Source: The New Educator, 16:3, 247-264
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
In this paper the authors intended to investigate to what extent current mathematics preservice teachers (PSTs) are aware of the needs of Emergent Bilinguals (EBs), as well as what instructional strategies they intended to implement in lesson plans specifically designed for EBs.
More specifically, the purpose of this study is to identify what components of lesson plans PSTs tend to adapt for teaching EBs, as well as whether, and in what ways, their lesson plans are culturally responsive (Villegas & Lucas, 2002) to EBs.
By exploring PSTs’ tendencies when adapting lessons for EBs, the authors aim to help teacher educators design effective teacher preparation programs that integrate rich information on teaching linguistically and culturally diverse students. Two research questions guided this study:
(1) What instructional strategies do mathematics PSTs include to adapt lesson plans for EBs?
(2) To what extent are their adapted lesson plans culturally responsive for EBs?
This study employed quasi-experimental study designs, often described as nonrandomized, pre-post intervention studies (Shadish, Cook, & Campbell, 2001), to investigate how PSTs adapted mathematics lesson plans for EBs before and after the authors’ intervention.
Participants and context
This quasi-experimental, pre-post intervention study evaluated 21 secondary mathematics PSTs enrolled in secondary mathematics method courses at two large universities in the Northeastern and Midwestern United States.
All participants were pursuing their initial teaching certifications, and their respective methods courses were the only mathematics methods courses required in their programs before they started student teaching.
All the participants were asked to develop various lesson plans as course assignments.
The course activities and assignments were jointly designed and taught by this study’s two authors, to support PSTs’ understanding of approaches, strategies, and issues relevant to the teaching and learning of mathematics.
Within one semester, approximately 15 weeks long, one week was devoted to teaching methods for EBs.
As an assignment, the PSTs were asked to choose one of the lesson plans they had developed earlier that semester and adapt it for a potential group of EBs learning the same mathematical concept.
Before the PSTs completed the lesson modification assignment, they had a brief class intervention about effective strategies for teaching EBs.
The purpose of the intervention was to provide secondary mathematics PSTs with research-based, EB-related strategies focusing on culturally responsive teaching.
Data sources and analysis
The authors used an inductive content analysis approach (Grbich, 2007) for the written data. Data analysis involved these four processes:
(a) an initial reading of each PST’s lesson plan,
(b) identifying strategies used by PSTs in lesson modification,
(c) coding the data into categories and subcategories, and
(d) interpreting the data quantitatively and qualitatively (Creswell, 2009).
To answer the first research question regarding PSTs’ instructional strategies for teaching EBs, the authors collected two lesson plans from each PST: the original lesson plan developed for general education students and the modified lesson plan to support EBs.
They compared these lesson plans and identified instructional strategies that were added or modified.
The authors first determined whether the PSTs used the strategies which they had been taught , and then further explored the strategies that were implemented by the PSTs.
Afterward, the authors explored the PSTs’ lesson plan modifications with respect to culturally responsive mathematics teaching (Aguirre & del Rosario Zavala, 2013).
Findings and discussion
The authors note that this study has implications for teacher educators designing mathematics education courses for PSTs who will be teaching EBs, as well as for researchers interested in better understanding teacher knowledge and implementations for EBs in a range of culturally responsive teaching.
This study showed that using visuals (e.g., drawing, picture, manipulatives) and group work were the most frequently used teaching approaches to supporting EBs.
It is interesting that using visuals was taught in the course as one of the selected effective EB strategies, but group work was not.
The authors also noticed how several PSTs attempted to use students’ first languages, which was also not addressed during the course intervention.
Using students’ first languages is an example of integrating students’ culture and also linked to the concept of translanguaging pedagogies, which exchange different languages for the input and output of the lesson (García & Kleifgen, 2010).
In addition, the authors observed that a large number of the PSTs did not develop a lesson that utilizes students’ funds of knowledge (Aguirre et al., 2013; Hedges, Cullen, & Jordan, 2011) or critical thinking with social justice contexts (Esmonde & Caswell, 2010; Wager & Stinson, 2012).
The former was addressed as a strategy of using contexts familiar to EBs, but the latter was not explicitly taught during the course intervention.
Again, a one-hour intervention followed by short discussions cannot cover the range of effective strategies for EBs and is not sufficient time to address everything the PSTs need to teach EBs.
Hence, the authors note that it would be more helpful to see the results of this study as a preliminary look into the approaches that PSTs – those who do not have teaching experiences with EBs or specific knowledge of teaching mathematics for EBs – tend to implement in the classroom.
The findings of this study suggest that mathematics teacher education programs need to provide PSTs with essential learning opportunities to design lessons that connect to students’ funds of knowledge and effectively embed EBs’ asset-rich cultural backgrounds.
The authors specifically highlight the importance of providing learning opportunities for PSTs to pay close attention to students’ funds of knowledge and social justice issues, because these can actively engage and motivate students in learning mathematics (Cirillo, Bartell, & Wager, 2016; Hedges et al., 2011).
In particular, teachers need to look for various sources of cultural and everyday knowledge, skills, and resources that EBs may possess.
They also should strive to recognize EBs’ varied skills and experiences to provide a basis for social justice.
The results of this study clearly show that inserting a one-hour lesson about teaching EBs during a methods course is not sufficient to equip PSTs with research-based EB-strategies and culturally responsive mathematical teaching. Instead, the authors recommend planning and providing a more streamlined curriculum that combines culturally responsive teaching with the needs of EBs, with a longer instructional period than just one hour.
In addition, it is crucial to provide PSTs with a carefully designed curriculum for social justice, emphasizing “critical perspectives that may have direct impact on their lives and communities” (Ladson-Billings, 2014, p. 78), beyond the limited and superficial implementation of culturally relevant pedagogy.
Aguirre, J. M., & del Rosario Zavala, M. (2013). Making culturally responsive mathematics teaching explicit: A lesson analysis tool. Pedagogies: An International Journal, 8(2), 163–190. doi:10.1080/1554480X.2013.768518
Cirillo, M., Bartell, T. G., & Wager, A. A. (2016). Teaching mathematics for social justice through mathematical modeling. In C. R. Hirsch & A. R. Roth McDuffie (Eds.), Mathematical modeling and modeling mathematics (pp. 87–96). Reston, VA: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
Creswell, J. W. (2009). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches (3rd ed). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Esmonde, I., & Caswell, B. (2010). Teaching mathematics for social justice in multicultural, multilingual elementary classrooms. Canadian Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education, 10(3), 244–254. doi:10.1080/14926156.2010.504485
García, O., & Kleifgen, J. A. (2010). Educating emergent bilinguals: Policies, programs, and practices for English language learners. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Grbich, C. (2007). Qualitative data analysis: An introduction. London, UK: Sage Publications
Hedges, H., Cullen, J., & Jordan, B. (2011). Early years curriculum: Funds of knowledge as a conceptual framework for children’s interests. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 43(2), 185–205. doi:10.1080/00220272.2010.511275
Ladson-Billings, G. (2014). Culturally relevant pedagogy 2.0: A.k.a. The remix. Harvard Educational Review, 84(1), 74–84. doi:10.17763/haer.84.1.p2rj131485484751
Shadish, W. R., Cook, T. D., & Campbell, D. T. (2001). Experimental and quasi-experimental designs for generalized causal inference. Boston, MA: Houghton, Mifflin and Company
Wager, A. A., & Stinson, D. W. (Eds.). (2012). Teaching mathematics for social justice: Conversations with educators. Reston, VA: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.