Skip to main content

Helen Alfaro: Study with pre-service mathematics teachers reveals significant differences in Costa Rican teacher education programmes

Tampere University
LocationRemote connection
Date10.10.2022 10.00–14.00
Entrance feeFree of charge
Doctoral Researcher Helen Alfaro.
To guarantee quality education, it is essential to provide teaching in accordance with expectations. In Costa Rica, the lack of recruitment measures to ensure that graduate mathematics teachers have the knowledge and skills to perform successfully places all the responsibility on teacher education programmes. In her doctoral dissertation, MA Helen Alfaro studied the characteristics of four Costa Rican teacher education programmes for mathematics teachers to describe the professional profile with which teachers initiate instruction.

Considering previous studies of in-service teachers’ mathematical knowledge and mathematical pedagogical knowledge, which have stated training gaps, Helen Alfaro researched how and what pre-service teachers learn during their preparation in Costa Rica.

“As there are different programmes to train mathematics teachers in Costa Rica and little control over the contents and methodologies used to develop the necessary skills and knowledge, it is important to know the strengths and weaknesses of the programmes in order to suggest improvements,” Alfaro says.

Using the TEDS-M questionary, significant differences were found among programmes, specifically in the distribution of studied topics, the teaching methods experienced and the performance of the participants in mathematical content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge tasks. Pre-service teachers showed difficulties solving high cognitive demand tasks and deficiencies in giving proper feedback and diagnosing students’ misconceptions. On the other hand, the teacher training programmes involved are characterised by focusing on courses of tertiary level mathematics but covering more topics of mathematics education compared to other top achieving countries.

Helen Alfaro is from Costa Rica and has a master’s degree in Teacher Education from Tampere University. She currently works at the Department of Mathematics Education at the University of Costa Rica and has a research project on mathematics didactics of algebra, geometry and functions. 

The doctoral dissertation of MA Helen Alfaro in the field of mathematics education titled Are they ready? A study about preservice mathematics teachers’ education in Costa Rica will be publicly examined in the Faculty of Education and Culture at Tampere University at 13 o’clock on Monday, 10 October 2022. The Opponent will be Docent Mervi Asikainen from University of Eastern Finland. The Custos will be Docent Jorma Joutsenlahti from the Faculty of Education and Culture.

The event can be followed via remote connection.

The dissertation is available online at

Photo: Jimena Alfaro