Transforming values – Understanding how teachers’ values change through inquiry practice

Year: 2019

Author: Williamson-Kefu, Majon, Brown, Alinta, Makar, Katie, Fielding-Wells, Jill

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Teaching is not neutral – it is a value-laden process that is often influenced by the values of the classroom teacher. Understanding the role of values in the classroom and how they contribute to building positive classroom culture and productive classroom norms therefore is essential to understanding how teaching happens. Importantly values are not static, they shift and transform with the experiences of the teacher.

This paper will draw from a broader longitudinal study into inquiry-based learning in mathematics in the Queensland primary education context, and use data gathered in the current ARC Discovery project,Developing classroom norms of inquiry based learning in mathematics. Specifically, this paper will present a qualitative analysis of a reflective focus group discussion of a group of eight teachers who were new to inquiry-based learning (i.e. teachers who have only conducted one or two inquiries), together with two expert teachers who have been involved in this project for over a decade and the research team. This analysis will examine how a shift in values has occurred for the teachers involved in the study.

Initial findings indicate that practising inquiry-based learning in mathematics can transform teachers’ axiological perspectives. The shift has resulted in a greater valuing of mistakes as a pathway to learning, explanations and justifications as a means to understanding the students’ thinking, and creativity and non-conformity for the potential learning that can come out of thinking differently. This is important because of the impacts that values have on teaching and learning in the classroom, as well as in terms of classroom norms, and the potential for culture change in the school more broadly.