Teachers' beliefs about successful teaching and learning in mathematics.

Year: 1999

Author: Archer, Jennifer

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Teachers' practices are strongly influenced by teachers' own experiences as students and their beliefs about what constitutes good teaching and learning. For example, a teacher who believes that only students with "natural" ability will succeed in advanced mathematics classes, compared with a teacher who believes that with effective teaching and diligence on the part of the student non-talented students can succeed in advanced mathematics, would behave in the classroom in line with her beliefs. Teachers' beliefs about students' culture, sex, and socio-economic status would also affect their classroom behaviour. Changing behaviour, then, should stem from changing beliefs.

The present study focuses on mathematics teaching. The teaching of mathematics has been subject to considerable criticism in recent years: classes are divorced from students' everyday experiences; students are expected to work independently rather work together to solve problems; students learn algorithms without understanding the underlying mathematical principles. The data for the study are transcriptions of hour-long interviews with a group of primary teachers and with a group of high school mathematics teachers. In the interviews, teachers were asked to describe their teaching techniques, to explain why they chose these techniques, and to explain why they thought these techniques helped their students to learn. Interesting differences emerged between the responses of the primary and secondary teachers. In both cases, however, what emerged strongly was teachers' beliefs about the emotional and social aspects of teaching mathematics.