In the project, we investigated the two compulsory mathematics courses that all preservice teachers for 1st to 7th Grade must take and examined their learning about teaching Argumentation and Critical Mathematics Education (ACME) in multilingual classrooms using digital tools and mathematical modelling. The aim of the research has been to gain insights into what supports or hinders preservice teacher in learning to teach ACME to school students in multilingual classrooms.
Some changes were made to the project. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, we extended the project to the end of December 2022. As well, with the introduction of computational thinking in mathematics teaching with the Norwegian school curriculum in 2020, the ICT focus was narrowed to investigating how the teacher educators and preservice teachers made sense of computational thinking and programming.
Our results included several tensions in supporting preservice teachers to learn about teaching ACME in multilingual classrooms. Across the five years of the project, the tensions sometimes seemed to be connected to supporting and sometimes to hindering preservice teachers’ learning.
One tension was to do with teacher educators’ and/or preservice teachers’ uncomfortableness with being uncertain about different aspects of mathematics education connected to the research project. For example, if teacher educators did not have sufficient time to familiarise themselves with new content to teach to their preservice teachers, such as how programming can be connected to mathematics learning, then they often focussed on aspects that they were familiar with, such as problem solving. This could result in hindering possibilities for preservice teachers’ learning. When preservice teachers showed uncomfortableness with teaching something new, such as modelling, then teacher educators tried to ease that uncomfortableness by providing structure or guidance, such as using the approach “modelling in three acts”. However, teacher educators might remain uncertain about such guidance because it could result in preservice teachers not gaining insights into important aspects of the modelling cycle, which could reduce possibilities for future school students to learn about modelling. This could be seen when preservice teachers took over control of the mathematising of situations to ensure that school students did not introduce mathematical ideas that the preservice teachers did not feel certain about.
A second related tension was to do with deciding what amount of content about each of the different foci on the project—argumentation, critical mathematics education, modelling, ICT and multilingual classrooms—needed to be incorporated in the two compulsory mathematics education courses. When preservice teachers felt that there was too much to learn, then they resisted topics or aspects of topics, or teacher educators resisted their inclusion in the teacher education. As a result, some decisions were made to narrow the focus in the teacher education. For example, in regard to multilingual classrooms, a decision was made to focus on disrupting deficit perceptions of multilingual students and show how multiple languages could be of value in the classroom. This meant that specific aspects of teaching students how to gain the language of instruction, Norwegian, was deliberately left out, even though it was clear that preservice teachers also needed such input. However, even with the decision to focus on the positive contributions that multiple languages could make to mathematics learning, it was difficult for teacher educators to determine how this should be done. For example, in regard to mathematical argumentation, it became clear that many preservice teachers viewed children’s written argumentation positively. However, these positive attitudes restricted the possibilities for discussing what were quality mathematical argumentation for young students in the early stages of learning to express their reasoning in writing. This means that it was difficult to challenge some of the existing views connected to expectations about how common cultural artefacts, such as diagrams found in textbooks, carried shared meanings. A tension, therefore, arose about whether and how to bring up more complex understandings about the role of common cultural artefacts in multilingual classrooms where some students may not have access to the meanings they carried. The complexity of raising such issues often meant that they were not raised, potentially leading to a loss of learning possibilities for the preservice teachers.
A third tension was about how teacher educators could meet both short-term and long-term professional needs of preservice teachers. This tension often involved considerations about how to combine the different themes of the project. For example, in an action research project that was part of LATACME, a teacher educator noted struggles with responding to preservice teachers’ immediate needs to prepare a modelling task for their practicum and her long-term aims for the semester of introducing preservice teachers to language responsive mathematics teaching. Knowing about language responsive mathematics teaching could contribute to overcoming deficit perspectives about multilingual students and was seen as a long-term need for the preservice teachers that went beyond what might be needed on practicum. This tension tended to result in the teacher educator focusing on the short term needs for practicum.
A final tension was about ownership of ideas or teaching practices, that is how to introduce new ideas and ensure that the group, who are to take on those ideas, also gain ownership of them. When teacher educators or preservice teachers were confronted with new knowledge that they did not feel ownership of, then there was often resistance. Such situations could arise when new government policies required changes in teacher education practices or from teacher educators needing preservice teachers to adopt new ideas. The compulsory practicum assignments were designed so that preservice teachers incorporated digital tools and modelling into their teaching. However, the requirements for the assignments provided possibilities for the preservice teachers to adapt them to their own interests or the interests of the school students. Nevertheless, providing such flexibility also enabled the preservice teachers to use digital tools that did not engage students in programming or computational thinking. Similarly, in requiring preservice teachers to incorporate modelling into practicum teaching, the preservice teachers had a lot of interpretative space. Although there were suggestions in the teacher education about how to connect modelling to critical mathematics education topics, the freedom to make decisions about their own teaching meant that many groups of preservice teachers did not address such contexts.
These tensions were interlinked and show the complexity of trying to determine what supports or hinders preservice teachers to learn about teaching argumentation for critical mathematics education in multilingual classrooms. Identifying and dealing with these tensions sometimes resulted in teacher educators finding ways to support preservice teachers’ learning. At other times, the attempts to resolve the tensions, or the inability to identify a resolution, resulted in the preservice teachers’ learning being hindered.