Helping teachers to assess students' readiness to learn mathematics

Year: 2006

Author: Sullivan, Peter, McDonough, Andrea

Type of paper: Refereed paper

To explore barriers to student participation in learning, we developed a survey tool to give teachers insights into aspects of their students' orientation to, and readiness for, learning mathematics. The focus was on how the students saw themselves as learners, how they perceived their own and others' effort, some influences on their effort, and their future aspirations. The tool was informed by previous research that included individual interviews, was validated via interviews with some respondents, and there were feedback sessions with classes. In this paper we discuss responses from Year 8 students at three schools and, in light of these responses, make comment on the potential value of the tool. We found that the students seemed to be more confident in their ability to learn mathematics than observations of their classes would indicate is warranted, they identified a negative influence of peers for some classmates but less for themselves, and they had modest career aspirations. We believe that teachers can assist by becoming aware of the students' orientations to learning and finding ways to overcome inhibiting factors. Teachers should also be aware of students' perceptions of the value of schooling, and their further vocational aspirations.