The second time I taught MEd 610, Fall 2004, the students were five European American men. For this class, a considerable amount of work was required by us all to bring to the surface the culturally informed assumptions students held about the nature of mathematics, its teaching, and its learning. I carefully organized readings and in-class discussions on social privilege in the United States, on power-culture ethnocentrism in schools and curriculum, and on the notion that mathematics was a value-laden human activity. Each of the men in the course reported that they had never examined themselves as cultural beings and a few were reluctant to acknowledge that they had any particular culture at all. Also, all reported that they had not ever considered their own privilege in American society. The focus of the work in this class was on learning to select research articles that would be accessible but that would also challenge some of the ``should"-based authoritarian assumptions some had about mathematics education. The students in this course had difficulty discerning the contents of views different from their own (most tended to communicate about learning theories as if there were two: their own and the theory of people who were wrong). I created several web-based exploration activities to help the students identify the characteristics of the five most influential learning theories from the past century. One of our greatest accomplishments as a class was that, by the end of the course, students were able to read a research paper and analyze the authors' use of a theoretical perspective.
In Fall 2005, I taught the course for the third time. My students were four European Americans: three women and one man. As in Fall 2004, we spent some time on discussing social privilege. Much more of our focus was on effective writing. I learned from the Fall 2004 experience that I would need to include class-time discussion of writing. This led to a shift in focus for the Fall 2005 course. In addition to reading at least one article or book chapter per week, the students in the course each developed and wrote their own research proposals for a pilot study in an area of interest. Several students were vocal in their concerns about the time and effort required by the course. I responded by combining some assignments. Nonetheless, their writing got better, much sooner than was the case in the previous two instantiations of the course.
More information on this course, including the syllabus and assignments, is available at online through my web page (see http://hopper.unco.edu/hauk - links for previous semesters are on the right, below the current semester's information).