Teacher Identity and Disposition

Whether explicit or implicit, identity was a common factor in the studies in this section. Within these chapters, the spectrum of teacher development is represented, including preservice elementary teachers, a secondary mathematics teacher and coach, and expert secondary mathematics teachers. The authors all note that an equitable teacher disposition is central to promoting equity by having high expectations, valuing students’ cultural knowledge, or connecting mathematics content with students’ interests. Similarly, teachers’ identity and their awareness of student identity shape their instructional decisions (Hand, 2012; Jong, 2016). In her literature review, Baldinger discussed how the learning opportunities teachers provide shape the development of students’ positive identities as creators of mathematical ideas and capable learners. Kalinec-Craig’s study focused on how Mexican-American immigrant preservice elementary teachers noticed and addressed issues of status and participation in their own prior experiences, courses, and field placements. They were able to identify with students in their field placements who were primarily Spanish speakers and emerging bilinguals, yet still able to attend to students who were different than themselves. This perspective is one that is rarely captured, because the majority of teachers in the U.S. are white while the student population continues to increase in racial and ethnic minorities (Museus, Palmer, Davis, & Maramba, 2011). Similarly, students of color face stereotype threat and lowered teacher expectations, and often attend schools that have more unqualified teachers and fewer resources (Museus, et al., 2011; Stinson, 2009).

In response to such inequities, van Es, Hand, and Mercado aimed to understand how secondary mathematics teachers, “come to notice the activity of their mathematics classrooms in ways that enable them to interrupt these deficit perspectives and processes in support of their learners” (p. 252). While three of the four teachers in this study were white, they were selected based on demanding criteria that clearly demonstrated their commitment to and success with promoting equity. Their results confirmed that the teachers had an “equity lens” that informed how they attended to students, interpreted experiences in the mathematics classroom, and made instructional decisions. As Hand (2012) explains, “dispositions of mathematics teachers are critically important because they underlie distinctions teachers are likely to make in moment-to-moment classroom activity” (p. 234). For example, a teacher may interpret a student’s seeming disinterest as one who lacks motivation or aptitude rather than one who needs to connect the content with his/her cultural background or interest.

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