A Tension Between Dialogic and Direct Instruction: One Community's Mathematics Teaching Culture

Open Access
Karunakaran, Monica Jeanette
Graduate Program:
Curriculum and Instruction
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
October 05, 2015
Committee Members:
  • Andrea Vujan Mccloskey, Dissertation Advisor
  • Edith Frances Arbaugh, Committee Member
  • Bernard Joel Badiali, Committee Member
  • Heather A Zimmerman, Committee Member
  • mathematics
  • teaching
  • practice
  • culture
This study uses ethnographic methodology to describe and interpret one community’s mathematics teaching practices. Sociocultural theory is used as a theoretical framing to justify the study of the community’s educational stakeholders’ beliefs, values, and opinions regarding the mathematics teaching practices observed in their local elementary school. The study was conducted in two phases within a single school district. The first phase was focused on identifying and characterizing prominent mathematics teaching practices used in three fourth and fifth grade classrooms. The second phase was focused on eliciting and describing how stakeholders in the community (parents, teacher colleagues, principals, and professional development leaders) make sense of the identified mathematics teaching practices from the first phase of the study. Two prominent teaching practices were identified across the three observed fourth and fifth grade teachers’ mathematics lessons. One was similar to a direct instruction model of teaching, and the other was similar to a dialogic instruction model of teaching. Both teaching practices were represented in storyboards and used to elicit the beliefs, values, and opinions of stakeholders regarding mathematics teaching and learning. Findings describe the two prominent mathematics teaching practices observed in the three teachers’ classrooms, and outline stakeholders’ beliefs, values, and opinions about mathematics teaching and learning. Discussion and implications explore how the findings illustrate the importance of examining values held by an educational community before attempting to improve aspects, such as teaching practices, within the community. Implications also explore the usefulness in using the concept of ritual as a tool for better understanding educational culture, rather than using educational rituals to rationalize unproductive teaching practices.