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Being (Almost) a Mathematician: Teacher Identity Formation in Post-Secondary Mathematics Open Access


Other title
teacher identity, post-secondary, mathematics, professor, graduate program, teaching assistant
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Beisiegel, Mary deRaeve
Supervisor and department
Simmt, Elaine (Secondary Education)
Examining committee member and department
Carson, Terrance (Secondary Education)
Wimmer, Randolph (Educational Policy Studies)
Pimm, David (Secondary Education)
Rogers, Pat (Education, University of Windsor)
Department of Secondary Education

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Within the field of mathematics teacher education, mathematics graduate students have recently become subjects of investigation. While research in this area tends to focus on future schoolteachers, little has been done to examine prospective university teachers of mathematics and their understanding of its teaching and learning. As a result, the experiences of mathematics graduate students and the development of their teaching practices are not well understood. Almost seventy-five percent of mathematics PhDs will become professors at post-secondary institutions dedicated to undergraduate education. Since much of their careers will be spent in the classroom, attending to the manner in which mathematics graduate students develop their teaching practices is important in understanding how they are shaped for their future profession. The purpose of this research project was to uncover issues and difficulties that arise as mathematics graduate students develop their views of their possible future roles as university teachers of mathematics. Over a six-month period, conversations were held with six mathematics graduate students exploring their experiences of and perspectives on mathematics teaching. Using hermeneutic inquiry and thematic analysis, the conversations were analysed and interpreted with attention to themes and experiences that had the potential to influence the graduate students’ ideas about and approaches to the task of teaching. This dissertation also attends to notions of identity for mathematics graduate students, in particular their emerging identities as mathematicians and what being a mathematician in the world means to them, as well as their identities as future post-secondary teachers of mathematics. The structures and expectations of behaviour within their department of mathematics had implications for how the participants formed their identities as mathematicians and mathematics teachers. Lave and Wenger’s notion of legitimate peripheral participation is explored with regard to the meta-themes that came through the analysis. These meta-themes are: replication – where university mathematics teacher identity and classroom practices became a process of replication; resignation – the research participants felt resigned to one particular way of being in mathematics and of mathematics teaching; and despondence – the participants were beginning to lose their excitement about becoming post-secondary teachers of mathematics.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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