Academic journal article Middle Grades Research Journal

AM I A MATHEMATICS TEACHER WHO TEACHES MIDDLE GRADES OR A MIDDLE GRADES TEACHER WHO TEACHES MATHEMATICS? Untangling the Multiple Identities of Preservice Teachers

Academic journal article Middle Grades Research Journal

AM I A MATHEMATICS TEACHER WHO TEACHES MIDDLE GRADES OR A MIDDLE GRADES TEACHER WHO TEACHES MATHEMATICS? Untangling the Multiple Identities of Preservice Teachers

Article excerpt

Many [middle grades mathematics] teachers hold elementary school generalist certification, which typically involves little specific preparation in mathematics. Yet teachers in the middle grades need to know much more mathematics than is required in most elementary school teacher-certification programs. Some middle grades mathematics teachers hold secondary school mathematics-specialist certification. But middle grades teachers need to know much more about adolescent development, pedagogical alternatives, and interdisciplinary approaches to teaching than most secondary school teacher-certification programs require. (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2001, p. 213)

The above quotation represents the state of teacher certification as it existed over a decade ago. Currently, all but four states in the United States include an option for mathematics teaching certification or licensure specifically at the middle grades level (Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences, 2012). Despite this change in certification and licensure practices, the difficulty of addressing the dual goals of adequately preparing middle grades teachers to teach thoughtful and engaging mathematics while helping them learn to meet the needs of early adolescents remains. This challenge is potentially further exacerbated by the long standing tradition that "elementary teachers teach children and secondary teachers teach subjects" (Gay, 1997, p. 157) which may leave the teacher of middle grades students feeling pulled in multiple directions based on who or what they are supposed to teach.

This study sought to begin a conversation about preparing middle grades mathematics teachers to be both passionate facilitators of mathematics learning and effective teachers for their middle grades students. To this end, the purpose of our study was to examine middle grades mathematics preservice teachers reported motivations in order to better understand how they saw themselves as future middle level mathematics teachers. We used identity as a lens to view the rationales the preservice teachers described for choosing to be a mathematics teacher at the middle level. We focused on identity because we, along with others, contend that "the nature and substance of preservice teachers' learning is influenced by, and part of, their emerging identities as mathematics teachers (Skott, 2001, 2004; Spillane, 2000)" (Lloyd, 2006, p. 58). Our goal was to shed light on the varying aspects of identity that middle grades mathematics preservice teachers bring to their teacher preparation programs in hope that this information might serve to support the continued improvement of middle grades teacher preparation programs.

THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVE AND RELATED RESEARCH

The theoretical frame we used to guide our inquiry was identity. Current literature focusing on identity suggests that identity is communicated through various discursive actions that describe a person's relationships to and within the different contexts they encounter (Cobb, Gresalfl & Hodge, 2009; Gee, 2001; Norton, 1997; Sfard & Prusak 2005; Wenger, 1998); identity formation is as an ongoing process (Beauchamp & Thomas, 2009; Beijaard, Meijer, & Verloop, 2004; Bishop, 2012; Chong & Low, 2009; Connelly & Clandinin, 1999; Gee, 2001; Norton, 1997; Wenger, 1998); and identity is dependent on the context in which it is formed (Beijaard et al., 2004; Connelly & Clandinin, 1999; Gee, 2001; Wenger, 1998).

One of the challenging aspects of studying identity is that it is not possible to point to a physical attribute, object, or empirical deduction and recognize it as a person's identity. Some researchers contend that discourse is the medium in which identities can be seen (e.g., Bishop, 2012; Cobb et al., 2009). Sfard and Prusak (2005) take this one step further in an attempt to operationalize the definition of identity by choosing to view a particular type of discourse, the narrative, as identity itself. …

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