Project

Identity and Community in Math Teachers' Circles

Goal: Using a sociocultural framework and ethnographic methods, our team has been studying a statewide Math Teachers' Circle (MTC) initiative to understand its potential impact on teachers' practice, identity, and commitment.

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15

Project log

Ian Parker Renga
added 2 research items
In this paper, we revisit a long-running conversation about situated learning and the design of environments for disciplinary engagement. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, scholars advanced an anthropological critique of the then-dominant acquisitionist paradigm of formal schooling with a situated view focused on membership in communities and participation in practices. The critique led to a practice turn in education and a consensus model for reform-oriented school classrooms as orchestrated practice fields where students engage in disciplinary practices within a structured environment. Questions remain, however, about the nature of the practices and communities that this model engenders. We join this conversation through an anthropological investigation of a self organized group of teachers who gather outside of school hours to engage in collaborative mathematical activity. Participants have the flexibility to conduct their mathematical activity however they want; yet as we show, they tend to reproduce a practice field resembling a reform-oriented school mathematics classroom. This may seem unremarkable, even desirable for many reformers. However, assuming that teachers can or should only replicate practice fields when doing mathematics may be selling them short. Our findings suggest a durability and invisibility to practice fields that may be limiting the possibilities for the production of novel learning communities within schools.
Ian Parker Renga
added a research item
Sustaining teachers’ love is essential to their well-being. It can be hard for teachers to prioritize their own need for renewal. This is because teaching is a caring profession, and teachers are a selfless bunch who rise up in the face of difficulty. But they are also human. Whether through MTCs or something similar, school leaders are encouraged to transform their professional learning communities into professional loving communities to strengthen teachers’ passion, connection, and purpose. Doing so is necessary if teachers are to thrive and grow while weathering the storms they face in serving students. Article is accessible at http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/current-issue.aspx
Frederick A. Peck
added 3 research items
Math Teachers' Circles (MTCs) bring math teachers and university mathematicians together to engage in collaborative mathematical activity. Currently there are over 110 MTCs across 40 states. A key claim is that MTCs are "communities of practice." However, to date there has been no research to substantiate this claim. In this paper, we explore the ways in which participants in an MTC negotiate aspects of community formation.
Ian Parker Renga
added a research item
Teachers construct professional identities within community as they converse about their work and negotiate what it means to be a teacher. Grossman, Wineburg, and Woolworth (2001) suggest that such negotiation must account for an essential tension between focusing on pedagogical versus disciplinary concerns. How teachers navigate this tension and what this means for their joint production of identity and community is unclear. This gap in the literature became evident in our work with Math Teachers’ Circles (MTC), where we observed K-12 math teachers indexing instructional experiences and concerns despite the program’s explicit invitation to set teaching aside and do math problems together for pleasure. Drawing upon a community of practice framework and positioning theory, we consider the work this professional talk accomplished within MTC gatherings. We show how the teachers positioned themselves and established their community, thereby producing hybrid identities and MTCs as a kind of hybrid community.
Ian Parker Renga
added a project goal
Using a sociocultural framework and ethnographic methods, our team has been studying a statewide Math Teachers' Circle (MTC) initiative to understand its potential impact on teachers' practice, identity, and commitment.