Academic journal article Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue

Narrative Authority = Making Mathematics Personal with Hands-On Experiences

Academic journal article Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue

Narrative Authority = Making Mathematics Personal with Hands-On Experiences

Article excerpt

This paper is a presentation of findings from a study in which Latino teacher candidates (TCs) unpacked personal experiences about math at various stages of their lives. Instructional conversations (Goldberg, 1992) and meaningful connections (Capraro & Capraro, 2006) provided opportunities for reflection and modeling of teaching and learning experiences. As it will become evident, TCs had time to reflect on how these experiences influence how they approach math as bilingual education teachers working with Latino children. These reflections are guided so as "[to] interrogate their teaching ... to construct meaning, interpretation, and knowledge of some aspect of teaching or learning through the creation of narrative(s)" (Lyons & LaBoskey, 2002, p. 6).

CONNECTING THE DOTS FOR BUILDING A COMMON UNDERSTANDING

Understanding the tension between what was experienced when learning math as students and how this content area must be taught to elementary children under layers of accountability, TCs need to be cognizant of negotiations that must be made between personal practical knowledge as a learner and epistemology as a teacher of math (Boaler, 2008; Brady & Bowd, 2005; Davis & Krajcik, 2005; Kajander, 2007; Malinsky, Ross, Pannells, & McJunkin, 2006; Thompson, 2008). In other words, if teachers have negative feelings about a subject they teach because of personal experiences, there is a risk of passing on those negative feelings, albeit unintentionally, and therefore, of influencing the outcome of their work with students in a content that is critical in student academic success.

The purpose of this ongoing study is to engage Latino participants in the teacher preparation program at an urban university by conceptualizing experiences in math, both negative and positive, through activities that allow for rationalizing memories and putting these to use. Unpacking personal experiences they hold when they were learning math in elementary classrooms and being able to talk about them, contextualize them, and finally validate them, can become a powerful tool in the teacher preparation program in general--but in bilingual contexts, it is exigent. This study demonstrates how teacher preparation programs can help Latino teachers become "reflective practitioners" (Schon, 1983) by continually questioning their curriculum as part and parcel of teaching children (Lyons & LaBoskey, 2002).

Narrative inquiry (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000), is a human experience research method, and it guides this study. Another source I use in framing the experiences and the reflections that surface is Lyon's (1990) notion of "nested knowing" (p. 173). This is a useful metaphor to visualize how teaching and learning are connected to culture and language. Lyon suggests learning involves all the things that are being learned and the feelings that are derived as we are learning them. Finding equilibrium between any insecurity about teaching math to English Language Learners and preparing effective and engaging lessons is the crux of this teacher preparation class that focuses on methods in teaching math and science in the bilingual classroom (Barwell, Leung, Morgan, & Street, 2002; Bhargava & Kirova, 2002; Hoptko, Mahadevan, Bare & Hunt, 2003; Klibanoff, Levine, Huttenlocker, Hedges & Vasilyeva, 2006; Malin sky et al., 2006; Patton, Fry, & Klages, 2008).

DIMENSIONS OF EXPERIENCES GUIDING THIS STUDY

Some questions that surface are: how do Latino teachers who work in bilingual education contexts achieve a balance between the languages and cultures to provide the best learning environment for their students? What experiences do they bring to the classroom that are directly connected to learning math in their schooling that may influence how they teach elementary math in a bilingual setting as teachers?

Latino TCs have an opportunity to see the how and when of experiences as well as to find meaning in them (Brady & Bowd, 2005; Craig, 2003; Creswell, 1998; Dwyer, Nolan & Seaman, 2002; Hoptko et al. …

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