Academic journal article The Mathematics Enthusiast

Increasing the Use of Practical Activities through Changed Practice

Academic journal article The Mathematics Enthusiast

Increasing the Use of Practical Activities through Changed Practice

Article excerpt

Abstract: This study sets out to examine the influence of a value-based intervention on two elementary school teachers' use of practical activities in mathematics teaching. The intervention was a "Values and Knowledge Education" (VaKE)-based in-service course that introduced the two teachers to a value-based approach to mathematics teaching. The introduction included examples that were supported by use of practical activities. Interviews prior to the intervention made the teachers aware of an inconsistency between the desired and actual practice of their own teaching. The intervention provided them with a possibility of narrowing the gap between vision and practice by changing practice. Qualitative data show how the VaKE approach offered an alternative that opened up for increased use of practical activities in the teaching of mathematics, but also showed how good intentions of changing practice might be restrained or hindered by beliefs and previous experience.

Keywords: Mathematics teaching; Beliefs; Practice; Practical activities; Values and Knowledge Education.

A case-study examination of the influence of a value-based intervention on two teachers' use of practical activities in mathematics teaching

Today the educational policy in Norway (KD, 2006) encourages the use of practical approaches to mathematics teaching.2 Using practical activities3 is one way of doing this. However, Norwegian research shows that teachers find it difficult to change existing practice (Kjeernsli, Lie, Olsen, Roe & Turmo, 2004; Klette, 2003) and that teachers of mathematics do not necessarily acknowledge the theoretical consensus supporting practical activities (Alseth, Breiteig & Brekke, 2003; Haara & Smith, 2009). If a teacher is going to use more practical activities, the teacher has to believe that such an approach supports student learning.

Values and Knowledge Education ( VaKE)

VaKE is a teaching approach that emphasizes developing students' moral and ethical values4 through the acquisition of new disciplinary knowledge within a constructive learning environment (Patry, Weyringer & Weinberger, 2007). Based on a constructive theory of learning with a foothold in both sociocultural learning theory and radical constructivism, and influenced by Kohlberg's theory on moral development through social interaction (Kohlberg, 1976), the teacher who wants to follow the VaKE paradigm teaches through the introduction of a moral dilemma. This implies that the students have to choose between two possible decisions. Two factions of students are then formed, based on the students' decisions. This is followed by a moral viability check through discussion, first within each faction and then between the two factions. The need for new disciplinary knowledge to better illuminate different aspects of the topic and provide more coherent arguments through the collecting of new knowledge, is revealed. Rounds of discussion, and content viability checks on arguments are then possible, until both factions are ready to present their conclusions as the final moral and content viability checks.5 The teacher and the class close the sequence by capitalizing on the whole process. Accordingly, the teaching aims to develop students' critical thinking, basic values and ethical principles.

Research Question

In this article we examine the influence of the introduction to a value-based intervention on two teachers' use of practical activities in mathematics teaching, based on the following two assumptions. First, elements of value and viability with regard to the application of mathematics are not commonly used to increase the use of practical activities in school mathematics. It might therefore offer a new approach to the use of practical activities in mathematics teaching and initiate reflective processes regarding beliefs (Lerman, 2002) about using practical activities in mathematics teaching. Experience with a different setting for practical activities might stimulate reflection on one's own beliefs, which is essential for a lasting change of practice (Wilson & Cooney, 2002). …

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