Secondary mathematics teachers' descriptions and facilitation of classroom discussions
Goldberg, Cara Melina
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Discourse practices in mathematics classes have been proven to lead to greater student achievement. Policy and standards require students are able to justify and critique mathematical reasoning. Literature on how high school mathematics teachers implement discourse practices and facilitate discussions is scarce. This research study examined how three high school mathematics teachers, who participated in a professional development course which focused on facilitating discussions in the classroom, used and described their use of discussions and specifically the teacher discourse moves (TDMs) in their classes. This study was situated in a high-achieving suburban upper-middle class district. Data sources included: journal reflections, responses to Use of Discourse Surveys, Beliefs Mappings, interviews (including post-observation Video Stimulated Recall (VSR) interviews) and classroom observations. Each participant was observed teaching four lessons. Qualitative analyses revealed that participants’ beliefs related to discourse and classroom expectations evolved. The results of this study confirmed that facilitating whole class discussions was challenging for high school mathematics teachers. In particular, some Teacher Discourse Moves (TDMs) were easier for participants to use over others and some changes were easier for participants to make such as utilizing different activity structures. Factors that contributed to participants’ use of discussion included: professional development, watching one’s own teaching, noticing changes in students’ behaviors, previous instruction on learning to teach, perceptions of student capabilities, perceptions of time constraints, and lack of reflective practice. Despite these challenges, participants were able to make positive changes in their instruction and notice an increase in student engagement as a result. Participating in VSR interviews had a dramatic impact on the participants’ beliefs, reflection and changes in practice.