pre-service teachers experience during the two cycles of teaching contributed to their understanding that there was more to teaching than what they perceived and imagined previously. After their teaching, they reported that they understood better what mathematics pedagogical content knowledge means and what components it includes. The following note demonstrates one students growing awareness:

Previously, I thought that pedagogy was just knowledge of how subject content knowledge was transmitted and how to control classroom discipline. After the teaching, I became realize that teaching is a complex body of knowledge which includes identifying object of learning, choosing appropriate examples and manipulatives, sequencing questions and using proper language. All these components have positive impacts on pupils learning if they are used appropriately.

The pre-service teachers were previously unaware of how manipulatives, examples and models were operated in effective classroom practice until they had the opportunities to practice in the two cycles of teaching. Two pre-service teachers noted:

In the past, I did not value the benefit of using manipulatives in teaching and even did not bother to learn how to make use of them in my teaching. But when we did the actual teaching, I found that students learnt effectively when manipulating concrete objects. Especially when there was a situation where we needed to explain an abstract concept but did not know the unambiguous terms which the Grade 3 students could understand; concrete objects played a significant role at this point. As most of the mathematical concepts are very abstract to primary students, how to choose appropriate examples to illustrate the concepts is important in teaching. In the past, I did not realise the benefit of using daily life examples and models. I just followed what the textbook presented. But now, I not only recognise the advantages of using daily examples and models, I also value the counter examples. By comparing example and its counter example, students can identify easily the critical features of the concept being taught.

The pre-service teachers also noted that after the two cycles of teaching, they came to recognize a critical importance of pedagogy is being able to formulate a sequence of questions:

No one would argue that questioning technique is crucial to effective teaching. The Learning Study subject provided us opportunities to practise and learn from each other. Now, we are more aware of how we sequence our questions and how to formulate questions.

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Each of the 32 pre-service teachers noted that the learning study subject fostered their understanding of the relationship between theory and practice and their understanding of transforming knowledge into action. 5. Discussion practising mathematical content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge by using learning study As noted previously, traditional teacher education programs are criticized for the failure to prepare pre-service teachers for the realities of the classroom (Eilam and Poyas, 2009; Goodlad, 1990; Korthagen and Kessels, 1999; Korthagen et al., 2006) and the meager transfer from theory presented during teacher education to practice in schools (Wideen et al., 1998). In this paper, we argue that one of the reasons for proposing to incorporate learning study as an integrated subject of mathematics pedagogy and teaching practice in teacher education programs is its authenticity (Walker, 2007), a genuine teacher-driven way of learning to teach. Walker (2007) states that the conceptualization of learning study is to allow teachers intellectual space to take charge of their own professional development by dealing with authentic learning problems more relevantly (p. 103). We believe that the feedback and comments of the 32 pre-service teachers, as reported in the previous section, have manifested this point. In addition to its authenticity as a teaching-learning situation, we speculate that learning study can provide a platform for pre-service teachers to develop and rehearse the mathematical content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge, and in particular, the specialized content knowledge of their MCK. They also practice using the knowledge of content and students and knowledge of content and teaching of their PCK. Thus, we believe that learning study can link theoretical insights about teaching and learning with practice in teacher education. In this way, learning study in teacher education becomes a means by which novice teachers can acquire the experience they need to be able to continue to learn as beginners in the classroom (Reid, 2011). We conclude this paper with a descriptive attempt to associate the three forms of variation in the model with specialized content knowledge, knowledge of content and students and knowledge of content and teaching. Following Ball and Forzani (2009), we argue that teaching requires teachers special attention to what they are helping students to learn, and it requires teachers to see the content from their students perspectives. Such knowledge affects teachers ability to assess their own students, which in turn affect directly how and what teachers will do in classrooms. Hence, an appropriate knowledge of content and students will allow teachers to better match classroom instruction to facilitate students learning. The first type of variation in the framework of learning study, variation in students prior understandings (V1), focussing on unfolding students prior conceptions and misconceptions allows pre-service teachers to investigate, analyze and understand students thinking in a specific content domain. This paper hypothesizes that by enacting the V1, pre-service teachers on the one hand can develop, apply and rehearse their knowledge of content and students, and on the other hand focus their attention on the learning process of students, instead of on the issue of maintaining classroom order (Vedder and Bannink, 1987). As a result, pre-service teachers learn not so much by being taught by their teacher educators, but by structured reflection on their experiences and discussions with peers (Korthagen et al., 2006) about their students and student learning. They then become aware of their own learning processes and begin to create their own professional knowledge of content and students that feeds back into that knowledge.

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As early as 1985, Leinhardt and Smith highlighted the importance of teachers conceptual understandings of mathematics in teaching. Thompson et al. (2007) also note that teaching for understanding requires teachers to have strong conceptual understanding:

If a teachers conceptual structures comprise disconnected facts and procedures their instruction is likely to focus on disconnected facts and procedures. In contrast, if a teachers conceptual structures comprise a web of mathematical ideas and compatible ways of thinking, it will at least be possible that she attempts to develop these same conceptual structures in her students. We believe that it is mathematical understandings of the latter type that serve as a necessary condition for teachers to teach for students high-quality understanding (pp. 416-7).

The second variation, variation in teachers conceptualization of the subject topic and in their ways of dealing with the particular OL (V2), provides pre-service teachers with a channel to clarify what they understand conceptually and what they do not, when they are engaging in in-depth discussion on a mathematics topic. They can consolidate ideas that are conceptually correct and re-construct those that are not, for carrying out the tasks of teaching. As a result, pre-service teachers can use appropriate pictures or diagrams to represent mathematics concepts and procedures to students, provide students with explanations for common rules and mathematical procedures, and analyze students solutions and explanations (Hill et al., 2005). Thus, we propose that by enacting V2, pre-service teachers can enhance their specific content knowledge of mathematics. Although high-quality teaching requires teachers deep knowledge of subject matter, content knowledge alone does not suffice for good teaching (Kahan et al., 2003). To ensure effective teaching performance, what matters most is teachers pedagogical content knowledge, in particular, knowledge of content and teaching. Korthagen et al. (2006) stated that to fully illuminate the dynamics of a teaching situation, pre-service teachers need opportunities to understand what is involved in planning the teaching, doing the teaching, and reflecting on the teaching (p. 1029). By enacting the V3, using variation as a pedagogical tool, pre-service teachers can genuinely engage in a learning environment where such lesson planning and instructional design for discerning the OL and its critical features are the focus, rather than in an environment where controlling students is their dominant concern. Pre-service teachers have opportunities to access the thought and actions of colleagues in ways that help to illuminate the reasons for particular teaching actions (Korthagen et al., 2006). It means that pre-service teachers not only practise skills of teaching such as questioning, wait-time, listening, structuring content and timing, but also learn to provide pedagogical reasons for certain teaching actions. By doing so, pre-service teachers gain insights into how they may come to better understand the teaching-learning situation and how to act on it with regard to their OL. The V3 allows pre-service teachers to develop a more process-oriented view of knowledge of teaching (Korthagen et al., 2006), and on to construct their own recipes for how to teach. We believe that by enacting V3, pre-service teachers can create their own professional knowledge of content and teaching. 6. Conclusion This paper attempted to associate the three forms of variation (V1, V2 and V3) in the model of learning study with specialized content knowledge, knowledge of content and

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students and knowledge of content and teaching. We strongly believe that the case study presented has already provided solid evidence to support our proposition: incorporating the framework of learning study in the mathematics teacher education program can enhance pre-service teachers mathematical content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge. We speculate that practising learning study is one way to reconcile the dilemma of the theory-practice nexus and is to make an explicit integration of theory and practice. To conclude, the learning of student teachers is only meaningful and powerful when it is embedded in the experience of learning to teach (Korthagen et al., 2006, p. 1030). We speculate that learning study can create this situation for pre-service teachers. To further investigate how broad and deep the pre-service teachers have enhanced their specialized content knowledge, knowledge of content and students and knowledge of content and teaching through practising learning study, some other quantitative and psychometric measures such as survey, written test and oral test, etc., may be required.

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