JTE Author Insights: Measuring Secondary Math and Science Residents

Read the latest 
JTE Insider blog interview by the Journal of Teacher Education (JTE) editorial team. This blog is available to the public, and AACTE members have free access to the articles in the JTE online archives—just log in with your AACTE profile.

This interview features insights from the article “Measuring Teaching Quality of Secondary Mathematics and Science Residents: A Classroom Observation Framework” by Imelda Nava, Jaime Park, Danny Dockterman, Jarod Kawasaki, Jon Schweig, Karen Hunter Quartz, and José Felipe Martínez. The article was published in the March/April 2019 issue of the Journal of Teacher Education.

Q1.  What motivated you to pursue this particular research topic?

A: The motivation for this area stems from better defining what it looks like to “teach for social justice” in our teacher education program. Our program focuses on preparing social justice educators to teach students who have been historically marginalized socially, economically, and politically, students whose assets are not often recognized, valued or seen. UCLA teacher education originated during the Los Angeles uprising of 1992 and seeing our city on fire.  We want to address the inequities and injustices that made that possible and that continue to persist. Specifically, we want to define and enact this stance in everyday pedagogical practice. We received a grant from the department of education that allowed us to dedicate time and resources to this endeavor.  Through an urban teacher residency grant, we developed UCLA- IMPACT (Inspiring Minds for a Professional Alliance of Community Teachers).  This residency program within our teacher education program allowed us to deepen our research into defining “teaching for social justice” as well as further developing the structures that might support that work. This work allowed concerted time, and sustained efforts that allowed us to partner with school leaders, the local school district and most importantly, the guiding teachers, or as we called them, partner teachers. We used the ICOR – IMPACT Classroom Observation Rubric as a formative and reflective tool to improve pedagogy as well as to shape many of the equity actions in the classroom.

The UCLA-IMPACT classroom observation rubrics in secondary math (ICOR- Math) and secondary science (ICOR- Science),  are used to 1) provide a shared vision of humanizing pedagogy that dually reflects sound pedagogical strategies, 2) foster the development of reflective practitioners and 3) inform program improvement anchored by social justice and humanizing pedagogy. ICOR-Math and ICOR-Science incorporates strongly recognized teaching and learning practices such as socio-cultural learning through active inquiry and discourse, ongoing assessment, support of language development, scaffolding for varied learning needs, and classroom norms to support learning.  ICOR-Math and ICOR-Science also embody culturally responsive practices and approaches that support a democratic classroom. The four core dimensions, Content Rigor, Content Discourse, Equitable Access to Content and Classroom Ecology incorporate the duality of fostering positive learning practices while reflecting the broader purpose of social justice and humanizing pedagogy.

Q2.  Were there any specific external events (political, social, economic) that influenced your decision to engage in this research study?

A: At the time, there was a concentration of research efforts based on multiple measures. As a part of the multiple measures, different classroom observation rubrics were developed. We saw that most were defining good teaching practice but did not fully align to our program. We felt it necessary to better articulate our vision for “teaching for social justice.”  However, our tool was not intended for evaluation purposes, but instead, for professional development and  growth.

Q3.  What were some difficulties you encountered with the research?

A: Some of the difficulties came in recruitment of random raters who had the expertise in secondary math and science. However, we were able to recruit from a wide base of recently retired teachers.  Developing a training protocol was also new, but necessary. Interacting with the raters and developing a protocol was also very gratifying and one that could be used and has been used in future training episodes.  The greatest challenge was getting funding. Once funding was secured, the research and learning could move forward.

Q4. Writing, by necessity, requires leaving certain things on the cutting room floor. What didn’t make it into the article that you want to talk about?

A: Yes, I hoped we would be able to speak more to the specific shifts over time in light of context and specificity. The quantitative aspect of the work is wonderful. However, I would have also appreciated including some of the narrative aspects.  That, of course, would not be a measurement paper, but might allow the work to come more alive for practitioners. We hope our work contributes to driving equitable pedagogical practices forward in a sustained and accessible manner.

Q5.  What current areas of research are you pursuing?

A: We are furthering the work on discourse and task (content rigor) as it pertains to developing humanizing pedagogy. Many of our marginalized youth are often not in STEM fields for various reasons. They often do not see themselves there, or do not identify more specifically with STEM fields. We do this through having our marginalized students develop a positive identity in STEM fields, one that is shaped by developing practices, knowledge and recognition in STEM fields. This also involves thinking about how STEM fields in the US exclude vs include marginalized communities. Thus, we are developing a framework and task-based work that allows for more specific examples of humanizing pedagogy in STEM fields.

Q6.  What new challenges do you see for the field of teacher education?

A: Some of the challenges I see, broadly speaking, are the de-professionalization of the teaching profession.   Teachers and school sites need more supports in the form of helping them develop, reflect and enact their work in meaningful ways.  This work takes mentoring, time for planning and reflection and a legitimization of sustained professional learning communities that value the work of teaching and learning.  This not only appears in supports for professional development, but also supports for k-12 public schooling all together that might allow for decrease in class size, wrap around services and support for school leaders and communities. The teaching profession should be a middle-class profession.  With the privatization efforts, and decrease union power, these benefits are being eroded.  Teachers need to be supported as professionals. They are our second parents.  They are where many students find support and they are on the ground navigating the pressures and stresses that often accompany students, while simultaneously, are unapologetically and deliberately responding and fostering joys.  This work is personal and emotional, and it can take the form of secondary stress. We need to take care of our educators because they take care of our youth.

Q7. What advice would you give to new scholars in teacher education?

A: Enjoy the complexity, the energy and the ever-evolving work of teacher education. It is a field where the political and economic situations all intersect with the personal. It is a field that the power to affect generations of students as well as advocate for systemic changes. Teacher education has the power and beauty of going between the relational and the systemic toward positive societal changes.

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