Academic journal article Perspectives in Education

Examining Opportunities for the Development of Interacting Identities within Pre-Service Teacher Education Mathematics Classrooms

Academic journal article Perspectives in Education

Examining Opportunities for the Development of Interacting Identities within Pre-Service Teacher Education Mathematics Classrooms

Article excerpt

Introduction

In recent years, researchers and educationists have paid increased attention to multilingualism as a phenomenon which relates positively to cognitive development, flexibility and the promotion of academic achievement in learners (Adler, 2001; Agnihotri, 1995; Conteh, 2000; Cummins, 1979; Gorgorio & Planas, 2001; Halai, 2004; Moschkovich, 1999; Setati, 2002, 2005; Setati & Adler, 2000). In South Africa, where most of the classes are multilingual, one of the greatest challenges facing teacher education institutions and teacher educators is how to prepare pre-service teachers to deal with the complexity of teaching effectively in multilingual mathematics classrooms (Young, 1995). In this regard, research in multilingual mathematics classrooms in general, and in South Africa in particular, has focused mainly on the language practices, the dilemmas and the complexity which in-service teachers deal with while teaching in mathematics multilingual classrooms (see Adler, 2001; Du Plessis & Elsie, 2003; Setati, 2002, 2005; Setati & Adler, 2000). There is a dearth of research into how pre-service teachers are prepared at universities to deal with the complexity of teaching multilingual mathematics learners (especially at secondary level) whose first language is not the language of learning and teaching (LoLT). In general, teacher education research on mathematics education, thus far, has rarely focused on multilingual mathematics education, and research on multilingual mathematics education has hardly focused on teacher education. Most teachers teach in multilingual classrooms in South Africa, and research in South Africa (Adler, 2001; Setati, 2002, 2005; Setati & Adler, 2000) has shown that learning and teaching mathematics to multilingual learners is complex and that teachers grapple with dealing with this complexity. Adler (1995:265) expresses this complexity in these words:

... the dynamics of teaching and learning mathematics in multilingual classrooms is not simply about proficiency in the language of learning; nor is it only about access to the (English) mathematics register; nor should it be reduced to social diversity and social relations in the classrooms. These three, while analytically separable, are in constant interplay in the cultural processes that constitute school mathematics learning.

Hence, teaching mathematics in multilingual classrooms involves the teacher's being confronted by situations constituted by the above triple interplay. Chekaraou (2009), who investigated teachers' appropriation of a bilingual educational reform policy in two schools in Niger, found that pre-service teachers who were enculturated into the intricacies of using different languages to teach during their pre-service training found it easier to accommodate different languages in multilingual classrooms. On the other hand, pre-service teachers who were not trained for bilingual classrooms and were not exposed to ways in which to accommodate the different languages in a multilingual classroom found it difficult to accommodate different languages when they began to teach in schools. Therefore, it is not given that pre-service teachers would develop competence in teaching in multilingual contexts by the mere fact that they sit in multilingual classes during their training programme. This evokes a need to explore how teacher training institutions attend to the needs of pre-service teachers who are being trained for teaching in multilingual classrooms.

This paper uses data from a wider study (Essien, 2013) to explore one of such needs (in four PST education classrooms at two universities in South Africa), namely the opportunities which pre-service teachers are afforded for the development of identities pertinent to the teaching of mathematics in multilingual contexts. Hence, the research questions that this paper seeks to explore is: What facets of mathematics teacher training do teacher educators pay attention to or are developed in pre-service teacher education mathematics classrooms and how can these facets inform pre-service teacher education in South Africa? …

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