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This research snapshot provides an overview of a project led by Jamaal Matthews and DeLeon Gray, funded through the SERN K-12 Teachers and Classrooms Research Portfolio. The researchers describe the development and validation of their Belonging-Centered Instruction Observation Protocol, which evaluates the multiple ways mathematics teachers can provide opportunities for active inclusion, learning equity, and empowerment through their instruction and in the social climate they create in their classrooms. They discuss the connections between the protocol and student engagement, mathematical agency, and achievement, as well as how teachers enact the various dimensions of the protocol within lessons.

With the aim of bridging research in educational psychology and teacher education, we designed a research-practice partnership to unpack the concept of relevance from a race-reimaged perspective. Specifically, we employed a mixed-methods sequential explanatory research design to examine associations between the communal learning opportunities afforded to Black and Latinx students, and their engagement patterns during STEM activities. Within a nine-week instructional unit we provided students six opportunities to rate their scholastic activities. High levels of behavioral engagement were sustained over the course of the instructional unit. On weeks when students rated the activities as higher in communal affordances, they also reported more behavioral engagement. Classroom observations facilitated our efforts to create state space grids that show when and how teachers used emancipatory pedagogies to support students’ learning. We used these state space grids, along with teacher interviews and student focus groups, to develop contextualized illustrations of two teachers of color as they successfully provided communal forms of motivational support over the span of six observations per teacher. These strategies differed based on three key factors: where the lesson was placed within the larger instructional unit, the way teachers interpreted and responded to their students’ engagement patterns, and how the demands of the larger school environment impacted classroom dynamics.

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