The meaning(s) of inclusion in mathematics in student talk : Inclusion as a topic when students talk about learning and teaching in mathematics

Sammanfattning: This thesis contributes to research and practice within the field of special education in mathematics with more knowledge about, and an understanding of, students´ meaning(s) of inclusion in mathematics education. Three research questions guide the study: What meaning(s) is/are ascribed, and how is inclusion used, in mathematics education research? What meaning(s) do the students ascribe to inclusion in mathematics learning and teaching? And what frames students´ meaning(s) of inclusion in mathematics learning and teaching?The first part of this study began with a systematic literature review on the notion of inclusion in mathematics education research, and the search resulted in 1,296 research studies. Of these, 76 studies were retained after the criteria for time span and peer-reviewed research were applied and 19 duplicates had been removed. The second part of the study involves a case study of three students and their meaning(s) of inclusion in mathematics education. The selected school was a lower secondary school in an urban area of Sweden. The school had set out to work inclusively, meaning their aims were to include all students in the ordinary classroom teaching in every subject and to incorporate special education into the ordinary teaching with no fixed special education groups. Three students were chosen for this part of the study: one in Grade 7 and two in Grade 8. Edward, one of the students in Grade 8, was chosen because he was thought to be a student in access to mathematics education. The other two students were chosen because they were thought to be struggling to gain access to mathematics education: Veronica in Grade 7 and Ronaldo in Grade 8 (the same class as Edward). In this study, the object of the study is the meaning(s) of inclusion in student talk. This study is an instrumental and collective case (Stake, 1995), as it involves several students’ meaning(s) aimed at developing a more general understanding of inclusion in mathematics education. The case is also an information-rich case (Patton, 2002), with contributions from students in mathematics education at an inclusive school. Applying Flyvbjerg’s (2006; 2011) notions, one can also call this kind of selection “information-oriented”, and the case is an extreme one – a choice made in order to get “a best case scenario”. An extreme case is a case used to “obtain information on unusual cases  which can be especially problematic or especially good in a more closely defined sense” (Flyvbjerg, 2011, p. 307). The data in this study consists of both observations and interviews conducted during the spring semester 2016. The observations took place in a Grade 7 and Grade 8 classroom at the same school where the interviewed students were enrolled. At least one mathematics lesson each month for each class was observed, and student interviews followed each observation. The observations were used to provide a context for the interviews and to support the analysis. In this study, discourse analysis (DA) as described by Gee (2014a; 2014b) was chosen as both the theoretical frame and as an analytical tool because of its explanatory view on discourse, with description foregrounded. With the help of DA, this study describes both the meaning(s) and the use of the notion of inclusion in mathematics education research. It also describes students’ meaning(s) of inclusion in mathematics education as well as framing issues in student talk of inclusion in mathematics education. From Gee´s point of view, DA encompasses all forms of interaction, both spoken and written, and he provides a toolkit for analysing such interaction by posing questions to the text. Gee distinguishes two theoretical notions, big and small discourses, henceforth referred to as Discourse (D) and discourse (d). Discourse represents a wider context, both social and political, and is constructed upon ways of saying, doing, and being: “If you put language, action, interaction, values, beliefs, symbols, objects, tools, and places together in such a way that other recognize you as a particular type of who (identity) engaged in a particular type of what (activity), here and now, then you have pulled of a Discourse” (Gee, 2014 a, p. 52, Gee’s italics). When looking at discourse (with a small d), it focuses on language in use – the “stretches of language” we can see in the conversations we investigate (Gee, 2014a, 2014b), meaning the relations between words and sentences and how these relations visualize the themes within the conversations. These small discourses can inform on how the language is used, what typical words and themes are visible, and how the speakers or writers design the language. According to Gee (2015), big Discourse sets a larger context for the analysis of small discourse. The results of the first part of the study answer to the research question, What meaning(s) is ascribed, and how is inclusion used in mathematics education research? They show that research on inclusion in mathematics education use the term inclusion when both referring to an ideology and a way of teaching, although these two uses are usually treated separately and independently of each other. The results of the second part of the study answer to the following research questions: What meaning(s) do the students ascribe to inclusion in mathematics learning and teaching? And what frames students´ meaning(s) of inclusion in mathematics learning and teaching? These questions show how meaning(s) of inclusion in student talk can be described by three overarching Discourses: the Discourse of mathematics classroom setting, of assessment, and of accessibility in mathematics education. Within these Discourses, smaller discourses make issues of meanings of inclusion for the students visible in terms of: testing, grades, tasks, the importance of the teacher, (not) being valued, the dislike of mathematics, the classroom organization, and being in a small group. This study shows the complexities and challenges of teaching mathematics, all while simultaneously handling students’ diversity and promoting the mathematical development of each student. To enhance students’ participation and access demands that the teacher knows her or his students, is flexible, has a pedagogical stance and tactfulness, and is knowledgeable in mathematics and mathematics education. It also demands that the teacher is able to take a critical stance and resist the prevailing discourse of assessment that can sometimes overshadow the mathematics education, and in a sense, almost become mathematics for the students. Furthermore, this study also shows how complex and challenging it is to be a mathematics student: they are required to relate to, understand, and participate in many Discourses existing at the same time in a single mathematics classroom. These Discourses interrelate and are embedded in power relations between students and teachers and institutions. This demands that the students are alert and able to use various symbols and objects as well as recognize patterns, and then act accordingly. Hence, to be able to fully participate, you have to be able to talk the talk and walk the walk (Gee, 2014a). This means that not only do you have to use the language correctly, but also you have to act properly at the right time and place.

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