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The Rights of the Learner [Democracy in Education]

Abstract
An elementary mathematics teacher once argued that she and her students held four Rights of the Learner in the classroom: (1) the right to be confused; (2) the right to claim a mistake; (3) the right to speak, listen and be heard; and (4) the right to write, do, and represent only what makes sense. Written as an emerging framework to promote equity in the mathematics classroom through divergent formative assessment, the RotL assumes that students can take more explicit ownership of their learning, both in writing and in oral communication. Foregrounded in the literature, this paper discusses how the RotL can help children and teachers to embrace productive struggle and mistakes as valuable steps in the process of learning mathematics (and learning to teach mathematics). The paper also frames the RotL with divergent formative assessment as a tangible means of honoring students’ mathematical resources (e.g., native language, out-of-school knowledge and experiences) to help all students learn mathematics. The paper also presents the experiences of a mathematics teacher educator as she learned about and incorporated the RotL with her prospective elementary mathematics teachers in a university methods course. Implications for mathematics education and teacher education are discussed.

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