What Can I Do? Preservice Elementary Teachers Developing Understandings of Self as Mathematics Teacher and Teaching in Context
Neumayer DePiper, Jill
Edwards, Ann R
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In order to prepare preservice teachers (PSTs) to enact teaching practices that best support all students in learning mathematics, elementary mathematics teacher education must prepare PSTs to navigate the many social, political, and institutional dynamics in today's classrooms. In this research, I theorized that successful negotiation of these dynamics requires that teachers have an understanding of themselves as mathematics teachers, including an examined vision of their goals of mathematics teaching, the social and political contexts of schooling, and the realities of their school contexts. In this study, I explored how PSTs understood themselves as mathematics teachers and teaching through participation in a seminar designed to support critical examination of themselves as mathematics teachers, particularly as within complex realities of schooling and attention to equity and access. The theoretical perspective of performativity (Butler, 1999) was used to understand and support PST identity work and specifically guided the design of the seminar and the case analysis. Each of the four cases offers a unique perspective on how PSTs understood themselves as mathematics teachers and mathematics teaching and how these understandings shifted. The first of three findings across the cases was that PSTs understood themselves and their teaching differently. Specifically, as articulated in the second finding, they understood teaching for equity differently and in relation to their own self-understandings. The third finding is that PSTs' understandings of themselves as mathematics teachers and mathematics teaching shifted. Thus, understanding PSTs' mathematics teacher identities through a theoretical premise of performativity and supporting PSTs in deconstructing these contexts, expectations, and constraints supported some PSTs in repositioning themselves in relation to dominant discourses that framed their understandings of mathematics teaching and in problematizing mathematics teaching. These findings have implications for mathematics teacher education, offering new tools and specific concrete resources to support mathematics teacher critical self-examination. Findings also suggest the need for PSTs to engage in continued identity work and in facilitated opportunities to work at the intersections of mathematics teaching with issues of race, class, and institutional discourses of testing. Further research on operationalizing a critical pedagogy in mathematics teacher education is also needed.