24 SES 04, A Socio-political Discussion about the Ambivalent Role of Policy and Mathematical Educational Research. Revisiting the “Gap”
During the last two decades there has been a turn into what is called evidence-based research, bridging closely the spheres of research and academia, with the ones of policies and social actions. According to Sanderson (2002), the increase of scrutiny of public actions (policies, interventions, etc.) led governments to justify their decisions using evidence-based research as valid arguments, since “legitimacy […] is no longer guaranteed solely by democratic political processes.” (Sanderson, 2002, p. 2) However, how this decisions end in informing teachers’ practices in the classroom is not always crystal clear. We know that every country has its own policy in terms of education. Reforms in mathematics education have been conducted all over the World during the last decades (English, 2015), and not always with the expected impact in terms of students’ learning.
Moreover, evidence-based research also includes an ethical dimension. Dewey (2004/1916) claimed that scholars must engage in a democratic way with “stake holders” and with the society in general in ways that raise awareness of social problems. Freire (1998) stated that the bridge between theory and practice should be framed by what he called “critical reflection”. “Otherwise, theory becomes simply “blah, blah, blah,” and practice, pure activism.” (Freire, 1998, p. 30) This “blah, blah, blah” has been one of the main criticisms that decision-makers in the EU raised up when questioning the usefulness of funding research in Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH). The current Horizon 2020 research program still keeps education (and other areas of SSH) in the agenda, but not without a clear warming: we (researchers) have to proof the social impact of our research; Europe must fund social sciences, but the ones that produce social impact (Flecha, Soler-Gallart & Sordé, 2015).
Thus, there are many factors embedded in this process (professional education, openness of the teacher to incorporate knowledge from the research field, dissemination and open access to research contributions, etc.). In fact, a major query is how a teacher can find what works based on the evidence collected through research programs? Even, who decides what works?
In this symposium, we will discuss the following contributions.
First, Ulrika and Andersson provide us the opportunity to discuss critically the impact of using socio-political issues in designing lessons oriented to provoke critical thinking among the students (in the sense of the social justice theories as presented by Gutstein and his colleagues). They present students’ work on transformational processes, as means to create opportunities for teachers to introduce real situations in the development of a critical mathematics literacy curricula.
Then, Seah moves the focus of this symposium towards the idea of curriculum itself. Drawing on the Victorian Curriculum in Australia, he discusses two main aspects which are embedded in our professional practice in teaching mathematics: how the content in the curriculum document is arranged and presented, and how teachers make use of these documents. Seah realizes that there are many inconsistences within the published curriculum, leading them to question how teachers may use that kind of documents to design their lessons.
Finally, Sánchez, Díez-Palomar and Font analyze the impact on professional teaching training programs of political decisions in terms of the curriculum in mathematics. They focus on the idea of creativity in mathematics, since, according to previous studies, this ability plays a central role in doing and using mathematics. The current Catalan curriculum in mathematics has introduced this ability a one of the important standards to have in mind when designing lessons and teaching mathematics. In this paper the authors discuss how this change in the political documents (curriculum) impacts on professional teacher training programs.
English, L. D. (2015). STEM: challenges and opportunities for mathematics education. In Proceedings of the 39th Conference of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education (Vol. 1, pp. 4-18). PME. Flecha, R., Soler-Gallart, M., & Sordé, T. (2015). Social impact: Europe must fund social sciences. Nature, 528(7581), 193-193. Freire, P. (1998). Pedagogy of freedom: Ethics, democracy, and civic courage. Rowman & Littlefield. Sanderson, I. (2002). Evaluation, policy learning and evidence‐based policy making. Public administration, 80(1), 1-22. Slavin, R. E. (2002). Evidence-based education policies: Transforming educational practice and research. Educational researcher, 31(7), 15-21. Slavin, R. E. (2008). Perspectives on evidence-based research in education—What works? Issues in synthesizing educational program evaluations. Educational researcher, 37(1), 5-14. Sorde-Marti, T. (2016, July). Sior: A New Tool to Evidence Social Impact of Science. In Third ISA Forum of Sociology (July 10-14, 2016). Isaconf.
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