Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Experience-Centered Instruction as a Catalyst for Teaching Mathematics Effectively to African American Students

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Experience-Centered Instruction as a Catalyst for Teaching Mathematics Effectively to African American Students

Article excerpt

The purposes of this article are to describe the ways in which prospective teachers integrated the experiences of African American Students into their mathematics instruction and determine how the outcomes from prospective teachers' use of experience-centered instruction intersects with best practices in teaching mathematics. Tenets of phenomenological studies were employed using interpretative data from a group of eight undergraduate prospective teachers who experienced the phenomenon of mentoring and providing academic assistance to African American Students. The results indicate that projects of this sort can serve as a conduit for the acceleration of culturally relevant pedagogical savvy and simultaneously promote astuteness among students who have been unscrupulously limited to high concentrations of such desirable practices.

Keywords: field experiences, teacher education, elementary mathematics

If the portrait of America's prospective teaching force continues to mirror that of its preceding cohorts, we can expect a teaching pool that is innately naïve to the nuances of teaching African American students. Currently, the teaching force is culturally and socially homogenous and the mathematics curriculum is intimately aligned with an "idealized cultural experience" synonymous with middle-class Caucasians (Ladson-Billings, 1997). Furthermore, these teachers are likely among those who "seem to have little background knowledge pertaining to how students view mathematics activities from a motivational perspective and thus use their own personal constructs as grounds for motivation in mathematics instruction" (Middletown & Spanias, 1999, p. 76). If students are unsuccessful, "latent prejudices" held by new and prospective teachers (PTs) are typically reinforced rather than altered (Wang & Odell, 2002). Consequently, school mathematics stratifies students, affording privilege to some and limiting opportunities for others, namely African Americans (Martin, Gholson, & Leonard, 2010). The cumulative effects of the prejudices and practices makes scores of African American students more susceptible to the callous repercussions embedded in high stakes educational accountability systems (Sheppard, 2006).

In an effort to curtail projected disconnects and subsequent consequences, the author developed a 15-hour, half-semester service learning project designed to provide PTs with genuine and sustained opportunities to comprehend African American students' perspectives on life, schooling, and mathematics. Service learning has been identified as a conduit in improving student comprehension and a critical and analytical tool for increased understanding of a particular subject and/or population (Manley, Buffa, Dube, & Reed, 2006). The chief goal of Ibis service-learning project is to help PTs develop pedagogical practices that are compatible with the way African American students learn while simultaneously engaging in "best practices" for teaching mathematics. The project, which complements coursework in an undergraduate mathematics methods course, specifically affords PTs opportunities to better understand African American students and focus on how they learn mathematics, which will improve PT pedagogical practices. Accordingly, the purposes of this article are to: (a) describe the ways in which prospective teachers integrated the experiences of African American students into their mathematics instruction and (b) describe how the outcomes from prospective teachers' use of experience-centered instruction intersects with the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics' principle of effective teaching and culturaUy relevant mathematics pedagogy as described by Ladson-BUlings (1995).

RELATED LITERATURE

This article is largely influenced by classic and current research documenting the importance of merging student experiences with school curriculum. Dewey (1997), perhaps the preeminent scholar on integrating life experiences with formalized education, noted that the chief role of educators is to arrange for tile kind of experiences that keep students engaged whUe simultaneously preparing tiiem for future instruction. …

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