Cases of Teacher Noticing to Position Students in Linguistically Diverse Middle School Mathematics Classrooms
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This study investigated how professional mathematics teacher noticing occurs in linguistically diverse middle school mathematics classrooms. The study illustrates how three middle school mathematics teachers are using this noticing, their beliefs, and various instructional strategies to position their students. The participants were chosen from the 34 teachers participating in a larger National Science Foundation funded study, CAREER: Mathematics Instruction for English Language Learners (MIELL). Data was collected by means of interviews and previously recorded classroom observations. The interviews and classroom observations were analyzed through various qualitative methods. The significance of this study lies in its contribution to mathematics education researchers interested in understanding how professional mathematics teacher noticing occurs in linguistically diverse classrooms and with emerging English Language Learners.
The participants in this study teach middle school mathematics in the same linguistically diverse Texas school district. They share similar language, educational, and work experiences. The three teachers believed that communication, inquiry, and accountability are the most important elements to foster in the students in their classrooms. The teacher demonstrated professional mathematics teacher noticing in their fostering of these classroom elements.
The components of noticing exhibited by the three participants varied in both effectiveness and purpose. Teachers employed noticing in whole class, partner, and group settings and this variety resulted in differences in how the students were positioned. Noticing that occurred during a whole class discussion served to position students whereas students designated as “teachers” during group work were also being positioned, but less by the noticing than the structure of the group. The teachers used numerous research-based instructional strategies with their students including revoicing, using language as a resource, and classroom mathematical discussions. Somewhat surprisingly the instructional strategies infrequently served to position students. This was due to several factors such as the frequency a particular strategy was used (revoicing) and how a strategy was used. Language as resource, for example, was primarily utilized by students for students.
Lastly, teacher noticing is thought to require a mathematics classroom where student engagement with mathematics is the norm. These teachers demonstrated noticing in classroom environments that both foster and smother student engagement. Classroom vignettes showed that noticing coupled with low student engagement was not dissimilar from the noticing occurring in a classroom with high student engagement.