Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Curriculum and Instruction

Major Professor

Sarah vanIngen, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Eugenia Vomvoridi Ivanovic, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Robert Dedrick, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jennifer Jacobs, Ph.D.


Preparation, teaching, secondary mathematics, teacher preparation


The formal documentation of alternative routes to teacher certification programs in the United States began in 1983 (Ludlow, 2011). According to the former US Secretary of Education’s Annual Report on teacher quality the high demand for teachers in high needs areas, such as mathematics, has caused growth in alternative certification routes for teachers (Paige, 2002). The many factors that influence teaching quality make it difficult to determine what impact, if any, a teacher’s preparation program has on the quality of their instruction. Current research on teacher quality shows varied results, making it hard to reach a conclusion about the effectiveness of any of the preparation program pathways. This study fills in a gap in the literature by attending to the perspectives of the teachers who have matriculated through different pathways. In this study, I juxtaposed teacher scores on the Mathematical Quality of Instruction (MQI) instrument with the same teachers’ perspectives on the factors influencing teaching decisions. I asked traditionally and alternatively certified teachers about how their teaching decisions may have been related to their preparation experiences.

I used a multiple case study to examine the relationship, if any, between mathematics teacher certification routes and the quality of mathematics instruction for novice mathematics teachers, according to their score on the mathematical quality of instruction (MQI) instrument. Two alternatively certified mathematics teachers and two traditionally certified mathematics teachers within the first five years of teaching participated in the study. The MQI scores obtained from teachers’ mathematics lessons provide quantitative data and semi-structured interviews provided qualitative data to gain insight into mathematics teachers’ perceptions about the relation between their certification routes, whether traditional or alternative, and the quality of their mathematics instruction. Qualitative interview data were analyzed through open, axial, and selective coding cycles where codes are used to identify themes within the participant responses and determine a potential relation between the certification route in which mathematics teachers matriculated and the quality of their mathematics instruction.

First, I analyzed each case separately using data gathered from the interviews and the MQI. I used three rounds of coding for each individual case and used situated learning theory as a lens through which to view the interview data. Next, I compared the data within each certification category, identifying similar themes between teachers who matriculated through the same preparation pathways. Finally, I conducted a cross-case analysis to look for commonalities and differences identified in the within case analyses. The common themes identified from traditionally certified teachers’ data about rationales for teaching decisions were learning styles, colleagues, and internship experiences. The data from alternatively certified teachers indicated colleagues, learning styles, high stakes testing, and resources as the most common themes influencing rationales for their teaching decisions. The alternatively certified teachers scored higher than their traditionally certified colleagues in the Explanations and Mathematical Sense Making subdomains within the Richness of the Mathematics domain on the MQI. The traditionally certified teachers did not score higher than the alternatively certified teachers in any of the subdomains.

Based on the diversity of teacher experiences both within and between preparation pathways, I recommend that school district induction programs plan experiences for teachers that help fill in the potential gaps that novice teachers have, regardless of the type of teacher preparation program through which they matriculated. A potential area of future research could focus on improving the method used to evaluate teacher preparation programs in a way that considers the many factors that influence preparation program effectiveness. Evaluation of preparation programs involving an approach that considers using qualitative and quantitative data including teacher insight, could help create a better system for program evaluation while considering these factors. Currently, existing research has tried to determine whether traditional or alternative teacher preparation pathways better prepare mathematics teachers. My study paints a more nuanced picture of the varied experiences in each pathway and the diversity of experiences within those pathways.