1 University of Warwick (UNITED KINGDOM)
2 University of Worcester (UNITED KINGDOM)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2018 Proceedings
Publication year: 2018
Pages: 8228-8237
ISBN: 978-84-09-05948-5
ISSN: 2340-1095
doi: 10.21125/iceri.2018.0049
Conference name: 11th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 12-14 November, 2018
Location: Seville, Spain
The construct ‘mathematical resilience’ (Johnston-Wilder & Lee 2008) was developed to describe a positive stance towards learning mathematics, that includes both persistence and perseverance, recruiting support when needed (Williams 2014). Mathematical resilience can be engineered within both formal and informal learning environments by strategic, explicit focus on the culture of learning mathematics. A focus on ‘mathematical resilience’ enables learners to manage and protect themselves from unhelpful emotions, such as mathematics anxiety, that may arise when mathematics becomes difficult, as well as to recruit appropriate support. Mathematical resilience is not just something that learners do or do not have, it can be grown.

In previous papers (e.g., Johnston-Wilder et al. 2017), we described working with Further Education (FE) teachers to engineer the growth of mathematical resilience in their practice. In this paper, we discuss the outcomes of a teacher work-group focussed on building mathematical resilience (January to July, 2018). Following previous work on growth mindsets with teachers local to Birmingham, UK, through their MathsHub, work done locally with FE teachers (Johnston-Wilder et al. 2015, 2016), and the work of Clare Lee (2013) with a southern UK MathsHub, teachers were recruited to join a local work group called ‘building mathematical resilience’. The work group was advertised as ‘suitable for primary, secondary and FE colleagues at all stages of their professional education’. 16 teacher volunteers were chosen to take part on a first-come-first-served basis.

The work-group focused on developing teachers’ awareness of affective barriers to learning mathematics, such as mathematics anxiety and avoidance, and how to develop more resilience in learners working on mathematics. Key concepts included: the hand model of the brain (Siegel 2010) to understand the impact of anxiety on thinking, the growth zone model (Lugalia et al. 2013) as a means to help learners understand and articulate their feelings when learning mathematics, and to promote mathematical safe-guarding, and some mindfulness techniques to trigger the relaxation response (Benson 2000) if a learner begins to experience anxiety. Teaching for resilience also involves teachers developing in learners: a growth mindset; willingness to struggle (persistence); knowledge of how to work at mathematics when stuck and how to recruit support (perseverance); understanding of the meaning, value, personal relevance and purpose of mathematics.

Based on Dylan Wiliam’s components for effective teacher learning communities, in which all teachers embrace the idea of continuous improvement, the local MathsHub adopts an approach in which teachers collaborate to change their practice with: Choice, Flexibility, Small steps, Accountability and Support. The work-group was organised as four face-to-face sessions combined with membership of an online community and pre-reading. The four sessions were: an introductory day of input, group learning and action planning; two twilight sessions of feedback, new learning, and personal action planning; a feedback day, sharing evidence of impact, evaluation and reviewing, and of beginning preparation for a joint publication to share the work with other teachers. This structure enabled the session leader to optimise teacher self-efficacy by sharing mastery, vicarious experiences, verbal persuasion, encouragement and positive affect. In the paper, we discuss the outcomes.
Mathematics anxiety, learned helplessness, mathematical resilience, teacher learning communities, action research.