When you read the following three statements, “(1) Experience. (2) Student experience. (3) Student experience in mathematics.“, what do you notice and what do you wonder?
One might wonder how a framework of PROWESS relates to the student experience in mathematics. For example, “when students take initiative of their own learning” (AMATYC, 2018, p. 32) what experiences in mathematics allowed for that opportunity to happen? Maybe the student experience was a positive one that showed how their thinking belongs in mathematics. Yet, negative experiences in mathematics can easily become powerful moments that carry on as a long-lasting, hurtful stain and often produce barriers that block students from taking an initiative.
When students share trauma with me such as, “Mr. Walsh, I am not a good test taker.” or “Math and I never get along.” they reveal a proficiency perception that is rooted in negative experiences with mathematics. But let’s shift the lens of student experience in mathematics to the role of the instructor. What happens when an instructor takes ownership to be acutely aware of their student experiences in mathematics? This curiosity fueled my first journey into the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL). My self-study examined the types of relationships that formed when Calculus students shared their experiences with my course-design, classroom norms, and teaching practices.
Students were given three online surveys. The four pillars of equity: Power, Access, Achievement, and Identity (Gutierrez, 2012) were used as a framework in developing the survey questions. For example, “I can be myself and still grow to be a better person through Calculus.” was an Identity pillar statement from the Classroom Norms survey. The surveys created a window of insight into the student experience. Importantly, they helped me to be conscious of the fluidity between my instructor role and the calculus role in providing a student experience that is optimized with meaningful and positive moments.
Student journals also provided data about the student experience in the class. Responses were coded to assist in revealing possible themes in student experiences and if those experiences connected to a pillar of equity. For example a statement such as “establish a connection between the student and the teacher on a more personal level” was coded as indicative of the Access pillar of equity, because of the reference to a personal connection between the instructor and the student. As a second example, the statement “I personally believe that students don’t read over your comments on the journals because the main reason why we do them is because it’s a grade” was coded as indicative of the Achievement pillar of equity because of the reference to an action that leads to student success.
Coding these statements provided space for me to examine my own actions and practices within the classroom through student feedback. For example, in reference to the second statement above, I wondered if a student is only completing assignments for a grade, is that an oppression stemming from my course design into the student experience? These types of reflective questions served as provoking discussion topics that would challenge the choices of my course design, expose the silent language of my classroom norms, and humanize my teaching practices for Calculus. Although it is challenging to process student experiences and create personal follow up actions based on what is brought into my awareness, it is important to take this step towards listening and being receptive to this feedback.
In closing, I’d like you to complete one more notice and wonder: “(1) Good Teaching (2) Scholarly Teaching (3) Scholarship of Teaching and Learning”.
These statements come from the progression of mathematics teachers discussed by David Bressoud (2015) in the forward of the text “Doing the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning” edited by Jackie Dewar and Curtis Bennett. Before Project SLOPE, I would have placed myself into “(1) Good Teaching”, not because I view the other two as higher/lower levels of teaching but simply because that was my process of teaching. Now, after only a few semesters of being mentored in Project SLOPE, my teaching process has found a new community in SoTL. Scholarship has introduced me to a wealth of research that I had been ignoring for the past 15 years and I now invite you to immerse yourself in the process of SoTL. Replace the idea about being good at your teaching with always taking the initiative to learn about your teaching through the experience of your students and the guidance of research.
American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges. (2018). IMPACT: Improving Mathematical Prowess And College Teaching. Memphis, TN: Author.
Bressoud, D. (2015). Forward. In J. M. Dewar & C.D. Bennett (Eds.), Doing the scholarship of teaching and learning in mathematics (pp. xiii - xiv). Washington, DC. Mathematical Association of America.
Gutiérrez, R. (2012). Context matters: How should we conceptualize equity in mathematics education?. In Equity in discourse for mathematics education (pp. 17-33). Springer, Dordrecht.