Having talked about teacher cognition in my previous BLOG posts I thought I would look more closely into teacher beliefs.

Cohen & Ball (1990) observed elementary school maths teachers going through/experiencing policy change. In particular they were interested to observe how individual reacted to the change…

they observed that

- teachers interpretations of policy were diverse
- they did change in response to policy, but reframed it in terms of pre-existing ideas & practices, this resulted in a mishmash of old and new practices within the classroom.

Other research into teacher beliefs and practice

Carpenter et al (1989) carried out a quantitative experiment and found associations between beliefs and practices.

20 Teachers were placed in an experimental group whereby they studied a research-based analysis of children’s development of problem-solving skills in addition and subtraction. Although the techniques were never recommended during the course, it was found that teachers in the experimental group taught problem-solving significantly more than those in the control group.

Stipek et al (2001) Twenty-one maths teachers were assessed in both their beliefs and practices related to mathematics.

Findings showed consistent associations between their beliefs and their practices. Teachers’ self-confidence as mathematics teachers was also significantly associated with their students’ self-confidence as mathematical learners

My thoughts/Important things to take from this research:

*1) How much do we need to know about a teachers past?*

Do we need to know their whole history – previous systems use? how successful they were in implementing them? their beliefs about the new system?

*2) Policy change needs to be implemented carefully*

We should understand that the past will not just be swept away by teachers – it will form their new practices.

*3) Program building – make sure it cannot be interpreted in many different ways*

The way new educational techniques pass through government may affect this also. If many departments are involved, different forms of advice may filter through, adding to the confusion.

*4) Teachers should be given support to implement new practices*

This links to self confident maths teachers resulting in self confident pupils (as shown in Stipek et al.). We need to make sure that teachers are confident in the techniques they are using.

I think the area of teacher beliefs provides some interesting insights on how teachers interpret and use educational material. 3 out the 4 points I have made seem pretty obvious to me.

I would be interested to know what people think about how we can use teachers beliefs when implementing and reviewing educational systems??

Interesting blog Dan 🙂

The questions you post all seem to warrant the input of the teachers in order to implement, so involving teachers in policy change from the start might help the transition from old to new policies/changes a bit smoother? I’m not talking about asking every single teacher what they think, as that’s implausible and you’d never have time to make any changes, but at least getting the opinions and input of a cross section teachers. In that way, you’d be able to get the answers to your questions such as interpretation of programs, whilst the program was being developed, rather than developing it, testing it, then having to rewrite it again.

Borko, Mayfield, Marion, Flexer & Cumbo (1991) found that staff development personnel can facilitate change by introducing new ideas based on teachers’ current levels of interest, understanding, and skill, so involving teachers in the development process has been shown to ease the process of introducing new policies and change.

Borko, H., Mayfield, V., Marion, S., Flexer, R. and Cumbo, K., 1997. Teachers’ developing ideas and practices about mathematics performance assessment: Successes, stumbling blocks, and implications for professional development. Teaching and Teacher Education 13, pp. 259–278.

8 March 2011at9am