Orientations of Prospective Teachers toward Students’ Family and Community

Oct. 01, 2013

Source: Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 35, (October 2013), p. 126-136.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article examines the orientations of prospective teachers (PSTs) toward students’ family and their home and community experiences , as they relate to teaching mathematics.

This paper draws on interview data from 20 prospective teachers, who were enrolled in an elementary or middle-school mathematics methods course at one of three university sites in USA.

Discussion and implications

The results indicate that PSTs recognize the importance of connecting with parents, understanding home and community practices, and building on these practices to support children’s mathematical learning.
Many PSTs hold positive orientations toward children and families in general and the hope of supporting those children in learning mathematics.

Yet at the same time, they also exhibit inconsistent perspectives, at times indicating a lack of understanding as to why some families appear to be less able to support students’ academic efforts.
The authors also found that some PSTs believe that at least some responsibility for success in school mathematics lies at home with the parents.
They contend that if parents are not able to support the school effort at home, then students may not be successful in mathematics.

By lacking awareness of how different family and living situations can serve as resources, these PST demonstrate a limited perspective of the role of parents and familie.
They also reveal a deterministic orientation, which predicting that the home situation may prevent success in school mathematics.
Furthermore, PSTs express the importance of positioning themselves as learners of the children they teach.
When PSTs see that communication and collaboration with families can support student learning, they take an important step toward building links with families and communities, even though sometimes these are uncomfortable steps to take.
The authors found that PSTs see that significant challenges are involved in drawing on home and community knowledge in instruction.
PSTs see these challenges is important in understanding the complexities of effective teaching.

In addition, PSTs described not only how they learned about and from their students, but also indicated ways in which they could apply this learning in their teaching.
PSTs described how they could use home experiences or events in the community as contexts for mathematics problems.
They described the successes they have had in using examples that were more relevant to students, as opposed to more generic problems that students have not related to well.


The authors argue that teacher educators (TEs ) need to be aware of the orientations that PSTs bring with them to mathematics methods (and other teacher preparation) classrooms.
They must be prepared to confront these views early so that PSTs have sufficient time to grapple with and (re)orient their thinking.
For instance, when PSTs predict that students will not succeed based on a lack of parent support, TEs can begin a dialog about expectations and roles of homework, pedagogical approaches to reach diverse learners.
Teacher educators can also talk with PSTs about the importance of getting to know families to understand ways that families do care about and support children e even when these ways are different from the PSTs’ own experiences.

One step TEs can take is to raise this issue of the importance of bi-directionality in communication with parents.
They can support PSTs in seeing that communication with parents should not be limited only to parents receiving information from teachers about how their children are performing in school.

The authors conclude that when TEs are aware, they can better support PSTs in expanding and (re)orienting thinking around such things as resources available in the home/community and the utility of drawing on those resources in the mathematics classroom.

Updated: Feb. 16, 2015