Teachers’ beliefs about mathematics and the teaching of mathematics as they enter the teaching profession
Shiver, Janet Marie
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Not surprisingly, new teachers are faced with many expected and unexpected constraints and challenges in their first year of teaching. Using both survey and interview data, the progressive beliefs of five new elementary teachers were explored as they entered their first year of teaching. This paper examines the stability of the beliefs about both the nature of mathematics and the teaching of mathematics held by these young teachers. Keith Leatham’s (2006) Sensible Systems framework influenced both the methodology used to collect data for this study as well as the analysis of the data. His framework suggests that teachers are complex, rational individuals who are unable to act counter to what they believe. By employing this framework, I was able to avoid some of the common pitfalls associated with beliefs research. Instead of accepting as true and then focusing on the inconsistencies between teachers’ actions and their stated beliefs, I was able to look more deeply at the beliefs themselves and what other, perhaps non mathematical, beliefs might be causing the perceived inconsistency. The results of this study were somewhat surprising. Instead of the fragile belief systems suggested by many previous research studies, these progressive teachers appeared to have relatively stable belief systems even when faced with the daily challenges and constraints of the classroom. These challenges, the effect they had on the teacher’s beliefs and the teachers’ methods for dealing with them were identified and discussed.