Teaching mathematics to early learners in a rural Aboriginal community school: Two case studies

Rebecca Cronin (2012). Teaching mathematics to early learners in a rural Aboriginal community school: Two case studies PhD Thesis, School of Education, The University of Queensland.

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Author Rebecca Cronin
Thesis Title Teaching mathematics to early learners in a rural Aboriginal community school: Two case studies
School, Centre or Institute School of Education
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2012-01
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Shelley Dole
Total pages 184
Language eng
Subjects 13 Education
Abstract/Summary Aboriginal students in Australia continue to have educational outcomes that are lower than other Australian students despite the range of government initiatives targeted at improving the educational outcomes of Aboriginal students. There is a systemic lack of optimism in the belief that Aboriginal students can excel in the school context and too many people accept the gap in educational outcomes between Aboriginal students and other Australian students as normal. Due to the educational differences in educational attainment there is often a perception that a different or special approach is needed to teach Aboriginal students. The research reported in this thesis is an investigation of teaching practices that enhance the educational outcomes in mathematics for young rural Aboriginal students. The purpose of this study was to observe, explore and trial mainstream pedagogical practices and approaches when teaching mathematics with teachers who have whole classes of Aboriginal students. The focus was on meaningful learning experiences for Aboriginal students in order for them to demonstrate the planned educational outcomes in mathematics. In this study I spent one year at an Aboriginal school in Queensland, working with two teachers in their Year One and Year Three classrooms respectively. During my time at the school I had weekly meetings with the teachers, observed them teaching and offered to teach for them in their classrooms. Our working relationships were positive and I became a well-respected and trusted professional colleague of the participating teachers. I worked with the teachers, developing with them units of work to suit their needs for teaching mathematics in their classrooms of Aboriginal students. The participating teachers had high expectations of their students and the best of intentions for them. Neither teacher had received or attended any specific professional development in teaching Aboriginal children or teaching mathematics during their employment at this school, which appeared to account for their willingness and eagerness to take part in this study. The work carried out with each teacher is presented as two case studies reported in this thesis. The first case study presents the findings of the Year One teacher who carried out a unit of work that addressed teaching a range of measurement concepts. This teacher sought the assistance of the researcher to develop mathematics lessons that would enable her to help her students to develop and co-construct the Standard Australian English language that was specific to her mathematics lessons. She also wanted to include more manipulatives in her lessons to make the learning more meaningful and engage her students in their v mathematics lessons. Previously, this teacher had relied on a text book and work sheets as her main approach to teaching mathematics. The Year Three teacher sought the help of the researcher as she was concerned about her students having to complete the Year Three State-wide test. The students abilities to read and comprehend the nature of the questions were of concern to this teacher as her students did not speak Standard Australian English. This teacher was very worried about her Aboriginal students emotional state at having to complete the mandatory testing as she had witnessed the demoralising effect it had had on her students in previous years. The aim of the unit of work carried out in this class was to improve the Aboriginal students ability to read, comprehend and respond to mathematics word problems. Through working alongside the teachers in this study, teacher change occurred with respect to teaching practices in their mathematics classrooms. As a result of this study, a range of issues relating to teaching Aboriginal students mathematics included: addressing the specific educational needs of students who are frequently absent creating relevant resources that are appropriate to teaching particular mathematics concepts, as well as identifying the ways that teachers can assist students to co-construct new mathematical language. The findings of this research discuss a range of teaching practices that were effective when teaching Aboriginal students mathematics.
Keyword Teaching, mathematics, inclusive education, Aboriginal, state-wide testing, lesson structure, effective, mathematical literacy, manipulatives, reflective teacher practice, Standard Australian English, Literacy

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Created: Tue, 17 Jan 2012, 23:50:09 EST by Ms Rebecca Cronin on behalf of Library - Information Access Service