Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Mathematics Teacher Educators Focusing on Equity: Potential Challenges and Resolutions

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Mathematics Teacher Educators Focusing on Equity: Potential Challenges and Resolutions

Article excerpt

Teacher education is critical in preparing teachers to implement equitable instructional practices and thus contributes to improving educational and social conditions for underserved children and youths (Jacobsen, Mistele, & Srirman, 2012; Zeichner, 2009). Although the preparation of teachers to work with diverse student populations has been the subject ofa growing body of research (e.g., Cochran-Smith, Fieman-Nemser, McIntyre, & Demers, 2008; Cochran-Smith & Zeichner, 2005), few studies to date have explored conditions under which mathematics teacher educators (MTEs) can help teachers (1) develop equitable mathematics pedagogy (McLeman & Vomvoridi-Ivanovic, 2012; Strutchens et al., 2012).

Although this literature illuminates important instructional practices of MTEs who teach through an equity lens, a systematic and broad-scale examination of these practices, including potential challenges, could inform mathematics teacher education by unpacking commonalities and differences in ways that MTEs address equity in their courses. Furthermore, by gaining insight into possible patterns regarding different resolution strategies, the field can begin to develop structures to prepare and support teacher educators who choose to make equity a priority in their practice.

In this article, we discuss findings from a qualitative study of 23 MTEs who self-reported challenges and resolutions they encountered when teaching mathematics methods courses with a focus on equity. Our research questions are as follows:

1. What challenges do MTEs who make equity a priority in their instructional practice face when teaching mathematics methods courses?

2. How do these MTEs work toward resolving these challenges?

In what follows, we overview relevant literature regarding conceptions of equity, challenges MTEs face as they teach through a lens of equity, and some resolution strategies. We then describe our study's conceptual framework, methodology, and findings. We conclude by discussing our findings and implications for practice and future research, framing both in ways relevant to teacher educators of all disciplines, while highlighting unique components to mathematics teacher education as appropriate.

Equity in Teacher Education

Conceptions of Equity

Nieto (2010) built on earlier conceptions of equity (Banks & Banks, 1995; Ladson-Billings, 1995) and argued that teacher educators can alter the inequities in U.S. schools by inviting teacher education students to critically analyze why and how schools are unjust for some students. This analysis, Villegas (2007) pointed out, will prepare teachers to help all students "participate equitably in the economic and political life of [a] country" (p. 372). Although some researchers (e.g., Butin, 2007) have argued that the concept of social justice is not well defined, democratic participation is one of the core principles of equity within teacher education across the globe, with researchers documenting its use in such places as Japan (Gordon, 2006) and England and South Africa (Harber & Serf, 2006).

Equitable education is also viewed through the lens of access, meaning all students have equal opportunities to study and learn (Flores, 2007; Murphy & Hallinger, 1989). This notion of equity is common in mathematics teacher education, with organizations such as the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (2000) making access a cornerstone of their equity principles, suggesting that "all students, regardless of their personal characteristics, backgrounds, or physical challenges, must have opportunities to study--and support to learn--mathematics" (emphasis added). However, despite acknowledging the importance of access as a component of equity, some MTEs have argued that viewing equity solely through this lens supports deficit models of thinking because access focuses on what students lack relative to a normalized majority (e. …

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