Students’ Identification with Discursive Obligations in a Calculus Workshop

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posted on 01.11.2017, 00:00 by Timothy Matthew Stoelinga
Research on equity in mathematics education has documented the benefits of group work and classroom discourse, both of which can support learning of mathematics content (e.g., Freeman, et al., 2014; Kilpatrick, Swafford, & Findell, 2001; Webb, et al., 2013) and the development of identities of participation among students in discourse-rich classroom environments (e.g., Boaler & Greeno, 2000; Cobb, Stephan, & Gravemeijer, 2001; Gresalfi, 2009; Hand & Gresalfi, 2015). Less is known, however, about how and why individual students vary in the ways they take up opportunities to participate in discourse within a given classroom ecology. These issues are particularly salient for students of color and female students whose marginalization from mathematics classroom discourse has been well documented in the literature (e.g., Chizhik, 2001; Cohen & Lotan, 2014; Spencer, Logel, & Davies, 2016; Steele, Spencer, & Aronson, 2002). In this phenomenological case study, I examine a diverse group of students’ descriptions and explanations of their participation in discourse in an Emerging Scholars Program (ESP) calculus workshop, an undergraduate-level, elective course where group work is emphasized in support of students’ success in the concurrent calculus course. A localized, explanatory theory is generated for the patterns and differences in discourse participation that emerge among students. Instances of discourse are analyzed from a sociocultural perspective in terms of students’ moment-to-moment identifications with discursive obligations, defined by the socially constructed norms of what it means to be a successful contributor to mathematical conversations in the workshop community. Identifications emerge through students’ fulfillment (or non-fulfillment) of these obligations occurring in modes of affiliation, compliance, avoidance, or resistance. Variations in identification are primarily explained in terms of the situational roles students describe themselves occupying relative to other participants. Furthermore, students often interpret these roles in connection to identity-related factors acting at sociocategorical, community, school, classroom, and intrapersonal levels (c.f., Martin, 2000, 2012). Implications for ESP workshop design and mathematics classroom discourse are discussed, with focus on supporting equitable mathematics discourse in workshop settings among students from marginalized groups.



Martin, Danny B.


Martin, Danny B.


Curriculum & Instruction

Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level


Committee Member

Larnell, Gregory V. Radinsky, Joshua Gresalfi, Melissa S. Taylor, Edd V.

Submitted date

August 2017

Issue date