A feminist tale in three moments : perceptions and experiences of adolescent females in a feminist mathematics classroom
Anderson, Dawn Leigh
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Informed by feminist standpoint theory, this research study portrays the experiences of seven adolescent girls in a feminist mathematics classroom in an all-girls’ summer mathematics program. I examined adolescent girls' perceptions of themselves as learners of mathematics, their perceptions of mathematics, and their perceptions of their experiences in a feminist mathematics classroom. The literature on feminist pedagogy and how it can be applied to a mathematics education context provided the conceptual framework for the study. Using a case study design, I collected data over a five-week period using participant observation, focus group and individual interviews, documents, and an instrument. I analyzed data using a thematic analysis. The central themes that emerged from the data were power relations, agency, authorship, and collaboration. The interrelationships between these themes formed the basis for envisioning a feminist mathematics classroom as a site for empowerment. The participants gained agency and authorship in a feminist mathematics classroom. They perceived that they controlled their own learning and that their role was to author mathematical knowledge. As the participants gained agency and authorship, their confidence level improved and they became more independent and persistent as learners of mathematics. The participants encountered numerous frustrations and struggles and eventually valued the journey. The shift in power relations prompted the participants to rethink the role of a mathematics teacher, which was to guide learning and to foster exploration of ideas. Yet the participants never identified the teachers as teaching, because their view of teaching meant teacher-directed instruction. The participants saw the benefits and limitations of collaborations. Their epistemological stance on mathematics began to change as a result of their experiences in a feminist mathematics classroom. Data also show that the participants who entered with disparaging views of mathematics left with an optimistic perception of mathematics. Findings hold promise for understanding the complexities of teaching and learning in a feminist mathematics classroom. The participants’ voices shed light on the complex nature of agency, authorship, and collaboration. The findings describe a reconfiguration of power relations for students and teachers.