ERG SES D 10, Teachers and Education
One of the European Union’s (EU) strategic priorities is to improve the quality of education and training across Europe (European Commission, 2010). This includes an EU-wide goal to reduce the proportion of students not achieving the internationally accepted minimum level of numeracy, as measured by the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), to below 15% by 2020 (European Commission, 2009). While some countries (e.g., Finland) achieved this target in PISA 2012, there are many countries where more than one-fifth of students did not reach the minimum level of achievement (OECD, 2013).
The Thematic Working Group on Mathematics, Science and Technology (TWG on MST) found that, while many European countries had education policies to address low levels of achievement in literacy, the same was not true for mathematics, science, and technology (European Commission, n.d.). One of their recommendations was curricular reform that included “mainstreaming numeracy across the curriculum” (European Commission, n.d., p. 39). While the TWG on MST seemed to use mathematics and numeracy interchangeably, they are not the same. The power of mathematics comes from being able to generalise; on the other hand, numeracy depends on the relevant aspects of the particular context in which the mathematics is used to give meaning to a solution (Steen, 2001). Therefore, an across the curriculum approach, which puts numeracy into the context of subjects other than mathematics, has the potential to support numeracy learning. However, for this approach to be successful, all teachers need to be able to recognise where they can promote numeracy learning alongside discipline learning. One way of identifying ways to support teachers to develop this capacity is to employ the construct of teacher identity, specifically identity as an embedder-of-numeracy (Bennison, 2014, hereafter referred to as EoN Identity), to focus on factors thought to be most influential in this context. However, while the EoN Identity framework identifies the characteristics that contribute to a teacher’s EoN Identity, it has limited usefulness in providing how these characteristics interact or how teachers could be supported to strengthen their EoN Identity.
As identity development involves cognitive processes and social interactions that take place in an individual’s environment (Wenger, 1988), it is consistent with a sociocultural approach to analysis. Therefore, a theoretical framework based on an adaptation of Valsiner’s (1997) zone theory was used in the study. Valsiner saw learning in terms of the interaction of three overlapping and transient zones; Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), Zone of Free Movement (ZFM), and Zone of Promoted Action (ZPA). Goos (2013) viewed the zones from the perspective of teacher-as-learner and she has argued that this approach can be used to provide insights into how teachers learn as well as guide research on changing teachers’ practices. In this study, each characteristic within the EoN Identity framework was mapped onto a zone; knowledge and affective characteristics along with past experiences were mapped onto the ZPD; professional context onto the ZFM; and social interactions onto the ZFM or ZPA, depending on the nature of the interaction.
This paper extends previous research in which the EoN Identity framework was developed (Bennison, 2014). Specifically, the aim of this paper is to present some findings from a two year study designed to investigate ways to support teachers to embed numeracy into the subjects they teach in order to address the following research question:
How can Valsiner’s zone theory be employed to identify ways to support a teacher to strengthen her EoN Identity?
Australian Curriculum, Assessment, and Reporting Authority [ACARA]. (2014). The Australian Curriculum (Version 7.0). Retrieved 6 August 2014, from http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/Download/F10 Bennison, A. (2014). Developing an analytic lens for investigating identity as an embedder-of-numeracy. Mathematics Education Research Journal. doi: 10.1007/s13394-014-0129-4. European Commission (2009). A strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (‘ET 2020’). Council conclusions May 2009. Retrieved 22 April 2014 from http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:52009XG0528%2801%29&from=EN European Commission. (2010). Europe 2020: A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. Retrieved 22 April 2014, from http://ec.europa.eu/eu2020/pdf/COMPLET EN BARROSO 007 - Europe 2020 - EN version.pdf European Commission (n.d.). Addressing low achievement in mathematics and science. Final Report of the Thematic Working Group on Mathematics, Science and Technology (2010-2013) Retrieved 27 January 2015 from http://ec.europa.eu/education/policy/strategic-framework/archive/documents/wg-mst-final-report_en.pdf Goos, M. (2013). Sociocultural perspectives in research on and with mathematics teachers. ZDM - The International Journal on Mathematics Education, 45(4), 521-533, doi:10.1007/s11858-012-0477-z. Goos, M., Geiger, V., & Dole, S. (2014). Transforming professional practice in numeracy teaching. In Y. Li, E. Silver, & S. Li (Eds.), Transforming mathematics instruction: Multiple approaches and practices (pp. 81-102). New York: Springer. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). (2013). PISA 2012 Results: What students know and can do - Student performance in mathematics, reading and science (Volume 1). PISA, OECD Publishing. doi: 10.1787/9789264201118-en. Stake, R. E. (2003). Case Studies. In N. K. Denzin, & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Stategies of qualitative inquiry (2nd ed., pp. 134-164). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Steen, L. A. (2001). The case for quantitative literacy. In L. A. Steen (Ed.), Mathematics and democracy: The case for quantitative literacy (pp. 1-22). Princeton, N.J.: National Council on Education and the Disciplines. Valsiner, J. (1997). Culture and the development of children's action: A theory for human development (2nd ed.). New York: John Wiley & Sons. Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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