In Scotland, recent policy acts, like the National Improvement Framework and Improvement Plan for Scottish Education (Scottish Government, 2018) and the Scottish Attainment Challenge (Education Scotland, 2018/2019), stress the importance of closing the poverty-related attainment gap between pupils who live in economic deprivation (marginalised group) and those from more affluent backgrounds (dominant group). Current actions related to this national attempt include the Pupil Equity Funding (an additional funding allocated directly to schools, aiming at closing the poverty-related attainment gap) and Getting It Right For Every Child (national approach to improving outcomes and supporting the wellbeing of children, young people, and their parents). From the perspective of scholarly research, there have been some attempts by individual researchers to address these issues in relation to school mathematics (i.e. Swanson, Yu, & Mouroutsou, 2017). Yet, much needs to be done
In acknowledgement of (a) the important role of teachers in bridging the attainment gap in mathematics, (b) the significance of understanding teachers’ perspectives and reported practices in relation to equity, inclusion, and social justice, in order to design and deliver appropriate professional development programmes and (c) the general decline of pupils’ attainment, motivation, and self-efficacy as they move from primary to secondary school mathematics, this project aims at providing answers to the following research questions:
- How do primary and secondary mathematics teachers in Scotland view their pupils from impoverished backgrounds as learners of mathematics?
- What are primary and secondary mathematics teachers’ perspectives on equity, inclusion, and social justice in general, and in relation to mathematics education in particular?
- What are primary and secondary mathematics teachers’ perspectives on effective practices for bridging the attainment gap in Scottish schools?
Drawing on the idea of a collective case study – a methodological approach that “involves more than one case, which may or may not be physically collocated with other cases” (Goddard, 2010, p. 164) – this project will examine two collective cases, a group of primary and a group of secondary mathematics teachers in Scotland. Participants in this study will be teachers working in the Central Belt of Scotland, as this area has the highest population density within the country, and, according to the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation, three of the most deprived datazones of the country: Glasgow City, Fife, and Edinburgh City. More specifically, 25 primary (P1-P7) and 25 secondary (S1-S3) mathematics teachers will participate. All participants will be invited to an individual semi-structured interview which will last from 30 to 40 minutes and will take the form of a discussion around the three research questions. Teachers will be encouraged to provide their own working definitions of the terms equity, inclusion, and social justice, discuss the extent to which they perceive these terms to be related to mathematics teaching/learning and the attempt to closing the attainment gap, and share stories from their professional life in which these terms are promoted (or not) in Scottish schools. All interviews will be audio-recorded and transcribed soon after they take place.
Data will be approached through thematic analysis, with the employment of the ideas of coding and categorisation (Kvale & Brinkmann, 2009). The two data sets (primary and secondary teachers’ interviews) will be analysed separately, in order to examine how similar or different perspectives are held by teachers at the two school levels. The purpose of the analysis process will be to reveal the breadth and depth of participants’ responses to the three main research questions (which will serve as the main themes). At the same time, it should be taken into account that, since the interviews are going to be semi-structured, new themes might emerge, which might not correspond to any of the research questions.