Rethinking teacher education

Rethinking Teacher Education: Fostering Inclusive Practices for Visually-impaired Students in Mathematics Classes

Sani de Carvalho Rutz da Silva – Universidade Tecnológica Federal do Paraná 
Marcio Pascoal Cassandre – Universidade Estadual de Maringá
Lucia Virginia Mamcasz Viginheski – Faculdade Guairacá/SEED  
Elsa Midori Shimazaki – Universidade Estadual de Maringá

The inclusion of students with disabilities in mainstream education is a right supported by Brazilian law. Although the law ensures that students with disabilities be physically included in public schools, they are not always included in learning. This is often the case for visually-impaired students—although they can hear teachers’ explanations, they don’t always have access to learning, since they cannot see the figures and formulas used to codify abstract mathematical concepts. Among all of the content areas, due to its level of abstractness, mathematics is one of the biggest challenges to teaching visually-impaired students. There is a dearth of materials and tools that can support visually-impaired students’ understanding of numbers, operations and processes in a concrete way. Thus, mathematics learning for visually-impaired students is often defined as memorization devoid from conceptual understanding. This research study seeks to understand what happens when ways of teaching mathematics (e.g., materials, teaching practices) that support the development and learning of visually-impaired students are designed, developed, and implemented collaboratively between teachers and researchers. It asks: 

  • How can collaborative Professional Development Workshops (PDW) inform mathematics and special education teachers’ teaching practices?
  • In what ways do teachers’ evolving practices and their use of materials inform the learning of visually-impaired students in one public school district? 

Informed by Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT), this qualitative study seeks to answer these research questions through an interventionist methodology comprised of five PDWs to take place in the Southeastern section of the state of Paraná in which 23 schools are offering mathematics for visually-impaired students.  In these PDWs, a sample of those 48 teachers who are teaching math classes for 50 visually-impaired students in a specific school district can collaboratively engage as learners. These PDWs will be informed by questions based on the Cycle of Expansive Learning such as: What are the learning needs of visually-impaired students? What is already known about the learning needs of visually-impaired students? How do existing teaching practices support the learning needs of visually-impaired students? What are the materials the teachers employ in teaching to visually-impaired students? What can be changed (e.g., tools, pedagogical practices) in order for the learning of visually-impaired students to be further developed? There will be two follow-up sessions to explore the design, development, and use of tools and materials that support the learning needs of visually-impaired students. Data will be collected via field notes, observations of interactions, audio recordings, and reports after two moments visiting one high test score school and one low test score school in mathematics for visually-impaired students. Recordings will be transcribed and the analysis will be organized through five steps: a) reading transcripts; b) reduction of textual data through segmentation and categorization processes; c) arrangement and ordering of data; d) identifying findings, built throughout the analysis process; e) confirmation of findings. The fundamental impact of this project is the promotion of conditions for mathematics teaching to become truly inclusive through the kind of collaborative teacher education that promotes reflection on teaching practices.

Video: ENG Sani and Marcio

Video: Port Marcio e Sani

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