We are now a month into the new school year, but I collected some data from them during the first week that I never had time to analyze and write about. There are some interesting (but not all that surprising) things that I found. First, I gave them a journal prompt that asked:
In math class, what is the role of the teacher and what is the role of the student?
Role of Teacher
Grade the work
Impart knowledge on the students
Teach the material
Share their knowledge
Help solve problems and do them over and over again
Pass on knowledge
Teach math concepts so they are simple and easy to understand
Show examples of a problem
Teach students how to do the assigned work
Give and deliver information
Role of Student
Listen to the teacher
Take all the knowledge the teachers have to offer
Learn from the teacher
Absorb the knowledge
Learns what the teacher teaches
To be honest, this wasn't surprising...but it is alarming. It's alarming because the way in which we teach math inevitably (and implicitly) simultaneously teaches students things about themselves as mathematicians. Here is the evidence (responses from beginning of the year survey):
85% think they need to memorize things...
and about half of them don't think they can create mathematical ideas, formulas, and rules.
All of this is further support that, as I cited in my research proposal (bold added for discussion here):
1. "our classrooms are the primary experiences from which students abstract both their definition of mathematics (Schoenfeld, 1994) and their sense of self as an active participant in the authoring of mathematics (Lawler, 2010)."
2. "Identity is a model for self-direction and, as a result, a possibility for mediating agency (Holland et al., 1998). Many students have established their identity as receivers of knowledge, with no active role in creating or critiquing mathematical claims. As a result, their sense of agency is surrendered. Research supports the view that such environments cause students to surrender their sense of thought and agency in order to comply with the procedural routines outlined by the teacher/authority figure (Boaler, 2000). Signs of this include negative attitudes towards math, lack of connected knowing, and the belief that mathematics is absorbed rather than created."
I'm interested in the idea of agency (mathematical and otherwise). I'm interested in the hidden curriculum in our classes and how it impacts students' definition of math, students' formation of self, the mediation (or perpetuation) of status/race/economic/power issues, and the recognition of their own ways of thinking and being mathematical in the world.