Retraining in-service teachers of junior secondary mathematics for curriculum changes

Chi Yeung FUNG

Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers

Abstract

Curriculum initiatives in both primary and secondary mathematics are nderway in Hong Kong. New visions of learning and teaching expected to be found in the new curricula would make new demands on teachers: to help students to investigate, to explore, to discover mathematics, to solve mathematical problems, to learn and to appreciate mathematical structures, to enjoy mathematics, and to prepare themselves for a rapidly changing technological world. Are the teachers of mathematics sufficiently prepared for the new curriculum ? Because teaching and learning is so complex, there can be many factors which influence students' achievement and attitude in mathematics. However, it cannot be denied that a teacher's classroom practices and his/her abilities in implementing the curriculum could be one of the many factors affecting students' chance of acquiring the relevant knowledge, skills and attitude. To enable an informed planning of the Refresher Training Course (Secondary) (RTC(S)) with particular reference to the teaching methodologies part offered to course participants taking mathematics as an elective, the general and specific teaching strategies acquired by some of the inservice teachers of secondary mathematics were studied. A questionnaire of two parts was constructed. The first part was intended to elicit the general practices by teachers, and the second part teacher activities relating to the specific strategies in the teaching of mathematical skills, concepts and principles. An unstructured group interview was conducted after each part of the questionnaire was completed, results collected, processed, and distributed. The first part of the questionnaire consists of open ended questions.The teachers were asked to state the most and least frequently used teaching strategies during their last two weeks of mathematics teaching. Only three teachers claimed to use the discovery teaching often and the rest teachers simply used exposition as the only means in order to cover the syllabus. Concrete or daily life experience was seldom employed by teachers. Some teachers, during the group interviews, even claimed that they never use the discovery method at all throughout their teaching career. The second part of the questionnaire consists of 60 teacher activities and the inservice teachers were asked to rank each using a 4-point scale from never use the activity (0), rarely use it (1), sometimes (2) and most of the time (3). Results collected verified once again that these teachers avoided the use of discovery learning, and that these teachers used demonstrations and drills quite often in their mathematics teaching. Sometimes they had the students rote-learn the results, but most of the time students learned important results with understanding. Individual activity in the form of drill-and- practice was used but otherwise no individual difference seemed to be taken care of. Though ranking was obtained for each teacher activity, some teachers claimed during the informal interview that they had never thought of the so many different ways in mathematics teaching. Some teachers asked for the meaning of "rote-learn". One teacher even requested the explanation and demonstration of how mathematical concepts could be taught. In summary, 13 teachers completed all the two parts and returned the questionnaire, though more than 13 teachers participated in the group interviews. The teachers seemed to have acquired the knowledge of both the discovery and expository teaching strategies, but it is doubtful whether they would like to use the discovery approach at all in future. It is also doubtful whether teachers would build their mathematics teaching on concrete or daily life experiences, whether they would pay more attention to individual differences, and whether they would improve the teaching of mathematical concepts. If the RTC(S) mathematics teaching strategies part is to be revised, then the forthcoming course should take into consideration of all the above queries. In so doing, lecturers have to be well prepared for the successes, stumbling blocks, and confrontation, in the actual course delivery, when course participants would be facing the change process in their teaching practices which most of them would be most reluctant to make.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1997

Citation

Fung, C. Y. (1997, November). Retraining in-service teachers of junior secondary mathematics for curriculum changes. Paper presented at the Hong Kong Educational Research Association (HKERA) 14th Annual Conference: Compulsory Education and Beyond, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, China.

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