Exploring secondary mathematics teachers' beliefs through critical practice
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AbstractResearch indicates that reform efforts in mathematics education have had little impact in the classroom. The purpose of this study was to develop a critical process that would be effective for secondary mathematics teachers' professional learning. This critical action research study was designed to assess a process that included three phases of empowerment. The rationale for this study emanates from the failure of technocratic approaches to teacher learning, from the lack of consistency between what teachers believe and what they practice, and from the paucity of studies that challenge teachers' pedagogic discourses through a critical approach to research and practice. It was the researcher's assumption that a research approach that valued practitioners' knowledge and increased their ability to know who they are as professionals would be of value to them. The sample was composed of seven secondary mathematics teachers that formed a mathematics department in a small school. The primary data collection methods were transcripts from focus groups and journals. Supportive methods included survey data, the researcher's journal, and e-mail conversations. The data were coded and organized according to the research questions. Analysis and interpretation of findings were structured in five categories that addressed the research questions: (a) the benefits of examining beliefs about teaching, learning, and mathematics, (b) the benefits of examining barriers, power relations, and institutional assumptions implicit to teachers' practice, (c) the benefits of the active and collaborative processes of the study, (d) evidence of self-efficacy, and (e) the qualities of facilitating critical action research. This research revealed that teachers benefited from certain learning processes as practiced by a facilitator who adopted a critical perspective that demonstrated particular attributes. The practices that had an impact included, among others, the exploration and justification of beliefs and practices, the challenging of assumptions by the facilitator, and the active participation of the teachers through collaboration and testing their hypotheses in the classroom. Implications are offered for research and for practice in the form of a framework for supporting processes and perspectives for teacher development. It is designed with flexibility so that it could be applied in post-secondary or other settings.
Bibliography: p. 224-243