Eskil is a Doctor of Mathematics Education and an elite level handball referee

Eskil is a Doctor of Mathematics Education and an elite level handball referee

– Can you briefly tell us about your PhD topic?

— I investigated a program to enhance the competence of mathematics teachers in schools and how it could contribute to teacher learning. I was particularly interested in looking at how different actors interacted between different actors – that is, mathematics teachers, school management and course providers, which are often teacher training programs at universities and colleges, or us at the mathematics centre.

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Eskil Ahn Prasith

  • Contested on 19 January 2024 for the degree of PhD in the Department of Teacher Education, NTNU
  • He presented a thesis entitled “Professional Development of Mathematics Teachers in a Practice-Based Development Programme: A Case Study of the Experiences of Three Young Teachers, School Management and Three Teachers with a Practice-Based Development Program in Mathematics”

– Why was there a doctorate in this particular subject?

– This actually started a long time ago. I have worked for several years at the Mathematics Centre, since we started the Youth in Development programme. This was a national investment in skills development and ended in 2017. As a representative of the Mathematics Centre, I would often attend courses in Gardermoen, eat tons of cake and drink loads of coffee. But I wondered a little what I actually contributed to.

– Was there a creeping suspicion?

-Yes, I'm starting to doubt a little. I believe that most national initiatives have not contributed to developing the desired quality in schools. So, there was never a bad word about the cake, and the gatherings were educational. But I started to wonder what was really going on from time to time, and whether this was the right way to spend money. Everyone wants the same thing, that efficiency in schools improve and develop, but how can this be achieved, and how does the interaction take place between the various parties? When the new national Decentralized Skills Development Project (DEKOM) emerged, ownership of the projects was transferred to a location closer to the school. The idea then was that measures should be introduced where the individual school needed them most. I thought this sounded like an exciting introduction to working with teacher learning.

Everyone wants the same thing, that efficiency in schools improve and develop, but how can this be achieved, and how does the interaction take place between the various parties?

Askil Prasith

– Was your scholarship part of a project?

— No, this was an open position, so the project is mine. I was actually very lucky with the whole scheme. Previously, the Mathematics Center and other national centers were affiliated with the Directorate of Education, but in 2018 they became affiliated with various universities and colleges. In this shift, the Centers were given the opportunity to conduct their own research, and the Mathematics Center also had some funds that they wanted to use for a grant. I was asked and I accepted – retaining my permanent position, but with other duties.

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– Can you briefly introduce your project?

— At this stage, the Center developed a program that we called “Mister Aspiring Mathematics Teacher” (MAM). I had faith that this, in collaboration with DEKOM, could bring schools closer to the development goals they had set themselves. At the beginning of the project, I wanted to go into the classroom and study what the program contributed to teachers' practice, and thus observe mathematics teaching in practice. I started making agreements with schools – many of which were positive about it – but then the pandemic came, and suddenly I couldn't sit in classrooms.

– So you had to change course?

– Yes, then teacher training, and course providers, came in as a third actor – along with teachers and school owners. I wanted to look at the interaction between these three actors.

In the region: “No matter how ridiculous the PhD was, arbitration was a respite,” says Eskel Praseth. He has officiated handball at elite level for several years. Here he will referee the match between Slovenia and North Macedonia in the European Women's Handball Championship in 2022.

– What do you find?

– It is difficult to bring all the actors together around a common goal – Teachers, school owners and teacher training programs had different opinions about the goal of engagement, and it seemed that they were talking about the same thing, but with different understandings. Teachers and school management can have different views on how much time should be spent on skill development – ​​and what this time should be used for: is preparation included or not, for example? I found that there was little dialogue and interaction between actors, which can be a bit problematic: it is difficult to contribute to learning if everyone has different understandings and goals.

– Why is it important?

— I believe my research highlights how important the role of the school leader is in teachers’ professional development. We need school leaders with the experience to embed projects across the group, build ownership, and invite teachers to participate in their development work processes. In addition, they must be able to lead development work in their school. I also look at the role of external course providers, and I think it is important that they spend a lot of time learning about the school's development goals. We in the higher education sector must be dynamic in our approach. We may be too good at coming up with schemes that work for us course holders – we need to do better at listening to the needs of schools.

-Were you surprised by anything?

-I have to honestly admit that I thought the interaction was better between the different actors. What seemed clear to me at first became completely unclear over time. It seems as if the different actors also think the interaction should be better. I spoke to teachers who were initially positive and looked forward to it contributing to their development – ​​but then became more measured over time, as they felt they were not engaging in development work. They had the feeling that they were being drawn into something without deciding for themselves. For them it was important to have ownership.

-What is the most demanding part of your PhD?

– Certainly during the Corona period. It was very demanding. I remember well the day everything shut down and it became clear to me that I had gone out into the classroom to observe. Without this data I could not answer this problem. So, I felt like that was the case throughout the entire project. I had a feeling that it was all over, and I immediately turned off my Mac and did nothing more that day. It was a dark time, as I sat in my home office and had to find a new direction for the project.

Ph.D

More than 1,500 doctoral theses are delivered in Norway every year. Khrono presents in the series some of the candidates who recently defended their thesis. I accept advice on more at [email protected]

– How did you ride?

— Around the same time Norway went into lockdown, my partner became pregnant with our first child. And then, in all this vase, something else will come to life, and it will have so much meaning that everything else becomes secondary. I started asking questions about what really matters and what I want to do next. My very talented supervisors and colleagues also encouraged me and helped me put things into perspective. Academically, there has been a lot of reading and changing theoretical frameworks. Slowly but surely, the spark returned. Maybe it was always there, but I found it again. So, after messing around in the dark for a while, I found my way out, and it was about motivation: I had a real desire for teachers to be left with something sensible in developing their competence. Teachers are busy, there are a lot of people thinking about them, and the time allocated to them for professional development should be used sensibly. You can't just eat cake.

-Do you regret starting this?

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– Maybe everyone regrets it from time to time, but I think I didn't regret it properly. There were several periods when the pain was excruciating – should I bother myself more? But the feelings of mastery were greatest when I reached milestones along the way. I have had very good support from my family along the way. I have an amazing roommate who has mastered the art of being realistic and supportive. You also need to be realistic, not everything always “goes well.” Meeting the children and their smiles were automatic breaks, something that forces you out of your bubble – something you need from time to time. Handball refereeing also helped.

We were supposed to be in the toilet before Christmas, but it collided with defense and the birth of our second child. There are limits to what you can achieve.

Askil Prasith

– Handball refereeing?

– Yes, I referee at elite level with my partner Lev-Andre Sandet. We were on our way to referee the cup final when she contacted us for this interview. We are ranked second among Norwegian handball referees, and have previously refereed in the Champions League and the Women's European Championship, among others. Refereeing forces me to think about something else, when you are in that zone there is only room for exactly that. No matter how ridiculous it was with a PhD, arbitration was a respite.

Eskil Praseth (TV) and his partner Leif-Andre Sandet prepare to officiate the Spain vs. Germany match at the 2022 European Women's Handball Championship.

– But it is also time consuming, requiring a lot of travel and preparation. Having a career in two fields, plus raising a family, is tough. Sometimes I have the feeling that you never have time to be with friends or family, that there is never enough time to invent things and go on vacation. So I owe those around me a huge thank you for bearing with me.

-What will you use most in the thesis?

— I want to continue researching this, as it is a very interesting area and an important contribution in terms of teacher learning and DEKOM. We need to know more about the role of school administration in raising the efficiency of teachers, and we in the higher education sector also need new thoughts and ideas. We must have an educational approach to schools when we are asked to contribute – it is not certain that what we think they need is what they really need.

-And the ruling?

-We'll stay there as long as it's fun and as long as the family is on board. If not everyone is on board with the project, an assessment needs to be made to put it aside in the busy day-to-day life. But the goal is to be selected for the Women's European Committee again this fall, so I want to take that with me. We were supposed to be in the toilet before Christmas, but it collided with defense and the birth of our second child. There are limits to what you can achieve.

Dalila Awolowo

Dalila Awolowo

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