Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

An Exploration of Preservice Teachers' Reasoning about Teaching Mathematics to English Language Learners

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

An Exploration of Preservice Teachers' Reasoning about Teaching Mathematics to English Language Learners

Article excerpt

Introduction

Linguistic diversity continues to grow in schools in the United States as English language learners (ELLs) and students from linguistically and culturally diverse backgrounds enroll in schools at a higher rate than their monolingual, Euro-American peers (National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition, 2011). The face of mainstream classrooms is, therefore, rapidly changing, and mainstream teachers have to work not only with fluent English speakers but also with students at varying levels of English proficiency (Zehler et al., 2003).

In recognition of the demographic realities, it is increasingly recognized that mainstream teachers need better preparation for working with ELLs (Gandara et al., 2000). When considering what mainstream teachers need to know and be able to do when working with ELLs, teacher knowledge will be affected along multiple dimensions. Yet few studies have considered the question of whether and how teachers draw from knowledge sources for decision making in teaching mathematics to ELLs. The purpose of this study is to address this gap in the literature and gain insight into what knowledge preservice teachers draw on when making instructional decisions for ELLs about mathematics content. We are particularly interested in what sources preservice teachers draw on and the extent to which preservice teachers draw from content knowledge (CK) and pedagogical knowledge (PK) sources related to math and language to respond to instructional scenarios. For the purpose of this study, we were particularly concerned with what knowledge sources have been found to influence preservice teachers' decision making for instruction for diverse learners. Mainstream teachers' abilities to use appropriate content-related and language-related knowledge to make sound instructional decisions for ELLs is arguably an important variable for ELLs' success in school and for closing the academic achievement gap (de Jong, Harper, & Coady, 2013). Understanding whether and how preservice teachers use CK and PK related to ELLs will provide teacher educators with insight into ELLs' learning process.

Teachers' Knowledge Sources

Following Shulman (1987), teaching involves a complex interaction among different knowledge sources. Shulman (as cited in Johnston & Goettsch, 2000) distinguishes between CK; general PK (pedagogical issues that transcend subject matter); curriculumknowledge; pedagogical contentknowledge (the special amalgam of content and pedagogy that is uniquely the province of teachers); knowledge of learners and their characteristics; knowledge of educational contexts (at both micro and macro levels); and knowledge of educational ends, purposes, and values.

Several scholars have described the CK and pedagogical skills that mainstream teachers need to develop as part of a preservice teacher preparation program (e.g., de Jong & Harper, 2005; Lucas & Grinberg, 2008; Lucas & Villegas, 2013; Lucas, Villegas, & Freedson-Gonzalez, 2008; Tellez & Waxman, 2006; Wong Fillmore & Snow, 2000). When preparing preservice teachers for working with ELLs, each of Shulman's knowledge areas thus needs to be extended to explicitly include attention to the role that language and culture play in school for ELLs (de Jong & Harper, 2005). Consideration of ELLs would suggest, for example, that disciplinary knowledge or CK is expanded to include knowledge about language and second language and literacy development. Similarly, PK needs to include the knowledge needed to teach language in general and in the context of specific disciplines. Some have referred to this dimension as pedagogical language and disciplinary linguistic knowledge (e.g., identifying instructional foci and explaining a grammar point; Bunch, 2014; Johnston & Goettsch, 2000; Turkan, de Oliveira, Lee, & Phelps, 2014). All in all, math teachers need to have a strong CK base in mathematics as well as the pedagogical skills to teach mathematics. …

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