Behm & Lloyd (2009)

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Factors Influencing Student Teachers' Use of Mathematics Curriculum Materials

Behm and Lloyd describe how three elementary student teachers used their curriculum materials and the factors that influenced curriculum use.

Detailed Chapter Summary

Teachers' Use of Textbooks and Curriculum Materials

Behm and Lloyd explain that research so far has said relatively little about how curriculum use varies across teachers with different levels of experience. Prior research suggests that beginning teachers tend to appreciate and rely on guidence from their texts (Kauffman, Johnson, Kardos, Liu, & Peske, 2002; Remillard & Bryans, 2004) and that experienced teachers might use their texts differently.

Preservice Teachers and Mathematics Curriculum Materials

Student teaching is an important and impressionable time for preservice teachers (Feiman-Nemser, 1983; Feiman-Nemser & Buchmann, 1985; Guyton & McIntyre, 1990). Ball & Feiman-Nemser (1988) found that student teachers got the impression that good teachers do not need to follow a textbook or teacher guide, which they identified as a "significant dilemma" given the expectations that new teachers will be required to use a text. There is some research about how preservice teachers interact with curriculum materials in their teacher education coursework (Hjalmarson, 2005; Lloyd, 2006; Lloyd & Behm, 2005; Tarr & Papick, 2004), but how that might influence future practice is not well known.

Research Context

Three white female undergraduates in their early twenties were the subjects for this study, and data was collected during their last 7 weeks of student teaching in the spring of 2004. Most data consisted of classroom observations and interviews, and methodological details are available in reports of the individual teachers (Behm & Lloyd, 2008; Lloyd, 2007, 2008). Two student teachers, Heather and Anne, completed their student teaching in a mostly white, rural/suburban district that used Everyday Mathematics as their standard curriculum. The third teacher, Bridget, used the commercially developed Silver Burdett Ginn curriculum in an urban, high-poverty district with predominantly African American students.

The Student Teachers' Ways of Using Their Curriculum Materials

Heather's Use of Standards-Based Curriclum Materials

Heather made extensive use of the teacher's guide, planning on the weekends and then reviewing it before each lesson. Because of this, she didn't feel that making detailed lesson plans of her own were necessary. She followed Everyday Mathematics's lesson plans carefully during the class, claiming, "I feel like the teacher's guide is a script, so I always have it with me. A lot of times, I feel like if I miss a paragraph in the book then maybe that will throw the lesson off" (p. 209). Heather did make adjustments for time when she was not able to proceed through the lesson as quickly as the teacher's guide suggested.

Anne's Use of Standards-Based Curriculum Materials

Anne worked with her supervising teachers to plan instruction and made photocopies from the Everyday Mathematics teacher's guide for the parts she needed. She annotated these lessons with some of her own ideas, claiming, "It's a lot of make up your own approach. I make notes to myself, sometimes just underlining and sometimes it's actually writing out what I'm going to need to do" (p. 209). Anne modified both the content and time allotment for lessons and rarely used the copies of the teacher's guide during lessons. Also, because Anne's class was structured so she would teach the same lesson to multiple groups of students, she would further adapt lessons in response to how each group performed.

Bridget's Use of a Commerically-Developed Textbook

Bridget used the workbook supplied with the Silver Burdett Ginn curriculum and supplemented additional tasks and activities. She met weekly with other kindergarten teachers to plan lessons, and commented that "I've been told several times that I needed to make sure that [the students] are getting plenty of paperwork" (p. 210). She felt that other parts of the Silver Burdett Ginn curriculum did not fit the school's needs and thus teachers in her school never used it for full lessons. Instead, they relied on the workbook for practice problems aligned to state standards, the coverage of which were reported to the school principal. Bridget planned independently to adapt or design additional materials that aligned with the district curriculum framework.

Student Teachers' Use of Mathematics Curriculum Materials

These three teachers all used their curriculum materials differently: Heather read and used the Everyday Mathematics text and teacher's guide closely, Anne made adaptations to Everyday Mathematics, and Bridget used her Silver Burdett Ginn materials minimally. This variability supports separate findings by Remillard & Bryans (2004). Yet, without much of their own experience to draw upon, these teachers' use of materials differed from that of more experienced teachers, such as the inservice teachers in Remillard & Bryans (2004). Behm & Lloyd suggest that without experience, this draws more attention to the quality of supporting materials available to preservice and beginning teachers.

Potential Factors Influencing Student Teachers' Use of Curriculum Materials

Behm and Lloyd offer a number of factors that may influence curriculum use and suggest how teacher education could be improved to support preservice teachers' use of curriculum materials. The factors Behm and Lloyd include the curriculum program, teacher education coursework, mathematical content knowledge and teaching confidence, school accountability status and context, and cooperating teacher. Although addressed separately, Behm and Lloyd stress that these factors often work in combination.

Curriculum Materials in Use

Behm and Lloyd point out that Remillard (2005) found that curriculum materials themselves influence how teachers interact with their curriculum, and Kauffman (2002) found curriculum materials at the center of planning and instruction. Heather found the Everyday Mathematics materials to be detailed and therefore leveraged that in her teaching, while both Anne and Bridget made more adaptations. Whereas the Everyday Mathematics curriculum agreed with Anne's beliefs about teaching mathematics, Bridget often found the Silver Burdett Ginn materials lacking. Behm and Lloyd stress that they are not trying to draw conclusions about particular textbook features and their potential effects on teacher practice; instead, they only focus on the different ways teachers reacted to their curriculum materials given the contexts in which they were teaching.

Teacher Education Coursework

Although there are concerns that teacher education coursework is "washed out" (p. 215) by classroom experiences (Ebby, 2000; Raymond, 1997; Zeichner & Tabchnick, 1981), Behm and Lloyd did not see this happen in this study and feel that teacher education courswork contributed to the student teachers' curriculum decisions. Heather's preservice courses in teaching mathematics included a class taught by the curriculum supervisor of the school district in which she would student teach, and much attention was given to how to implement Everyday Mathematics effectively. In contrast, Anne and Bridget experienced a wide variety of different curriculum programs in their coursework, only seeing Everyday Mathematics during one three-hour class. Bridget's coursework with standards-based materials likely influenced her decisions to supplement her Silver Burdett Ginn materials with standards-based materials from a variety of sources, including Everyday Mathematics.

Student Teachers' Content Knowledge and Confidence About Teaching Mathematics

Borko, Livingston, McCaleb, & Mauro (1988) found that differences in student teachers' mathematical content knowledge and confidence in that knowledge were associated with differences in teaching and planning, with stronger knowledge linked to a greater responsiveness to students while teaching. Kahan, Cooper, & Bethea (2003) similarly found positive effects associated with greater mathematical content knowledge. Anne and Bridget were considered by their elementary math content course to be among the strongest students, while Heather was not, despite doing well in the course. She expressed a lack of confidence in teaching mathematics and may have contributed to her reliance on the teachers' guide before and during instruction. Anne and Bridget's greater knowledge and confidence likely contributed to their willingness to modify their curriculum.

School Context

The three student teachers all worked in a state with a detailed curriculum framework and a pressure for students to do well on state tests. Kauffman (2002) found ways that expectations of mathematics textbook use was associated with school and district policies. Bridget was in a school that performed poorly on state tests and received strong messages from administrators about aligning course content to the curriculum framework, which contributed to her decision to modify her materials. Heather and Anne were in a fully accredited school with a better history of test scores, and teachers there generally trusted that Everyday Mathematics would meet or exceed the state's expectations.

Cooperating Teachers

The influence of the cooperating teacher is critical in the experience of a student teacher (Britzman, 1991; Fairbanks, Freedman, & Kahn, 2000; Feiman-Nemser, 2001; Frykholm, 1998). Heather's cooperating teacher also used her teachers' guide heavily and appreciated the structure and examples it provided for class. Anne worked with two cooperating teachers and another student teacher, and was taught in a round-robin fashion such that her cooperating teachers never directly supervised her teaching, but feedback outside of class encouraged her modifications to the text. Bridget received the least guidance from her cooperating teacher, who had not herself taught kindergarten mathematics. Instead, Bridget's cooperating teacher mostly suggested classroom management strategies.

Conclusions and Implications

While Remillard & Bryans (2004) found that beginning teachers often followed their curriculum materials closely, this study found a wider variation in curriculum use amongst three student teachers. The teachers Remillard and Bryans's studies drew mostly upon their own "instructional repertoires" (p. 219) as they interpreted materials, while the teachers in this study sought extermal assistance from cooperating teachers, peers, prior coursework, and supplmentary curriculum materials. Behm & Lloyd see these resources as a "safety net" (p. 219) for beginning teachers experiencing a curriculum for the first time.

Behm and Lloyd only claim to have identified five factors that may influence the ways student teachers use their curriculum materials. More research will be required to better understand which factors are primary or secondary and under what conditions. Behm and Lloyd suggest the following questions to be addressed by future research (p. 220):

  1. How do characteristics of mathematics curriculum materials affect student teachers' initial teaching experiences?
  2. How might preservice teacher education coursework prepare student teachers to use a variety of curriculum materials and frameworks for mathematics instruction?
  3. What are the relationships between mathematical content knowledge and confidence and student teachers' use of curriculum materials"
  4. How do policy mandates for state testing and curriculum frameworks impact student teachers' initial experiences using mathematics curriculum materials for instruction?
  5. What is the influence of cooperating teachers on student teachers' use of curriculum materials?

Lastly, Behm and Lloyd admit there are potential factors they did not address, such as the combination of all involved in the process of learning to teach (Wideen, Mayer-Smith, & Moon, 1998), the effects of parents' interactions with curriculum materials (Gellert, 2005; Lubienski, 2004) and the role of university supervisors (Frykholm, 1998). Also, longitudinal studies are needed to see how curriculum use changes over time.




Behm, S. L., & Lloyd, G. M. (2009). Factors influencing student teachers' use of mathematics curriculum materials. In J. T. Remillard, B. A. Herbel-Eisenmann, & G. M. Lloyd (Eds.), Mathematics teachers at work: Connecting curriculum materials and classroom instruction (pp. 205–222). New York, NY: Routledge.


address = {New York, NY},
author = {Behm, Stephanie L and Lloyd, Gwendolyn M.},
booktitle = {Mathematics teachers at work: Connecting curriculum materials and classroom instruction},
chapter = {15},
editor = {Remillard, Janine T and Herbel-Eisenmann, Beth A and Lloyd, Gwendolyn M},
mendeley-groups = {Archive/Book Sections},
pages = {205--222},
publisher = {Routledge},
title = {{Factors influencing student teachers' use of mathematics curriculum materials}},
year = {2009}