Source: Teacher Education Quarterly, Vol. 42, No. 4, Fall 2015
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This study aimed to create understandings across mathematics teacher educators' (MTEs) self-reports about the challenges they encountered and the resolutions they implemented when teaching mathematics methods courses through a lens of equity.
Twenty-three MTEs completed the survey, which asked them to upload a current methods course syllabus and respond to the following four prompts:
1. Please describe what concept of equity guides your instructional practice.
2. Please describe how you address equity in your class that is not reflected in your course syllabus.
3. Please describe the top 3 or 4 challenges/tensions you face as you incorporate issues of equity in your methods course.
4. For the challenges/tensions you described above, what are some of the steps you take to resolve them?
The authors identified several self-reported challenges and resolutions that emerged from the data.
Loci of Challenges
All the participants have published or presented scholarly work on helping teachers develop equitable mathematics pedagogy. They have also thought at length about equity, in both their instructional practice and their scholarly work. They also all acknowledge how much more there is to learn, suggesting how challenging it is to learn to teach equity to and for PSTs. The findings reveal that the participants only identified internal loci (i.e., themselves or their PSTs); no other specific individuals, such as a department chair or other administrator, challenged the MTEs’ beliefs toward the importance of focusing on equity within a mathematics methods course. The authors argue that when reality demonstrates a lack of power in a relationship, it might be easier for an individual to ascribe a challenge to a broader structure, again speaking to the possible solitude and isolation of MTEs in their instructional practice.
Nature of Challenges
A majority of preservice teachers' (PST) challenges are associated with the affective learning domain. These challenges are consistent with the focus on the examination of PSTs’ beliefs and attitudes in teacher education literature, including mathematics teacher education. Likewise, that a majority of challenges with the locus internal to MTEs were of a cognitive nature. The authors claim that as teacher educators who make equity a priority in their practice assumedly have already grappled with their beliefs and values regarding this work, and as such, beliefs and values would not constitute challenges for them.
Nature of Resolutions
Although the challenges external to MTEs were all structural in nature, there were no structural resolutions noted. Instead, the majority of the resolutions were of a social nature.
Comparison of the Nature of Challenges and Resolutions
The authors argue that the participants, may see learning as a social endeavor and therefore tend to resolve affective challenges through social interactions. However, the PSTs need to see the relevance of an authentic learning opportunity to their own personal agendas. To do so, they need to develop relatively elaborated schemas that include motivational as well as cognitive components before they can engage in abstract and complex learning activities. PSTs may see the activities that are focused on more cognitive and social components as ways to avoid dealing with their beliefs or values and instead will focus on other components of the activities. Thus having resolutions that are social or cognitive in nature to combat challenges that are affective in nature may not have the desired effect.
The findings show that it is a challenge to help PSTs develop productive insights, values, dispositions, and so on, regarding equitable pedagogy. The authors recommend that it may be beneficial to engage PSTs in ways that target the affective domain. For teacher education, contemplative pedagogy offers a path to challenge PSTs’ apathy and resistance by helping them to become mindful toward their beliefs regarding issues of access, advocacy, democratic participation, and other equity-related topics.
These findings demonstrate that the participants noted a lack of time to work with PSTs, a crucial factor in helping PSTs develop a rich and nuanced framing of equitable pedagogy. For MTEs, this means helping PSTs understand that mathematics teaching is not neutral and free from context and, as such, that equity is not taught divorced from content.
Undertaking this focus on equity needs support. At the institutional level, teacher educators need support from administrators to ensure that this work is valued within a teacher educator’s workload. Finally, more efforts from individual institutions that have transformed and enhanced programs of teacher preparation, should be disseminated.