Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Professor Nerida Ellerton

Second Advisor

Dr. Tony Herrington


Recent documents have recommended a style of teaching for primary classrooms that favours a constructivist viewpoint of learning. The actuality of mathematics classrooms is different from this vision. Newly trained teachers while exposed to, and expounding, a constructivist philosophy are, in many cases, implementing a more traditional, teacher-centred approach to classroom practice. The purpose of this study was twofold: to investigate factors which influence the pedagogical practices and beliefs of beginning teachers of mathematics in primary classrooms and secondly to evaluate a professional development support model for beginning primary mathematics teachers. A model for professional development and support of beginning teachers of primary mathematics was designed from critical characteristics of effective teacher support obtained from the literature. The model was designed via the use of a 'fellow worker' to help beginning teachers implement constructivist ways of teaching mathematics in their classrooms. It was implemented over a period of the first year of teaching for the five participants. The research took the form of an interpretative, qualitative study. The main methods of data collection were interviews, observation, researcher and participant journals, case methods meetings, repertory grids, RADIATE categories, pre and post questionnaires and characterisation scales. Data were analysed using techniques of qualitative analysis recommended by Eisner (1991) and Miles and Huberman (1994). Analysis incorporated the use of the NUD*IST computer program. Findings suggest that the professional development, support model was successful in helping beginning teachers implement and sustain a more constructivist philosophy in mathematics teaching. It appeared to provide an effective framework lo meet the individual needs of teachers within specific contexts. It was an effective alternative to the isolation and 'sink-or-swim' attitude of the first year of teaching felt by the participants. Beginning teachers used reflection in their teaching and generally began to implement less teacher-directed, traditional methods of teaching after emerging from a foreshortened ‘survival’ period. The major influences acting on pedagogical practices were the children in the classrooms of the beginning teachers. Other factors such as limited pedagogical knowledge, traditional ways of behaving as a teacher, beliefs about mathematics, mathematics teaching and learning, and time also influenced classroom practice in primary mathematics. The major finding of the research is that, with personal and context-specific support, beginning teachers can start to implement pedagogical practices in primary mathematics consistent with recent recommendations. This thesis recommends that the support must come from both the general system and the school levels and must address the needs or the individual teachers rather than mass induction methods. Distinction and separation must be made between beginning teacher support and the assessment of the beginning teacher’s competence. General methods involving a ‘sink-or-swim’ philosophy and beginning teacher isolation should be abandoned. At the conclusion of this thesis, recommendations for further study and research are provided.