Creating an equitable classroom environment: A case study of a preservice elementary teacher learning what it means to "do Inquiry”

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It is widely accepted, as attested by the National Science Standards, that inquiry pedagogical methods are most effective in teaching science, particularly with minority student populations. We define inquiry pedagogical methods as spaces where learners grapple with uncovering science and mathematics phenomena and make sense of them through observation, research, questioning, and discourse between and among peers and experts. Yet, the challenge for most, if not all, teacher educators is instilling in preservice teachers a conceptual understanding of what it means to do inquiry. This paper presents a case study of a preservice elementary teacher who, over the course of two semesters, was able to transform her understanding of what it means to teach and learn, especially with special needs and English Language Learners, through purposeful integration of a Vygotskian process of mediating understanding from cultural tools and artifacts. These tools were commercially produced inquiry materials and a team-based lesson study process that together generated children’s scientific discourse and other cultural artifacts to mediate learning inquiry methods.

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