Original Research

Early career teacher’s approach to fraction equivalence in Grade 4: A dialogic teaching perspective

Benjamin Shongwe
Pythagoras | Vol 42, No 1 | a623 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/pythagoras.v42i1.623 | © 2021 Benjamin Shongwe | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 14 April 2021 | Published: 15 November 2021

About the author(s)

Benjamin Shongwe, Department of Mathematics Education, Faculty of Education, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa


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Abstract

The research presented in this article reports on the results of a case study examining the classroom practice of one early career Grade 4 teacher (Nox, pseudonym) as she teaches equivalent fractions. The goal was to explore the ways and extent to which her instruction reflected a dialogical teaching approach, defined as a pedagogical approach underpinned by five specific principles that can be enacted through a range of possible talk strategies to achieve sustained participation of learners and thus enhance meaningful learning. I provide a pedagogical activity to illustrate to teachers how, by instigating and developing classroom talk in the primary classes, a dialogic teaching sequence may be implemented. However, the majority of the existing literature on dialogic teaching stems from studies conducted in Asian, European, and North American countries, whereas systematic research on dialogic teaching across international contexts remains limited. Nox was interviewed after obtaining observational data to seek clarity on some of the observed instructional practices. Analysis of transcripts using the notion of dialogic teaching as a theoretical lens revealed that there was little evidence of Nox’s attempts to use talk to make learning of equivalent fractions a cumulative process. In addition, time constraint was the most significant factor in Nox’s teaching of equivalent fractions: she considered the curriculum too congested. Implications are drawn for evaluating dialogic teaching in primary mathematics classrooms. Future, larger studies may shed light on the extent of these results and, if need be, a significant investment on initial teacher training may be necessary to underscore the value of dialogic teaching in enhancing meaningful learning of, at least, equivalent fractions.

Keywords

early career teacher; dialogic teaching; meaningful learning; equivalent fractions; Grade 4; generalisation; pedagogical tool; learners’ ideas

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