Big XII Faculty Fellowship Program

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Background

The University of Texas at Austin is a collaborator in the Big XII Faculty Fellowship Program to stimulate scholarly initiatives among the universities that became affiliated through formation of the Big XII Athletic Conference. The program offers faculty the opportunity to travel to member institutions to exchange ideas and pursue research. Faculty visits usually last about two weeks, but longer or shorter visits are possible. The visitor’s home university pays for the trip.

General Report

Dr. Petrosino left Austin on Sunday afternoon, November 3rd for Boulder, Colorado to collaborate with his colleague Dr. Mitchell Nathan. Dr. Nathan is a mathematics education educator and educational psychologist.Dr. Petrosino first met Dr. Nathan in 1993 while both were at Vanderbilt University and part of the Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt (CTGV). Since that time, the two have collaborated on a number of different projects and publications.

Nathan and Petrosino had collected surveys and interviews of pre and in service teachers in a variety of content areas (English, mathematics, science) and from a variety of places (Colorado, Tennessee, New Jersey, Texas). This information had been analyzed and written for conference proceedings (specifically the American Educational Research Association meeting for 2002 and The International Conference of the Learning Sciences in October of 2002). During the summer of 2002 and early fall of 2002, Nathan and Petrosino collected additional data as per advice from reviewers.

The purpose of this trip was to complete a manuscript that the two had been working on for the past 6 months. The manuscript centered around the fact that the importance of content knowledge for proficiency in teaching practices is well documented. In fact, research suggests that more content knowledge is always better (Borko et al., 1992; Grossman, Wilson, & Shulman, 1989; Shulman, 1986a, 1986b). But is this statement completely unimpeachable? Are there drawbacks for teaching that are specifically due to subject matter expertise? In previous work, Nathan, Petrosino and colleagues have drawn upon a variety of sources including historical events, analyses of textbooks, and empirical studies of teacher beliefs and decision making to show evidence for expert blind spot. Expert blind spot is defined as the inability to perceive the difficulties that novices will experience as they approach a new domain of knowledge that arises as a consequence of well-developed subject matter knowledge. In education it is evidenced by the tendency for educators who are also content area experts (i.e. The University of Texas at Austin’s UTeach- Natural Science pre service teachers) to perceive the organization of the domain of study as the central organizing structure for their students’ learning experiences, rather than to base instruction on students’ actual knowledge and developmental processes.

Petrosino then traveled to Boulder where he collaborated with Nathan in analyzing the most recent data collected during the previous semester. The intention was to utilize the BIG XII Faculty Fellowship Program to allow the two of us to have a significant block of time to produce a manuscript for a top ranked peer reviewed journal on the topic of expert blind spot. Petrosino had previously incorporated the concept and application of expert blind spot into his teaching at both the graduate level (EDC 385G Knowing and Learning in Mathematics and Science) as well as the undergraduate level UTeach-Natural Science (EDC 371).

Products

The final product from this collaboration was the submission in December 2002 of a manuscript to the American Educational Research Journal entitled “Expert Blind Spot Among Pre-Service Mathematics and Science Teachers”. The manuscript is currently under review. A draft of the paper can be found at research page.

Interaction with Other Colorado Faculty

While in Boulder, Petrosino also had an opportunity to meet with and discuss various issues with other Big XII faculty. These faculty included Dr. Ron Andersen, Dr. Hilda Borko, and Dr. Valerie Otero. Ron Andersen discussed some issues of the current state of science education in Colorado and the two of us discussed a recent journal article that Dr. Andersen published. Petrosino met with Dr. Borko on issues related to evaluation of mathematics teachers content knowledge. This was especially helpful since at the time, Petrosino was also writing a proposal to the National Science Foundation. Borko is one of the leaders in the field in this area. Finally, issues related to preservice teacher education in mathematics and science were discussed between Petrosino and Dr. Valerie Otero on a number of occasions.