Teacher Candidates’ Perceived Preparedness of Employing Culturally Responsive Teaching in the Mathematics and Science Classroom: A Mixed Methods Study

Abstract

Background: The student population in the 21st-century classroom is becoming progressively culturally and linguistically diverse with each passing year. Consequently, the disparities in science and mathematics achievement among the historically underrepresented and historically overrepresented school population continue to widen in classrooms across the United States. To respond to the massive demographic shift and the academic gap in the PreK–12 classroom, teacher candidates are encouraged to incorporate culturally responsive instructional strategies. Since studies indicate that teacher candidates are more inclined to utilize culturally responsive practices in the classroom if they perceive they will be successful, the necessity to conduct research that gauges the perception of preparedness of mathematics and science teacher candidates’ implementation of culturally responsive teaching (CRT) is crucial towards the academic performance of diverse learners but is lacking. Purpose: The purpose of this research study was to describe mathematics and science teacher candidates’ perceived level of preparedness for enacting culturally responsive teaching practices in their future classrooms. The research questions that informed this study were: (1) To what extent do mathematics and science teacher candidates perceive their teacher education program has prepared them to implement CRT practices in the classroom? (2) How do mathematics and science teacher candidates’ perceived level of implementing CRT practices in the classroom differ across different stages of a select educator preparation program? (3) How does a select educator preparation program in the southeast region of Texas prepare mathematics and science teacher candidates to employ CRT practices? Methods: The mixed methods study surveyed 94 reported teacher candidates pursuing a (4-8) mathematics or (4-8) science teacher certification. The study occurred at a Tier One university located in southeastern Texas and used a CRT preparedness scale of 18 Likert-scale items to gauge perceived levels of teacher candidates’ preparedness of enacting CRT practices. The scale was administered in the Fall of 2020. The quantitative data were examined using SPSS 28 via descriptive statistics and a one-way ANOVA. The qualitative phase of the study involved three Fall of 2020 instructors of mathematics and science teacher candidates. The three instructors participated in individual semi-structured interviews performed by the researcher to obtain insight on how they prepare mathematics and science teacher candidates to teach culturally responsively. The interviews were transcribed and analyzed through a priori codes via directed qualitative content analysis and thematic analysis to categorize the codes and develop the themes and sub-themes. Results: Thirty-eight mathematics and science teacher candidates submitted the scale that achieved a 0.97 Cronbach alpha indicating an excellent reliability score. The overall descriptive research results revealed that mathematics and science teacher candidates perceived that they were moderately prepared to implement CRT practices in the classroom. The results from the one-way repeated measures ANOVA indicated the mean perceived preparedness level of employing CRT was significantly different between the CRT components, (F(1.61, 59.60) = 23.69, p < .05). Statistical differences were not observed among the four stages of the teacher preparation program, (F(3, 34) = 1.073, p = .373 > .05). Three central themes attributed to CRT preparedness emerged from the professor interviews: (a) lessons recognizing diverse learners; (b) building rapport and fostering involvement; and (c) cultivating belonging with diverse learners. Professors acknowledged that they do not prepare students to design assessments involving CRT practices. However, they strongly emphasize the importance of cultivating relationships with students via an array of activities and discussions. These findings are reflected in the results from the survey. Conclusion: Teacher candidates self-reported that they were prepared to employ CRT practices focused on developing positive teacher-student relationships and fostering learning communities emphasizing student ownership. University professors of a select educator preparation program advocate for the necessity to interweave teaching practices that are culturally responsive within all the stages of the preparation programs to witness increased perception levels of CRT enactment among mathematics and science teacher candidates.

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Keywords

culturally responsive teaching, teacher preparation, mathematics teacher candidates, science teacher candidates

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