Being and Becoming a Mathematics Teacher Educator in and for Differing Contexts: Some Lessons Learned
Source: Studying Teacher Education, Vol. 9, No. 2, 96–107, 2013
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
In this study, the author examines how differing locations and cultural contexts shaped her understandings of being and becoming a mathematics teacher educator. The purpose was to improve the author's own practice, accompanied by the hope that what she learned could also be potentially beneficial to other teacher educators.
For this qualitative study, the author chose to conduct a self-study of her teacher educator practices.
Data sources included daily participant reflections, photographs, e-mail messages to and from participants, course/workshop syllabi and outlines, pre- and post-assessments, project evaluations, notes and jottings, and other miscellaneous documents.
The author selected three sustained, collaborative professional development opportunities in markedly different locations and cultural contexts in the USA as the focus for this self-study.
The author identified patterns of change in her development as a mathematics teacher educator. These changes are identified and contextualized within descriptions of her work in each of the different locations and cultural contexts selected for study.
Although each of the three critical areas within which the author identified transformations in her practice over time – worthwhile mathematical tasks, discourse, and learning environments – has been influenced by her work with Native Americans, the author believes this work has also helped her to clearly understand that reform-based learning environments need to be time-generous.
With the help of critical friends, she identified that worthwhile tasks, productive discourse, and supportive learning environments were key elements in her support of such a shift in perspective with teachers.
Awareness of Being a Teacher Educator Across Cultures
In every location where the authors has conducted professional development, she has found that teachers typically want to do better. Developing a practice that positions mathematics teaching and learning as sense-making requires not only growth in knowledge of mathematics content and pedagogy but also a major shift in perspective.
As the author learned about participants through their frequent written reflections and their ongoing interactions, she was better able to develop, organize, and implement professional development tasks.
The author found that in contexts where she perceived a shared commitment to equitable discourse and learning environments, she could readily adapt her practice to the cultural milieu without a threat to my sense of self as a mathematics educator. In other cases, she experienced internal dissonance, not readily formulating a response that I considered both equitable and culturally appropriate.
The author believes that, much as mathematics learning is both culturally situated and individually constructed, so is the learning of many concepts, including equity. She cannot – and should not – impose her views. However, she can place student development of mathematical meaning at the center of her instruction, and she can support tasks, discourse, and learning environments through which opportunities for learners to have access to meaningful mathematics can develop and grow.
During this self-study, the author has become convinced that deliberations regarding mathematics education may be futile unless considerations regarding context, or culture, are central to decision-making. Concurrently, she has come to believe – and to trust – that individual school and classroom cultures, or learning environments, within differing contexts are responsive to the professional development of teachers who serve in those schools and classrooms. She has also learned, but frequently must relearn, that she cannot impose her views of mathematics, or mathematics education, on others. Thus she can work toward transforming her practice while, at the same time, supporting teachers as they engage in the hard work of transforming their own.