Robyn Zevenbergen is a senior lecturer in education at Griffith
University, at the Gold Coast Campus. She completed her doctoral
studies at Deakin University in the construction of social differences
in mathematics at the primary school level. Her work is concentrated
in the area of mathematics education and equity, although other areas such
as workplace mathematics, situated learning, early intervention and classroom
practice have been incorporated into her work. The research is most
frequently in the areas of gender and social class within a critical framework
and seeks to challenge and extend dominant models based on psychological
approaches to understanding inequity and disadvantage.
Robyn's own description of her interests:
My work and my passion is in the area of equity and mathematics.
I am driven by the need for mathematics to be more accessible for more
students. We are well aware of the impact of mathematics by the time
our students get to the senior years of schooling - middle-class boys and
girls are roughly succeeding at about the same rate, working-class boys
do a bit better than the working-class girls who do the least well of Western
students. The trends are reversed with our indigenous students who
perform and participate very poorly with indigenous girls performing and
participating slightly better than indigenous boys. The interaction
of variables of gender, race and class make the analysis very complex.
My current work is centred on the early end of the spectrum - primary
school as I believe that the patterns that we see at the end of secondary
and the start of tertiary are then end-products of the early experiences
of schooling. At this end of schooling, students are exposed to practices
and discourses about what it is to be a student in mathematics. Many
of these practices are social and/or linguistic so students are being exposed
to very subtle messages about mathematics and what it is to be a student
of mathematics. For some students these messages are internalised
and they conform to the dominant myths about the student of mathematics.
The emphasis of my work is to understand the social aspects of teaching
and learning mathematics. In part, this is driven by my belief that
many of the models which attempt to explain the lack of
success of disadvantaged students is based on a deficit model - either
innately or socially. Such approaches blame the victims for their
failure in mathematics which helps to keep the social structures stable.
Such an approach leaves little scope for improving the learning outcomes
(and access to mathematics) for these students. However, the work
that I am interested in focuses on the social context of learning.
With this focus, we are better able to understand how the practices of
mathematics and mathematics teaching work to exclude some students
and hence are better able to implement changes which make mathematics more
accessible to more students.
The focus of my research over the next few years will be investigating
aspects of language and how this works against access to mathematics.
Language, in this context, will include the linguistic components of mathematics,
but also the social components, including classroom dynamics. Initial
work in this area, indicates the students must be able to access to codes
to the unspoken rules of classroom discourse in order to participate effectively
and to gain access to the mathematics
embedded in those interactions.
Faculty of Education, Griffith University
PMB 50 Gold Coast Mail Centre , Bundall, QLD, 9726, Australia
Ph: +61 7 5594 8632 Fax: +61 7 5594 8599