Positionalities in Our Practices and Papers

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Kate Johnson recently published an article titled “Positionalities in Our Practices and Papers” in the Mathematics Teacher Educator. Kate has answered a few questions about this article below: 

Who were your co-authors on this article?

Leilani Fonbuena (recent BYU MS grad)

Who would you say is the target audience for this article?

Mathematics teacher educators–particularly, people who want to write articles in the journal, Mathematics Teacher Education

What is the big problem you hoped to address with this article?

This article is an editorial. It is meant to invite people to think about an idea that we think is important to reflect on as well as support people in how to write for the journal. Particularly, we argue that who we are as people influences how we teach prospective and practicing teachers and that who we are as people influences how we write about the research we do. Reflecting on and acknowledging how who you are as a person is influencing your work is called describing your positionality in research lingo.

What are some of the key ideas in the article?

The first part of the article describes why it might be important to reflect on who we are as people and provides two pairs of questions that are meant to support mathematics teacher educators in reflecting on their own identities. The article actually begins with me describing several of my own identities (e.g., former teacher of the Deaf identity, mathematics teacher educator identity, humanistic identity) and how each of these aspects of myself felt and responded to the moment I heard a teacher make a rude comment about special education students. Then, we describe two pairs of questions that other people can use as reflection questions to identify their own positionalities in their teaching practice (as mathematics teacher educators).

The second part of the article moves to supporting people to writing about their positionality. In this part of the article, we present two different versions of a positionality statement from a different paper that I wrote. Then, we compare and contrast these positionality statements to describe what features people can consider when they are writing their own positionality statements. We invite more people to write positionality statements.

What are some of the main ideas you hope your audience will take from this article?

We hope that readers will use the reflection questions to consider how their own identities are influencing their practices as mathematics teacher educators. Further, we hope that people will consider the advice in how to write positionality statements.

What else would you like to say about this article?

Positionality statements in mathematics education research are rare. We write about this directly in the article by saying: “Analyses (by both authors) of positionality statements in several mathematics education journals (including but not limited to MTE) suggest that written positionality statements are between rare and uncommon (e.g., 30 articles included discussion of author positionality in a set of over 400 published articles). Positionality statements might appear in the methods section or other places in an article and may or may not be set off by a separate heading. Positionality statements are more likely to occur in articles that focus on equity or critical theory because of the assumptions inherent in the framing theories (as is the case with all the articles published in this issue); however, we argue that people’s identities shape their practices in both their pedagogies and their research in all areas of study. Thus, we encourage the inclusion of positionality statements in all kinds of research, particularly in MTE.” We hope that the editorial we wrote will support people in writing these and also reflecting on their positionality in their practices as mathematics teacher educators.