Indicator P.4.3. Provide Teaching Experiences With Diverse Learners
An effective mathematics teacher preparation program provides clinical experiences that prepare candidates to teach mathematics to a range of students, in a variety of contexts, and across the grades and content ranges for which they will be certified.
Teachers of mathematics must be prepared to address the academic, socio-emotional, and cultural needs of the diverse students they serve. Field experiences in diverse settings can change teacher candidates’ perspectives on cultural diversity and increase teachers' self-efficacy and retention (Castro, 2010; Conaway, Browning, & Purdum-Cassidy, 2007). An effective program ensures that emerging teachers of mathematics have opportunities to work with diverse students. Effective programs also ensure that emerging teachers have significant experiences at the grades and courses for which the candidate is being certified. For example, a program that certifies teachers for Grades 7–12 requires that candidates have significant opportunities to teach diverse learners at both the middle and high school levels.
Placing teacher candidates in a diverse setting is not enough to counteract stereotypical thinking, especially if the experiences do not include opportunities for critical reflection (Bell, Horn, & Roxas, 2007; Garmon, 2004). Effective mathematics teacher preparation programs, therefore, must provide opportunities for candidates to work with a range of students in settings where the mentors and supervisors are able to model and discuss inclusive and culturally responsive mathematics instruction, making visible pragmatic strategies for maintaining high expectations for every student. Some programs are located in less diverse geographical locations, but it is critically important for mathematics teacher candidates in these programs to have opportunities to engage in experiences with diverse learners through other authentic clinical experiences. For example, content-focused pen-pal exchanges and the use of video or live-stream from classrooms provide opportunities for such candidates to explore issues of implicit bias and develop complex understandings of working in culturally and economically diverse settings.
Schools vary greatly in their characteristics, such as the extent to which the mathematics content is integrated, the amount of leveling of students into courses, the philosophy on how mathematics is learned, and the instructional materials (e.g. textbooks, online-curriculum opportunities) that are used. Despite research that tracking or ability grouping can inhibit learning and cause inequities within the system, NAEP data indicate that an increasing number of schools are using these practices (Loveless, 2013). Effective programs, therefore, ensure that candidates have opportunities to teach student groups or classes that are considered below grade-level, at grade-level, and above grade-level, with a focus on the way in which these school structures affect, and perhaps limit, students’ opportunities to learn. In an effective program for teachers of mathematics, the fact that students in any track or course deserve high-quality mathematics teaching, through which they are challenged to solve meaningful problems and develop mathematical practices, is emphasized.