Looking within : mathematics teacher identity using photo-elicitation/photovoice

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Chao, Theodore Peck-Li

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How do mathematics teachers present themselves? The construct of identity–the stories mathematics teachers tell about themselves and their practice–is an important and understudied construct in understanding mathematics teaching. This study investigates the use of photo-elicitation/photovoice interviews with six high school algebra teachers. Each teacher captured or chose photographs of their “world”, then presented them during a formal interview. The teachers framed their mathematics teacher identity through three connected story types: Public Stories, the stories a teacher presents about their practice within a professional register, Private Stories, the stories about personal connections to practice shared only in closed spaces, and Touchstone Stories, the important stories a teacher constantly references but rarely shares. I found these teachers’ stories contained little about mathematics content or actual classroom practice. Rather, they positioned the teachers as isolated in their profession; the themes were about pain, being “othered”, or feeling powerless. Framing the identities of these six mathematics teachers through visual stories presented them as real, struggling humans. I posit this process of eliciting mathematics teaching identity through visual narrative is important to the field of mathematics education for three reasons: framing their identities helps mathematics teachers understand the complex lives of their own students, these narratives showcase the uniqueness of each mathematics teacher as an individual, and this process of telling stories is an empowering form of reflection.



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