Date of Award

2013

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Education

Faculty

Education and Arts

First Advisor

Dr Christine Ormond

Second Advisor

Professor Mark Hackling

Abstract

This study was motivated by the need to develop professional learning for primary school teachers that would support them to more effectively teach the mathematics topic of fractions. What seemed evident, was that previous professional learning attended by teachers had not adequately met their needs.

The aim of this study was to investigate whether professional learning, with a focus on subject content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge and reflective practice could enhance primary school teachers’ PCK for teaching fractions and make them more confident teachers of fractions. Demonstrating this to be the case would have wide implications for the development of professional learning opportunities for in-service teachers and would also be highly beneficial in informing teacher education.

This study brought together teachers from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. These experiences comprised not only what they had encountered in their teaching of mathematics, but also what they had encountered in their learning of mathematics. Therefore a study of the affective elements of attitudes, beliefs and self-efficacy were not only warranted, but pivotal.

The professional learning was conducted over an extended period of time and the teachers were involved in workshops where clear links were explored between the required content and what the current research considered to be the most efficacious pedagogy. They were then required to take at least one of the activities from the workshops and use it in their classroom. After they had taught the lesson, they were asked to reflect upon the lesson and bring those reflections to the next session to share with the group. This cycle was repeated.

This research showed that the professional learning amplified both Pedagogical Knowledge (PK) and Subject Matter Knowledge (SMK), which in turn provided pathways to increased PCK. The results also indicated that well-structured professional learning can have a positive effect on the beliefs and attitudes of teachers towards teaching the difficult mathematical topic of fractions. This improvement in attitudes and beliefs is important, as the impact of efficacy on the teaching and learning of mathematics cannot be underestimated.

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