Enhancing Mathematics Teaching for At-Risk Students: Influences of a Teaching Experience in Alternative High School

By Dunn, Thea K. | Journal of Instructional Psychology, March 2004 | Go to article overview

Enhancing Mathematics Teaching for At-Risk Students: Influences of a Teaching Experience in Alternative High School


Dunn, Thea K., Journal of Instructional Psychology


This paper examines a preservice teacher initiative whose overarching goal is to begin to reverse the cycle of educational failure for students labeled "at-risk." Although research in teacher preparation has explored the ways in which preservice teachers learn to teach, few studies have focused on how teaching in an alternative high school interacts with and complicates the process of learning to teach mathematics. The study discussed in this paper investigates the influences of a mathematics teaching experience in an alternative high school on five preservice teachers who planned, designed, and taught an integrated mathematics class for at-risk students who were enrolled in the school. The findings reveal that the teaching experience provided the preservice teachers with a vehicle for reflecting on and reconsidering their conceptions of mathematics teaching and perceptions of at-risk students. The analysis suggests that the experience enhanced the preservice teachers" perceptions of at-risk students, prompted them to set higher expectations for the students, and encouraged them to engage in conceptually-focused mathematics teaching. In addition, teaching in the alternative high school provided the preservice teachers with experiences that fostered an understanding of how at-risk students think mathematically and how to cultivate mathematical thinking in at-risk students.

**********

This study evolved out of a commitment to improve mathematics teaching and learning in an alternative high school and to begin to reverse the cycle of educational failure for students labeled "at-risk." Although research in teacher preparation has explored the ways in which preservice teachers learn to teach mathematics, few studies have focused on how teaching in an alternative high school interacts with and complicates this process. Paralleling the need for more effective mathematics education programs for at-risk students is the need to improve the preparation of preservice teachers to work with at-risk students and other marginalized students. A goal of this study, to produce instructional change and to improve the conditions for learning, developed out of a recognition that existing instructional practices underestimate and constrain educational achievement of at-risk students (Moll & Diaz, 1987). The teaching experience examined in this study attempted to provide teacher preparation geared for at-risk students; emphasize teaching mathematics through context; encourage the demonstration of the relationships between mathematics and the lives of the at-risk students; and, the use of hands-on materials, small group, one-on-one instruction, or out-of-class experiences (Tobias, 1992). In order to examine what preservice mathematics teachers believe and do in response to a student population composed of at-risk mathematics learners in an alternative high school, this study investigated two research questions:

1. What challenges are faced by preservice teachers as they attempt to teach mathematics for understanding in an alternative high school?

2. In what ways does participating in a mathematics teaching experience in an alternative high school influence how preservice teachers learn to teach mathematics?

Perspectives

At-risk Students

When students' home resources and experiences differ from the expectations on which school experiences are built (McCarthy & Levin, 1992), they are often at risk of not realizing their personal and academic promise. Because the term "at-risk" focuses on individual characteristics, it labels and stigmatizes the learner. However, although objectionable, the term "at-risk" persists because of its wide acceptance and research base (Garcia & Walker de Felix, 1992). In her discussion of the at-risk secondary mathematics student, Vatter (1992) summarizes the characteristics of at-risk learners as: (1) poor self-concept; (2) poor academic performance, high absenteeism, and discipline problems; (3) low aspirations and parents or guardians with low expectations; (4) low family socioeconomic level; (5) nontraditional family life, often with a single or foster parent, or with a stepparent; and (6) inadequate goals or lack of future orientation. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Enhancing Mathematics Teaching for At-Risk Students: Influences of a Teaching Experience in Alternative High School
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.