Primary School Teachers’ Beliefs Relating to Mathematics, Teaching and Assessing Mathematics and Factors that Influence these Beliefs

Steven Nisbet, Elizabeth Warren

Abstract


This study examined primary teachers’ beliefs on teaching, learning and assessing
mathematics. In particular, it considered the nature of the beliefs of primary school
teachers with regard to mathematics as a subject, and teaching and
assessing mathematics. By factor analysis of survey items, it confirmed many
theoretical constructs derived from the literature: three major purposes of
assessment – to inform the teacher, to inform the learners, and for
accountability purposes; two approaches to teaching mathematics – a transmission
approach and a constructivist approach; and two views of the nature of mathematics
– a static view and a mechanistic view. A third view of mathematics – the
dynamic problem-solving view did not form a factor, indicating that this was not a
distinct view for the teachers, which is of concern. The study also
considered the relationships between these beliefs and specific teacher
characteristics, such as gender, years of experience, grade level and qualifications in
mathematics. Female teachers scored more highly than male teachers on using
assessment to inform the teacher and the learners. The static view of mathematics
increased along with grade level, as did the contemporary view of teaching
mathematics. The use of assessment to inform the teacher decreased with increasing
grade level. There were no clear trends in beliefs with respect to teaching
experience or qualifications in mathematics.

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