Teaching and learning mathematical discourse in a Romanian classroom: A Critical Discourse Analysis

Codruta Temple, Syracuse University

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to explore the implementation of a competence-based model of mathematics instruction in one 10 th -grade Romanian classroom. Using Critical Discourse Analysis, the study investigated the translation of a reformist educational policy into curricular materials and, eventually, into classroom instruction.

The investigation focused primarily on the teacher's instructional moves in supporting her students' learning of mathematical discourse. Nevertheless, starting from the premise that classroom discourse is influenced by institutional and societal discourses, it also highlighted the ways in which the teacher's instructional decisions were shaped by ideologies underlying official documents produced in the larger contexts that surrounded the classroom. By foregrounding the ideological work done by policy and curricular texts, the study aimed to shed light on an important yet little understood question: how can teachers resist internalizing ideologies that support the status quo, and actualize the emancipatory potential of reformist movements? The two research questions that guided the exploration of this question were: (1) How does one teacher interpret the ideological messages inculcated in educational policy and curricular texts? (2) How does she enact her interpretation in mediating students' acquisition of mathematical discourse?

Drawing upon multiple theoretical frameworks (social semiotics, Critical Discourse Analysis, pedagogic discourse theory, situated learning) and using the analytical tools provided by Critical Discourse Analysis (Chouliaraki and Fairclough, 1999; Fairclough, 1995, 2000), the study explored the sociopolitical situatedness of one mathematics teacher's classroom instruction.

The analysis revealed that a reformist, competence-based approach to teaching mathematics can be implemented in the classroom when instruction makes the rules of the discourse visible and accessible. It also revealed that the teacher's successful implementation of such an approach was due to her ability to resist ideologies underlying official definitions of mathematical competence and to enact her own definition of the term. In the existing literature, examples of secondary instruction that supports students' acquisition of mathematical discourse are scarce, and so are examples of teacher resistance to sociopolitical pressures. By providing both, this study aimed to contribute to a better understanding of how teachers can orchestrate instruction that promotes the agenda of educational reform movements.