Supporting Teachers’ Equity-Oriented Learning and Identities: A Resource-Centered Perspective
by Nicole L. Louie — 2017
Background/Context: Despite calls for equity in education, the dominant mode of schooling reproduces hierarchies, positioning some students as bright, gifted, or fast learners and others as lazy, in need of remediation, or slow. A number of studies have shown that teachers’ professional communities and networks can address this problem and enhance outcomes for all students. However, more research is needed not only to show the structure of supportive networks but also to explain the mechanisms through which they foster teacher learning.
Research Questions: This paper addresses three questions: (1) Where do teachers encounter resources that support their engagement with nondominant, equity-oriented teaching practice? (2) What kinds of resources support teachers’ engagement with nondominant teaching practice? and (3) How do different kinds of resources come together to support teachers’ patterns of engagement with communities of nondominant teaching practice?
Research Design: A multisite case study was conducted over the course of an academic year. The study involved extensive observations in routine teacher meetings and professional development settings, as well as classroom observations and teacher interviews.
Participants: Participants included 18 mathematics teachers from two diverse urban high schools. The mathematics departments at both schools expressed commitments to professional learning and collaboration in order to better serve their diverse student bodies, in particular, to support students who had previously been unsuccessful. Six teachers were selected as focal teachers for more in-depth observation and interviewing. This paper describes the contrasting cases of four teachers.
Findings:Two of the focal teachers maintained close engagement with nondominant, equity-oriented practice throughout the period of the study, while two did not. A comparison of teachers’ professional support networks showed that their patterns of engagement were related to their connections to sources outside their school-based communities and the access that these connections provided to four distinct types of resources. The two teachers who maintained their engagement with reforms were found to have abundant and personally significant identity resources, which were critical for their ongoing learning. Although the other two teachers had technical resources for engaging with reforms, they did not have such identity resources.
Conclusions/Recommendations: Research and practice have tended to focus on technical aspects of teacher learning in service of reform. This paper suggests that teachers need not only more resources, but also more kinds of resources in order to sustain the learning that student-centered, equity-oriented reforms require.
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