Teachers' beliefs regarding effective teaching strategies for American Indian students in mathematics
Vallines Mira, Raquel
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Extensive research has been conducted on teaching strategies that are effective for American Indians in mathematics. Despite the variety of cultural, linguistic, socioeconomic, and geographic factors influencing student learning within and among American Indian communities, common characteristics of learning styles and effective teaching practices have been identified. Though the wording in each definition varies, research based on a variety of theoretical frameworks and using a variety of methodologies and instruments suggests that among American Indian students, there is a tendency to learn better when the following three strategies are used: contextualization, modeling and demonstration, and joint productive activity. Despite the general agreement in education research that the beliefs that teachers hold about mathematics teaching and learning greatly impact their instructional decisions in the classroom, few, if any, of those studies have examined teachers' beliefs regarding effective strategies for American Indians in mathematics. The main purpose of this study was to add the voices of four teachers to the research community conversation about effective teaching strategies for American Indians in mathematics. Two elementary and two high school teachers from two schools in Montana were selected for this study for their experience with and commitment to the mathematics education of American Indian students. Two are American Indians and two are White. Using a combination of classroom observations and a modification of videoclip interviews, the beliefs of the four teachers were identified with particular focus on the three teaching strategies mentioned above. The study shows that teachers' definitions of research-based strategies often differ from those intended by the research. Teachers' views about these strategies seemed to be idiosyncratic to individual teachers and appeared to be shaped by multiple lenses. In this study, some of those lenses emerged including, among others, school structures and teachers' cultural backgrounds. In light of the results of the study, future efforts for constructive bi-directional communication between the research community and practitioners are recommended.