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ABS170 - Supporting economically-disadvantaged students’ academic aspiration for challenging mathematics in Australian schools: An observation study using lesson episodic analysis

2.1 Learning and development in onsite communities and online spaces
4:10 PM, Wednesday 30 Aug 2017 (20 minutes)
Few Australian students from low-income families, including those who are high achieving, have shown sustained aspiration in learning advanced Mathematics. This calls for research attention on effective ways to support disadvantaged students’ academic aspiration. Based on Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT), this study examined the extent to which mathematics lessons support students’ academic aspiration in advanced mathematics, which is understood as an outcome that a classroom activity system aiming to promote through its object-oriented activities. Four teachers and their Year 10 classes from schools located in high poverty suburbs in Australia participated in this observation study. In total, 11 lesson observations were conducted (over 770 minutes). Informed by CHAT, the analyses divided each lesson into a series of identifiable lesson episodes which were characterised by distinct goals, rules, roles, and relevant actions and interactions consistent with the goals. Based on lesson-episodic analyses, it was found that disadvantaged students learned mathematics mainly through two connected episodes where the teacher demonstrated problem-solving strategies for a mathematical problem, and following which, students spent time on rehearsing these strategies using teacher-assigned tasks. While these episodes were rather effective in developing students’ confidence in using problem-solving strategies, they were habitual, uninteresting and lackadaisical. The extent to which these episodes could promote students’ aspiration in selecting advanced mathematics for their senior studies is questionable. Developing a lesson episode that promotes students’ abilities and interest in taking on challenging mathematical tasks will have the potential to steer a classroom activity system to support students’ academic aspiration.
Learning Sciences Institute Australia, Australian Catholic University
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