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Theory-practice Dichotomy in Mathematics Teacher Education: An Analysis of Practicum Supervision Practices at One Teacher Training College in Zimbabwe
While a symbiotic companionship is expected to exist between the theory courses and practicum experiences, traditional practices in primary teacher education continue to create dichotomous gaps in this relationship. Such practices needed to be investigated as they negatively affect teacher self-efficacy which in turn compromises both teacher quality and learner performance in mathematics. This paper draws from a case study which investigated the extent to which mathematics practicum experiences at one teachers’ college in Zimbabwe were coordinated with methods courses. Structured reflective journals were used as a data collection tool where 47 trainee teachers documented their experiences of the practicum. A total of 226 reports were then analysed using an analytical tool that classified trainees’ supervision experiences as either embedded or separated depending on whether the supervisor was a specialist or not. Results show that in 87.6% of the cases, practicum experiences were separated from the methods courses because they were supervised by non-specialist lecturers. Analysis of verbatim entries shows that teacher self-efficacy was generally negative. A number of recommendations are made to bridge this theory-practice gap.