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Publisher: Routledge

Informa Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954

Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

International research and pedagogy

Publication details, including instructions for authors and

subscription information:

http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/cjet20

of the Mathematics Teacher: a model

a

Paul Ernest

a

University of Exeter, School of Education, St Lukes, Exeter

EX1 2LU, United Kingdom

To cite this article: Paul Ernest (1989): The Knowledge, Beliefs and Attitudes of the

Mathematics Teacher: a model, Journal of Education for Teaching: International research and

pedagogy, 15:1, 13-33

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This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Any

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Journal of Education for Teaching, Vol. 15, No. 1, 1989 13

Attitudes of the Mathematics

Teacher: a model

PAUL ERNEST

University of Exeter, School of Education, St Lukes, Exeter EX1 2LU, United

Kingdom

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ABSTRACT Official pressure for reforms in the teaching of mathematics overlooks a key factor:

the psychological foundations of the practice of teaching mathematics, including the teacher's

knowledge, beliefs and attitudes. Research on teaching and teacher education also under-

emphasises this area, which Shulman terms the 'missing program' in research on teacher

cognitions. The present paper addresses this lack by proposing an analytic model of the different

types of knowledge, beliefs and attitudes of the mathematics teacher, and their relationship with

practice. Of particular note is the importance accorded to the teacher's practical knowledge of

the teaching of mathematics (both pedagogical and curricular knowledge), knowledge of

classroom organisation, and knowledge of the school context. Also notable is the importance

ascribed to the teacher's beliefs concerning the nature of mathematics, and concerning the

processes of teaching and learning mathematics. The model has implications for teacher

education, and these are discussed at the end of the paper.

INTRODUCTION

The last 20 years has seen a substantial volume of research on teaching and the

teacher. Much of this has focused on psychological aspects of the teacher and, in

particular, on the teacher's general thought processes (Shavelson & Stern, 1981;

Clark & Peterson, 1986). However, a distinction can be drawn between two aspects

of the psychology of teaching. These are the teacher's thought processes, such as

planning, interactive decision-making and reflection, and the thought structures of

the teacher; the knowledge, beliefs and attitudes stored as schemas in the mind of

the teacher. The distinction between the fluid processes of thought and the semi-

permanent structures of thought, parallels Schwab's (1961) division between the

syntax and semantics of a discipline, and the traditional philosophical distinction

between function and structure (Philp, 1973).

This distinction, and the importance of both aspects of thought in the

psychology of teaching, has not been sufficiently emphasised in research until

recently, which has tended to focus on teachers' thought processes. There is now a

growing interest in teachers' knowledge, including attitudes and beliefs in some

14 P. Ernest

cases (Stones, 1979; Elbaz, 1981, 1983; Shulman 1986a, b, 1987; Bennett, 1987).

Shulman (1986b) terms the role of subject matter knowledge in teaching the

'missing program' in research on teacher cognitions, and argues that knowledge of

teaching will not advance until this lack is addressed.

This paper is intended as a contribution to the 'missing program'. It offers a

model of the cognitive structures; the knowledge, beliefs and attitudes specific to the

teacher of mathematics. It is intended to add to the overall understanding of

teaching by elucidating the teaching of a specific subject, namely mathematics. By

offering a conceptualisation of the psychology of mathematics teaching the model is

intended to provide a foundation on which to base both empirical research into

mathematics teachers and teaching and mathematics teacher education. Currently

empirical research based on the model of mathmatics teachers' knowledge, beliefs

and attitudes is underway. Some of the consequences of the model for teacher

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education are explored at the end of the paper. To the extent that the model is

successful and transferable, it may also serve as a paradigm for the understanding of

the teaching of other subject matter areas.

There is a particular need for such a model specific to mathematics. In many

countries there is a growing pressure for innovation in the teaching of mathematics.

Important official publications, such as NCTM (1980), in the USA, and Cockcroft

(1982) and HMI (1985), in non-Caledonian Britain, have made strong recommen-

dations for change including, most notably, the following:

—Mathematics teaching needs to focus more on problem-solving, applications

and higher level skills.

—Mathematics teaching must accommodate the advances in information and

microchip technologies, especially electronic calculators and microcompu-

ters, and equip students to make full use of these tools.

Furthermore, these recommendations are largely endorsed in the proposals for a

National Curriculum in Mathematics (DES, 1988), which is likely to become law in

the near future.

These recommendations are being urged on the mathematics teacher in the

name of 'good practice'. However, their enactment requires major changes of the

teacher, who must adopt new approaches to teaching, including a new role as

facilitator instead of instructor, as well as the acquisition of new knowledge. To

implement far-reaching innovations such as these successfully requires an under-

standing of the new demands made on the teacher, and of ways in which the teacher

can accommodate them. It also requires a more fundamental understanding of how a

mathematics teacher's knowledge, beliefs and attitudes provide a basis for classroom

teaching approaches. The present proposals represent a tentative attempt to specify

the essential knowledge, beliefs and attitudes of the mathematics teacher, and the

ways in which these affect the teaching of mathematics. They represent an attempt

to understand the psychological factors underpinning the impact of curriculum

innovation on the mathematics teacher, as well as providing a conceptual foundation

for empirical research on the mathematics teacher, and for the reform of mathema-

tics teacher education.

The Mathematics Teacher 15

The model that follows treats the mathematics teacher's cognitive structures,

the permanent but ever-changing and growing body of knowledge, beliefs and

attitudes stored in the mind of the teacher as schemas. These are the sources of the

constructs, relations, procedures and strategies through which the teacher's thought

processes operate. Indeed the teacher's procedural knowledge—most notably the

pedagogical skills—provide the basis for the teacher's thought processes, before,

during and after teaching. Also, the growth of thought structures either incremen-

tally or through restructuring, arises from the operation of the teacher's thought

processes (Yorke, 1987). Thus the teacher's thought processes and structures are

closely interrelated in practice. However, the following model aims to treat only half

of the picture, namely the knowledge, beliefs and attitudes of the mathematics

teacher. This is partly for reasons of space, but another good reason is that teachers'

thought processes, which can be described by the following cycle (see Ernest,

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1988c):

comprise general thought processes, in contrast to the subject-specific knowledge,

beliefs and attitudes of the mathematics teacher.

AND ATTITUDES

The different components of the model are given in the following list.

Knowledge

of mathematics

of other subject matter

of teaching mathematics

Mathematics pedagogy

Mathematics curriculum

classroom organisation and management for mathematics teaching

of the context of teaching mathematics

The school context

The students taught

of education

Educational psychology

Education

Mathematics education

Beliefs

Conception of the nature of mathematics

Models of teaching and learning mathematics

Model of teaching mathematics

Model of learning mathematics

Principles of education

16 P. Ernest

Attitudes

Attitude to mathematics

Attitude to teaching mathematics

The three different categories: knowledge, beliefs and attitudes, are discussed at

length below.

KNOWLEDGE

First of all, there are the knowledge components of the model. Evidently the

mathematics teacher needs knowledge of mathematics itself. Knowledge of other

subject matter, such as physics or geography, is also useful to the teacher of

mathematics. But beyond pure subject matter knowledge the teacher needs to know

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cal topics and ideas in a way that children can grasp (pedagogical knowledge of

mathematics), knowledge of mathematics curriculum materials and resources, and

knowledge of how to organise and manage a mathematics class. The importance of

such pedagogical knowledge for teaching has only recently been recognised (for

example, see Stones, 1979; Elbaz, 1981, 1983; Shulman, 1986a, 1986b, 1987;

Bennett, 1987), and less often specifically for mathematics (Leinhardt & Smith,

1985; Lampert, 1988).

Teachers also quickly build up specific knowledge of the children taught, the

school and the overall context of teaching mathematics. Finally, teachers need

knowledge of education, mathematics education in particular, as its constructs,

theories and results inform the teacher's perceptions of classroom events, and

thought processes in general (Yorke, 1987). Knowledge of educational psychology

also plays an important part in planning teaching and understanding children's

learning (Stones, 1979).

Knowledge of Mathematics

Mathematical knowledge, unlike some of the other components in the model, is

built up from early childhood onwards, and is often largely constructed before the

end of the pre-service teacher education period. The teacher's knowledge of

mathematics is a complex conceptual structure which is characterised by a number

of factors, including its extent and depth; its structure and unifying concepts;

knowledge of procedures and strategies; links with of other subjects; knowledge

about mathematics as a whole and its history.

This knowledge provides an essential foundation for the teaching of mathema-

tics. The major goal of teaching is to facilitate the reconstruction of some portion of

the teacher's knowledge of mathematics by the learner. Whatever means of instruc-

tion are adopted the teacher needs a substantial knowledge base in the subject in

order to plan for instruction and to understand and guide the learner's responses.

The teacher's knowledge of mathematics will underpin the teacher's explanations,

demonstrations, diagnosis of misconceptions, acceptance of children's own methods,

The Mathematics Teacher 17

knowledge of mathematics provides a foundation for the teacher's pedagogical

knowledge and skills for teaching mathematics.

Knowledge of other subject matter has an important contribution to make to the

teaching of mathematics, for it provides a stock of knowledge of uses and applica-

tions of mathematics, which can serve two purposes. First of all, the uses of

mathematics such as networks in geography, graphs in economics, probability in

genetics, formulas in physical science, and so on, provide justification and motiva-

tion for studying some of the content of mathematics by showing children its

relevance. Second, it provides a range of models, images and analogies for mathema-

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tical concepts. For example, the thermometer and depth below sea level, model the

ordering of integers, and image projection by light provides an analogy for mathe-

matical enlargement. Such models and images offer concrete and familiar represen-

tations of abstract mathematical concepts, and provide a basis for the learning of

these concepts, by building on children's previous knowledge.

Knowledge of the processes and methods of inquiry of other subjects can also

contribute to the teaching of mathematics, since many of these processes, such as

looking for pattern, hypothesising relationships and testing conjectures, are equally a

part of mathematical problem-solving, which is identified by many as the heart of

mathematics (NCTM, 1980; Cockcroft, 1982; National Curriculum Mathematics

Working Group, 1987).

Knowledge of teaching mathematics can be divided into two areas, pedagogical and

curriculum knowledge of mathematics, after Shulman (1986a).

Pedagogical knowledge of mathematics. This is practical knowledge of teaching

mathematics. It includes knowledge of approaches to school mathematics topics;

different ways of presenting mathematics including problem-solving; knowledge of

children's methods, conceptions, difficulties and common errors; knowledge of

mathematical tasks, activities, explanations, test items, and so on. It is this knowl-

edge which a teacher uses to transform and represent knowledge of mathematics for

teaching (Wilson, Shulman & Richert, 1987). Thus it is central to the planning of

instruction; also to interaction with individual learners and to other decision-making

during teaching based on pedagogical (as opposed to managerial) grounds.

Curriculum knowledge of mathematics. This includes knowledge of texts and

schemes used to teach mathematics, their contents and ways of using them; school

produced curricular materials; other teaching resources such as computer software

and teaching apparatus; examinations, tests and syllabuses. This is knowledge of the

materials and media through which mathematics instruction is carried out and

assessed. Shulman (1986a) refers to this as the knowledge of the materia medica of

18 P. Ernest

vital to the planning and carrying out of mathematics teaching.

Recent years have been a growing acknowledgement of the importance of

pedagogical subject matter knowledge in general (Elbaz, 1981, 1983; Stones, 1979;

Wilson, Shulman & Richert, 1987; Tamir, 1988), and mathematics teaching knowl-

edge in particular (Leinhardt & Smith,1985; Kuhs & Ball, 1986; Lampert, 1988). It

is increasingly recognised that this knowledge forms the essential bridge between

academic subject matter knowledge and the teaching of subject matter. For it is that

knowledge which determines how mathematics is represented to students in their

learning experiences, either directly by the teacher, or by means of instructional

media. It includes the practical skills of transforming subject matter for teaching,

and the pedagogical knowledge and skills for teaching it. Because of its largely

practical origins, knowledge of teaching subject matter has been termed practical

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knowledge (Elbaz, 1981, 1983). Stones (1979) provides a three-fold analysis of the

skills associated with such pedagogical knowledge. He suggests that the knowledge

can be manifested in (A) performance by the teacher, (B) recognition in others'

performances, and (C) explicit verbal description and explanation. This analysis

illustrates the complexity of such knowledge, since it comprises both practical skills

and general principles.

Teachers begin to acquire their knowledge of mathematics teaching during their

student years, on the basis of their learning experiences (Ball, 1987, personal

communication). They learn mathematics pedagogy during their pre-service teacher

education, in mathematics curriculum and methodology courses, which also attend,

in varying degree, to curriculum knowledge of mathematics. However the most

significant part of teachers' learning of such knowledge probably takes place during

teaching itself, either pre-service teaching practice or in service, being based on

practical teaching experience.

This includes knowledge of organising classes of students for mathematics instruc-

tion in co-operative groups, individually, or as a whole class; classroom questioning;

the management of practical activities, as well as visits and excursions; control

aspects such as keeping order and gaining attention; knowledge of classroom

routines, access to resources, and managing classroom testing; the management of

classroom resources such as furniture, computers and texts; and so on.

This knowledge is important because the teaching of mathematics to a group of

30 children clearly requires organisational and managerial knowledge and skills, in

addition to the types of knowledge and skill listed above (Doyle, 1986; Bennett,

1987).

The assumption made here is that the knowledge of organisation and manage-

ment for teaching is specific to mathematics. For the mathematics teacher, this

knowledge is to a large extent acquired experientially during the teaching of

mathematics, and is specific in that it is both acquired and employed in the teaching

of mathematics. But this is not to say that it cannot be transferred to other areas of

The Mathematics Teacher 19

knowledge of managing a particular individualised learning scheme for mathematics

is less transferable than knowledge of organising a display of children's mathemati-

cal work.

During service at a particular site, teachers acquire specific knowledge of the

context of teaching, which embraces the students, staff, and the whole social and

material fabric of the school.

Knowledge of students. This includes knowledge of the classes of students

taught: their group dynamics, group behaviour, how they interact and co-operate in

groups, their responsiveness to learning tasks, their responses to the teacher's

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authority, and the steps that need to be taken to elicit their co-operation and to

control them. It also includes knowledge of the children taught as individuals, both

as learners, and as individual members of the school community.

Knowledge of school context. This includes knowledge of other teachers;

knowledge of the classroom, departmental and school location of teaching resources,

such as computers, audio-visual and reprographic facilities; knowledge of school

governance regulations, procedures, assessment systems and policies; knowledge of

out-of-class activities; knowledge of the school ethos, and of the school and

departmental expectations concerning the role of the teacher; and so on. It also

extends beyond the school, to knowledge of its broader social, cultural, ethnic and

geographic contexts.

The impact of the context of teaching on teachers is noted by many authors

(Clark & Peterson, 1986), although the importance of the teacher's knowledge of

this area is given less recognition (but see Elbaz, 1983; Feinman-Nemser & Floden,

1986). Its importance is that it provides the teacher with representations of the

social context in all its multiplicity. Thus it is through this knowledge that the

constraints, pressures and opportunities afforded by the social context of teaching

are mediated. It seems likely that knowledge of the students taught and knowledge

of the school context are, together, among the most powerful determinants of the

classroom approach employed by the teacher. Studies of teacher socialization

effects, both in general (Lacey, 1977), and in particular for mathematics (Brown,

1986) confirm this.

Knowledge of Education

This component of a teacher's knowledge includes all the concepts, theories,

empirical results and other knowledge that is acquired from the literature and

courses in educational psychology, education and mathematics education. It also

includes knowledge of the diversity of social, cultural and ethnic backgrounds and

of special educational needs. This knowledge is important because it provides the

teacher with the means to construe and interpret classroom experiences, as well as

to reflect on and assess a whole broad range of educational issues and experiences.

20 P. Ernest

providing the conceptual resources for the teacher to accommodate individual,

social, cultural and educational diversity in the classroom. In addition, meaningful

instruction depends on the teacher's knowledge of educational psychology, as it

applies to learning and instruction (Stones, 1979, 1983).

This analysis of the knowledge used by the teacher of mathematics in his or her

professional activity raises a number of questions:

—How much and which aspects of a teacher's knowledge of mathematics is

actually used in teaching? Precisely how is this knowledge used?

—How do teacher education courses assist in developing the teacher's practical

knowledge of teaching, including the pedagogical, curriculum and organisa-

tional knowledge of mathematics teaching?

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learn of the social context of teaching, or must this be acquired in service?

—Which aspects of educational theory are actually useful in practice, and how

are they used?

BELIEFS

In addition to knowledge it is necessary to consider beliefs to account for the

differences between mathematics teachers. It is possible for two teachers to have

very similar knowledge, but for one to teach mathematics with a problem-solving

orientation, whilst the other has a more didactic approach. Because of the potent

effects of beliefs, like this, the model provides an extensive treatment of the

mathematics teacher's beliefs.

What is referred to here as 'beliefs' consists of the teacher's system of beliefs,

conceptions, values and ideology also referred to elsewhere as the teacher's 'disposi-

tions' (Kuhs & Ball, 1986). The importance of teachers' beliefs and conceptions

concerning subject matter has been noted by a number of authors, both for

mathematics (Kuhs & Ball, 1986; Ernest, 1987, 1988b; Underhill, 1987; Brown,

1988; Cooney, 1988) and for other areas of the curriculum (Clark & Peterson, 1986;

Feinman-Nemser & Floden, 1986). The argument is that such conceptions have a

powerful impact on teaching through such processes as the selection of content and

emphasis, styles of teaching, and modes of learning. In addition to subject matter

related beliefs, the teacher's principles of education and views of its overall goals are

also important (Wilson, Shulman & Richert, 1987).

This is a teacher's belief system concerning the nature of mathematics as a whole.

Such views form the basis of the philosophy of mathematics, although some of the

views likely to be held by teachers may not have been elaborated into fully

articulated philosophies. Teachers' conceptions of the nature of mathematics by no

means have to be consciously held views; rather they may be implicitly held

philosophies. The importance of such views of subject matter has been noted both

The Mathematics Teacher 21

across a range of subjects (Feinman-Nemser & Floden, 1986) and for mathematics

in particular (Thorn, 1973; Lerman, 1983, 1986; Ernest 1985, 1987, 1988b). Out of

a number of possible variations, three philosophies of mathematics are distinguished

because of their observed occurrence in the teaching of mathematics (Thompson,

1984), as well as for their significance in the academic study of the philosophy of

mathematics (Benecerraf & Putnam, 1964; Lakatos, 1976; Davis & Hersh, 1980;

Tymoczko, 1985). They are presented here in simplified form, and in practice

teachers may combine elements from more than one of the views.

First of all, there is a dynamic, problem-driven view of mathematics as a

continually expanding field of human inquiry. Mathematics is not a finished

product, and its results remain open to revision (the problem-solving view).

Secondly, there is the view of mathematics as a static but unified body of

knowledge, consisting of interconnecting structures and truths. Mathematics is a

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monolith, a static immutable product, which is discovered, not created (the Platonist

view).

Thirdly, there is the view that mathematics is a useful but unrelated collection

of facts, rules and skills (the instrumentalist view).

Teachers' views of the nature of mathematics may also be compounded with

additional constructs, such as views of the relationship between different subject

matter areas, for example. Is mathematics entirely distinct from other disciplines?

Or are mathematics and other areas of knowledge interrelated or partly integrated,

sharing concepts and methods of inquiry? The conception of knowledge as inte-

grated is often associated with a problem-solving view of mathematics, but there is

no strict necessity behind this link.

The different philosophies of mathematics have practical classroom outcomes.

For example, an active, problem-solving view of mathematical knowledge can lead

to the acceptance of children's methods and approaches to tasks. In contrast, a static

Platonist or instrumentalist view of mathematics can lead to the teacher's insistence

on there being a single 'correct' method for solving each problem. Again, a teacher's

view of knowledge as integrated can lead to teaching in which mathematics and

other subject matter areas are interrelated. The opposite view can result in an

insistence that questions of mathematics and geography, for example, are dealt with

separately during mathematics lessons and geography lessons.

Some of the main curriculum reform movements in mathematics have

been based on views of mathematics. The 'modern maths' movement of the early

1960s can be likened to the Platonist view through its stress on structure, the laws

of number, and central and unifying concepts of mathematics, such as sets

and functions. A second parallel can be drawn between the instrumentalist view and

that underlying the 'back-to-basics' movement. This movement emphasises basic

numeracy as knowledge of facts, rules and skills, without regard for meaningful

connections within this knowledge. More recently, the problem-solving view of

mathematics has been reflected in the recommendations of official bodies (NCTM,

1980; Cockcroft, 1982; HMI, 1985; National Curriculum Mathematics Working

Group, 1987). Namely, that the processes and strategies of mathematical activity

22 P. Ernest

are central, and that the main aim of mathematics teaching is to empower children

to become creative and confident solvers of problems.

Teachers' views of mathematics evidently affect the extent to which such

curriculum innovations or movements take hold, through the way mathematics is

taught (Thorn, 1973; Cooney, 1988). For beliefs about mathematics are reflected in

teachers' models of the teaching and learning of mathematics, and hence in their

practices (Thompson, 1984).

These are the teachers' beliefs or mental models of the nature of the teaching and

learning mathematics. The importance of these models is the powerful impact they

have on the way in which mathematics is taught in the classroom (Cooney, 1985,

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1988; Ernest, 1988b; Kuhs & Ball, 1986; Thompson, 1984). The influence of these

models is mediated via the minutiae of classroom experience: such as the choice of

mathematics learning tasks, the treatment of children's errors, the acceptance of

children's ideas, the fidelity with which a published mathematics scheme or text is

followed, and so on. It seems appropriate to term these beliefs 'models' since they

are sets of ideas (which may include memories of past teachers) on which the

teacher 'models' his or her behaviour.

Model of teaching mathematics. This is the teacher's conception of the type

and range of teaching actions and classroom activities contributing to his or her

personal approaches to the teaching of mathematics. It includes mental imagery of

prototypical classroom teaching and learning activities, as well as the principles

underlying teaching orientations. Some of the constructs involved are the follow-

ing: A narrow, instrumental and basic skills type view versus a broader, creative

and exploratory view of mathematics teaching; A meaning, understanding, and

unified body of knowledge view versus a facts and skills mastery view of mathe-

matics teaching, which focuses on performance and correctness of response; In the

use of curricular materials: an approach in which mathematics is based on strictly

following a text or scheme, versus an approach in which the teacher supplements

or enriches the textbook with additional problems and activities, versus an ap-

proach in which the teacher or school constructs virtually all of the mathematics

curriculum materials.

Using these constructs the following simplified models of mathematics teaching

can be sketched:

—the pure investigational, problem posing and solving model

—the conceptual understanding enriched with problem-solving model

—the conceptual understanding model

—the mastery of skills and facts with conceptual understanding model

—the mastery of skills and facts model

—the day to day survival model

The importance of the teacher's mental model of mathematics teaching is that it is

the key determinant of how mathematics is taught, given the contextual constraints

The Mathematics Teacher 23

related to and influenced by the teacher's conception of the nature of mathematics,

as was suggested above.

Many of the recommendations for the improvement of mathematics teaching

focus explicitly on changes in this model (NCTM, 1980; Cockcroft, 1982; HMI

1985; National Curriculum Mathematics Working Group, 1987). Thus, for

example, the Cockcroft Report (1982, paragraph 243) urges that mathematics

teaching at all levels should include problem solving, discussion, practical and

investigational work, in addition to the more frequently occurring teacher exposition

and pupil practice of routines. For these recommendations to be carried out, it is

necessary for many mathematics teachers to make changes in their styles of

teaching.

It is clear that teachers' models of the teaching of mathematics are an important

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which is overlooked in many patterns of curriculum dissemination, resulting in

innovations being assimilated to teachers' existing models of teaching. For example,

the new British General Certificate of Secondary Education examination (SEC,

1985) requires that pupils carry out mathematical investigations and projects for

assessment, but it has already been noted that teachers are treating such inquiries

didactically (Lerman, 1987).

Model of learning mathematics. Closely associated with the above is the

teacher's mental model of the learning of mathematics. This consists of the teacher's

view of the process of learning mathematics, what behaviours and mental activities

are involved on the part of the learner, and what constitute appropriate and

prototypical learning activities. Thus it is made up of aims, expectations, concep-

tions and images of learning activities and of the process of learning mathematics in

general. Two of the key constructs on which the range of models of learning

mathematics are based are as follows: A view of learning as the active construction

of knowledge as a meaningful connected whole, versus a view of learning mathema-

tics as the passive reception of knowledge; The development of autonomy and the

child's own interests in mathematics versus a view of the learner as submissive and

compliant.

Using these key constructs the following simplified models of learning mathe-

matics can be described:

—child's exploration and autonomous pursuit of own interests model

—child's constructed understanding and interest driven model

—child's constructed understanding driven model

—child's mastery of skills model

—child's linear progress through curricular scheme model

—child's complaint behaviour model

The teacher's model of learning mathematics concerns the nature of the child's

activity, and the role assigned to the child's volition and choice. An explicit focus on

the model of learning is often associated with a child-centred teaching ideology, as

in the Plowden Report (1967). However, the suggestion here is that a model of

24 P. Ernest

learning mathematics plays a central role in the beliefs of teachers of all educational

ideologies.

The teacher's model of learning mathematics, in so far as it is realised in

practice, is a vital factor in the child's experience of learning mathematics. It

influences both the cognitive and affective outcomes of learning experiences. In the

long term these learning experiences can vary in results from a student who is an

interested, confident, skilled and autonomous problem-solver, at best, to one who is

a disenchanted, non-numerate mathephobe, at worst.

Principles of Education

These are the very general values, beliefs and principles that underpin a teacher's

view of the aims and purposes and nature of education. Some of a mathematics

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mathematics, such as a commitment to giving every child the experience of success

and confidence in mathematics; a commitment to the preparation of critical thinking

and numerate citizens; a belief that every child can be creative and original in

mathematics; a respect for each child's own mathematical knowledge: a unique

network of experiences, concepts, associations, strategies, feelings: and so on.

A teacher's principles can exert a powerful influence on teaching, especially via

planning and reflective thought processes. However, their effect depends very much

on the extent to which the teacher's beliefs and actions form an integrated whole.

For principles to be effective, they need to be linked with the teacher's models of

teaching and learning, as well as with the actual practice of teaching.

ATTITUDES

The third category of the proposed model consists of the attitude components:

attitudes to mathematics, and attitudes to teaching mathematics. Again, there is

recognition of the importance of these components for the teaching of mathematics

(Battista, 1986; Ernest, 1988a; Schofield & Start, 1978).

Attitude to Mathematics

First of all, there are the teacher's attitudes to mathematics itself. These include

liking, enjoyment and interest in mathematics, or their opposites, which in the

extreme case can include mathephobia. There is also the teacher's confidence in his

or her own mathematical abilities: the teacher's mathematical self-concept, and the

teacher's valuing of mathematics.

Second, there are the teacher's attitudes to the teaching of mathematics. These

The Mathematics Teacher 25

include liking, enjoyment and enthusiasm for the teaching of mathematics, and

confidence in the teacher's own mathematics teaching ability (or their opposites).

Attitudes to mathematics and its teaching are important contributors to a

teacher's make-up and approach, because of the effect they can have on a child's

attitudes to mathematics and its learning (Aiken, 1970). As is well known, affective

factors have a powerful influence on learning (Evans, 1965; Khan & Weiss, 1973).

Researchers have found a significant correlation between teacher attitude and

student achievement in mathematics (Begle, 1979; Schofield, 1981; Bishop &

Nickson 1983), although it is often found to be weak (Begle, 1979; Bell, Costello &

Kuchemann, 1983). Whilst attention was initially directed at attitudes to mathema-

tics itself, researchers are finding that the second cluster of attitudes is equally

important (Schofield & Start, 1978; Battista, 1986), or even more powerful (Ernest,

1988a), in terms of impact on the teaching of mathematics.

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This analysis of the beliefs and attitudes of the teacher of mathematics raises a

number of questions: To what extent do a teacher's attitudes and beliefs affect their

teaching of mathematics? How does this take place? How do teachers' realised or

enacted models of teaching and learning mathematics differ from their espoused or

stated models? What are the effects of teacher education courses on teachers'

attitudes and beliefs? What experiences have a positive effect on attitudes and

beliefs? Which have a negative effect? It has been noted that student teachers'

idealism is 'washed out' by socialisation in schools (Lacey, 1977). Can teachers be

helped to develop beliefs about mathematics and its teaching which are realistic and

robust enough to resist this? What leads to shifts in beliefs and attitudes? Is it

involvement in new practices, as curriculum developers suggest (Ahmed, 1987), or

reflection on beliefs and practice?

MATHEMATICS

To complete the account of the proposed model of the knowledge, beliefs and

attitudes of the mathematics teacher an account of the structure is needed. This

must include the relationships between the various components of the mathematics

teacher's knowledge, beliefs and attitudes, as well as the practice of teaching. A

number of other authors also include the practice dimensions in their models of

teaching. These models may be general, such as in Clark & Peterson (1986), or

specific to the teaching of mathematics, as in Kuhs & Ball (1986) and Underhill

(1987).

The practice of teaching mathematics is, of course, the primary function of the

mathematics teacher, and the end to which the knowledge, beliefs and attitudes are

directed. Beyond this end, it is important to consider the practice of teaching for a

further reason. For the observation of practice can reveal an important mismatch.

This is the disparity between the teacher's beliefs and intentions, on the one hand,

and the teacher's actual classroom practice, on the other. Case-studies have shown

that there can be a great disparity between a teacher's espoused models of teaching

26 P. Ernest

and learning, and the models actually realised in the teaching of mathematics

(Thompson, 1984; Cooney, 1985; Brown, 1986; Cooney & Brown 1986).

We first consider the impact of the three areas of the model on the practice of

teaching mathematics. This provides an indication of the functional relationships

that exist between the separate elements of the model.

Knowledge of mathematics, and other subject matter, has a key role to play in the

teaching of mathematics, as has been discussed above. It is transformed by means of

the practical knowledge of mathematics teaching (both pedagogical and curricular)

into representations for the classroom use of content knowledge. In this way

theoretical knowledge of the concept and methods of mathematics relates to the use

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mathematics.

Knowledge of education informs a number of aspects of practical knowledge of

teaching, including knowledge of organisation and management, the context of

teaching, and practical knowledge of teaching mathematics, especially pedagogy. In

particular, knowledge of educational psychology makes a key contribution, through

mathematical pedagogy, to the understanding of children's learning, including the

assessment of its outcomes. It contributes to the diagnosis of student levels of

learning, and in matching tasks to individual pupils. In this the teacher's knowledge

of the context of teaching, especially knowledge of the students, has an important

part to play. It also underpins classroom relationships, through knowledge of

individual pupils and the matching of tasks to individual pupils.

The teacher's knowledge of classroom organisation is reflected in the organisa-

tion and classroom procedures adopted in practice.

The teacher's view of the nature of mathematics provides a basis for his or her

mental models of the teaching and learning of mathematics. For views of the nature

of mathematics are likely to correspond to views of its teaching and learning. Thus,

for example, the instrumental view of mathematics is likely to be associated with a

transmission model of teaching, and with the strict following of a text or scheme. It

may also be associated with the child's compliant behaviour and mastery of skills

model of learning.

Similar links can be conjectured between other views and models, for example:

Mathematics as a Platonist unified body of knowledge corresponds to a view of the

teacher as explainer, and learning as the reception of knowledge, although an

emphasis on the child constructing a meaningful body of knowledge, is also

consistent with this view; Mathematics as problem-solving corresponds to a view of

the teacher as facilitator, and learning as autonomous problem posing and solving,

perhaps also as the active construction of understanding.

The Mathematics Teacher 27

subject to the constraints and contingencies of the school context, are transformed

into classroom practices. These are the enacted (as opposed to espoused) model of

teaching mathematics, the use of mathematics texts or materials, and the enacted (as

opposed to espoused) model of learning mathematics. The espoused-enacted dis-

tinction is necessary, because case-studies have shown that there can be a great

disparity between a teacher's espoused and enacted models of teaching and learning

mathematics (Brown, 1986; Cooney, 1985; Cooney & Brown, 1986; Thompson,

1984). Three key causes for the mismatch between beliefs and practices are as

follows.

First of all, there is the depth of the espoused beliefs: the extent to which they

are integrated with other knowledge and beliefs, especially pedagogical knowledge.

If the beliefs are represented in a disconnected verbal way, without rich connec-

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tions to other beliefs and knowledge, only a limited basis for their enactment

exists. Hence a disparity between espoused or stated beliefs and actions, should

not be surprising.

Second, there is the teacher's level of consciousness of his or her own beliefs,

and the extent to which the teacher reflects on his or her practice of teaching

mathematics, leading towards a greater integration of beliefs and practice. Some of

the key elements in the teacher's thinking, as it concerns practice, are the

following: Awareness of having adopted specific views and assumptions as to the

nature of mathematics and its teaching and learning; The ability to justify these

views and assumptions; and Reflexivity: being concerned to reconcile and integrate

classroom practices with beliefs; and to reconcile conflicting beliefs themselves.

Third, there is the powerful influence of the social context. This results from

the expectations of others, especially teachers and superiors. It also results from

the institutionalised curriculum embodied in adopted texts, the system of assess-

ment, and so on. These sources lead the teacher to internalise a powerful set of

contraints affecting the enactment of the models of teaching and learning mathe-

matics. The socialisation effect of the context is so powerful that teachers in the

same school, despite having differing beliefs about mathematics and its teaching,

are often observed to adopt similar classroom practices (Lerman, 1986).

A number of areas of knowledge play an important role in the teacher's enacted

models of teaching and learning mathematics, as the above discussion suggests. First

of all, appropriate practical knowledge of teaching mathematics, both pedagogical

and curricular, is necessary for the implementation of such models. Second,

appropriate knowledge of organisation and management is indeed. Third, knowledge

of the different components of education helps to provide a basis for these models,

such as knowledge of learning theory. Finally, knowledge of the context of teaching

is needed to enable the models to be adjusted to fit and to respond to the realities of

the teaching context.

The teacher's principles of education can also be expected to have an impact on

the ways in which specifically mathematical beliefs are enacted, and the way

knowledge is utilised in the teaching of mathematics.

28 P. Ernest

Finally, the teacher's attitudes to mathematics itself may affect the teacher's

attitudes to the teaching of mathematics, which in turn have a powerful impact on

the atmosphere and ethos of the mathematics classroom. In particular, the teacher's

displayed attitudes to the teaching of mathematics, such as enthusiasm and confi-

dence, can be expected be a major contributor to the ethos of the mathematics

classroom. This in turn can be expected to have a powerful influence on pupils'

perceptions of mathematics. Although it is, of course, the pupil's total classroom

experience of learning mathematics which contributes to the pupil's learning of, and

views and attitudes towards mathematics, and ultimately, to the pupil's achievement

in mathematics.

Teacher knowledge, especially that of mathematics and its teaching, can be

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confidence, both with regard to mathematics and its teaching, will relate to the

teacher's knowledge of these areas, via the perceived adequacy of the teacher's

knowledge.

This account of the impact of teachers' thought structures on teaching utilises a

two-fold division of the elements of the model. There are, first of all, the

components of theoretical knowledge and associated beliefs and attitudes. Secondly,

there are practical knowledge components, and associated beliefs and attitudes.

Typically these two types of elements are linked: aspects of theoretical knowledge

(and associated beliefs and attitudes) form the basis for components of practical

knowledge (and associated beliefs and attitudes), which relate to some aspect of

classroom teaching practice. To a large extent, the distinction between these the two

types of knowledge involved is that between 'knowing that', and 'knowing how',

which is made by Ryle (1949). It has been further developed, in a psychological

direction, by Stones (1979) in his distinctions between knowledge types A, B and C.

At some remove from practice is theoretical knowledge ('knowing that'), and

teacher's beliefs and attitudes towards it. It includes the more organised and

principled theoretical knowledge which is largely acquired prior to or away from the

practice of teaching. This level includes knowledge of mathematics and other

subject matter, beliefs about and attitudes towards mathematics, knowledge of

education, and educational principles.

Closer to the practice of teaching is the practical knowledge ('knowing how'),

and teachers' beliefs and attitudes towards the practice of teaching mathematics. It

is called practical knowledge (after Elbaz, 1981,1983) because it is largely acquired

from the practice of teaching. This level includes knowledge of teaching mathema-

tics, models of teaching and learning mathematics, knowledge of classroom organisa-

tion and of the school context of teaching, and attitudes towards the teaching of

mathematics. Some of these components, such as the models of teaching and

learning mathematics, fit less easily in this grouping, because they have principles

constituents, as well as relating directly to practice.

The Mathematics Teacher 29

The model of the knowledge, beliefs and attitudes which underpins the

practices of the mathematics teacher, presented above, can be compared with a

number of other current models in the literature. The proposed model shares many

of its components with, and indeed owes a number of features to one of the major

research programmes in this area, Lee Shulman's Knowledge Growth in a Profession

project (Shulman, Sykes & Phillips, 1983). In Wilson, Shulman & Richert (1987) a

model of teacher's knowledge is proposed with the following constituents: Knowl-

edge of subject matter, pedagogical content knowledge, knowledge of other content,

knowledge of curriculum, knowledge of learners, knowledge of educational aims and

general pedagogical knowledge. These are empirically well grounded categories,

since Shulman and his collaborators have been carrying out extensive experimental

work. The comparison evidently provides some measure of support for the present

model, since there is evidently a great deal of overlap. A key difference is the

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apparent neglect of attitudes and beliefs. However it seems that beliefs about

subject matter, at least to some extent, are incorporated into Shulman's 'knowledge

of subject matter' category. Again 'knowledge of the context of teaching' is missing,

but it is included in accounts elsewhere as 'knowledge of educational contexts'

(Shulman, 1987).

The shared features with Shulman and co-workers' treatment of teachers'

knowledge suggests that the present model can be generalised. It is easy to replace

mathematics and the associated conceptions and models by say, English, and

conceptions of teaching and learning language, including writing and reading. There

is a range of views of the nature and function of language, just as in the philosophy

of mathematics (Clark & Peterson, 1986).

Concerning the mathematics teacher, the models that are available are less

thoroughly worked out. Underhill (1987) proposes a tentative model which distin-

guishes between beliefs/conceptions, professional knowledge and professional ac-

tions. Its components are:

Beliefs/conceptions: mathematics, mathematics learning, mathematics teaching.

Professional knowledge: generic pedagogy, mathematics pedagogy, mathematical

knowledge, curricular knowledge, generic professional knowledge.

Professional actions: classroom, planning/evaluation, professionalism.

These categories, and their constituents, have much in common with those of

the present proposals. Generic professional knowledge, for example, is comparable

with knowledge of education and the context of teaching. The most significant

differences are the inclusion of professionalism (professional behaviour), and the

exclusion of attitudes (although these seem to be implicit in some of the constitu-

ents). The present proposals also have much in common with a model of the

mathematics teacher's knowledge and beliefs in Kuhs & Ball (1986).

Thus by comparison both with a general model and with models specific to

mathematics teaching, the present proposals gain support from consistency with the

models of other researchers.

30 P. Ernest

The model presented above makes two distinctions which are relevant when

considering its implications for teacher education. First of all, there is the distinc-

tion between knowledge, beliefs and attitudes. Knowledge is the cognitive outcome

of teacher education, and beliefs and attitudes represent the affective outcome (for

simplicity the slender but significant cognitive aspect of beliefs is ignored). The

cognitive goals of teacher education, namely the acquisition of knowledge, may be

addressed relatively directly as the content of instructional and learning experi-

ences (but more of this later). The affective goals, namely the development of

beliefs and attitudes, cannot be treated in this way as the content of instruction, to

any significant extent. The acquisition of models of teaching and learning mathe-

matics will largely occur through the modes of instruction experienced and wit-

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nessed. Views of the nature of mathematics will likewise depend on the modes of

instruction and types of experience through which mathematics is learned. Atti-

tudes to mathematics and its teaching will represent the teacher's personal reac-

tions to experiences in these areas, compounded with other influences. These

examples serve to show that the crucial factor in developing beliefs and attitudes

in teacher education is the form, rather than the content of the learning experi-

ences. One of key features of the model presented above is the importance

accorded to the beliefs of the mathematics teacher. The consequence for teacher

education is that great attention must be given to the form or mode of presenta-

tion of teacher preparation courses. Thus if, as Cockcroft (1982) recommends,

mathematics teaching should include significant elements of practical work, discus-

sion, problem solving and investigative work, then so too must teacher education,

if teachers are to learn to model these styles. Of course, this point is not new.

Stones (1983), for example, draws attention to the irony of teacher education

institutions using lecture methods to teach pedagogy. The inconsistency of the

form and content of such instruction seems likely to negate the intended out-

comes. By attaching importance to beliefs and attitude components for the teach-

ing of mathematics the model presented here provides a further powerful rationale

for examining and planning the modes of instruction of teacher education courses

as carefully as their contents.

The second distinction made is that between theoretical and practical knowl-

edge. Theoretical knowledge has long been the main content of teacher education

courses, leavened with some teaching methodology courses and practical teaching

experiences. Practical knowledge has traditionally been treated rather casually.

Other than in the methodology course, it is assumed to be acquired from immersion

in teaching experiences and practices. The model proposed here identifies a number

of important areas of practical knowledge for teaching. These are pedagogical

knowledge of teaching mathematics, curriculum knowledge for teaching mathema-

tics, knowledge of organisation and management for mathematics teaching, and

knowledge of the context of mathematics teaching, including both knowledge of

school and of pupils. The assumption that these areas of practical knowledge play a

central role in the teaching of mathematics raises a number of questions for teacher

The Mathematics Teacher 31

education. What university or college based experiences are appropriate for laying

the foundations for these areas of knowledge? How should school based experiences

be structured to optimise the learning in these areas? How useful would an explicit

discussion and treatment of these areas be to student teachers? What balance should

be sought between experimental, observational and analytical approaches to these

areas of knowledge (Stones's (1979) three levels of skills)?

This paper began by discussing the importance of taking account of teachers'

psychology if changes to the teaching of mathematics are expected. Currently, it is

clear that the imposition of a British National Curriculum in Mathematics (not to

mention the other subjects) will require changes in teaching (DES, 1988). These

changes involve both content and teaching styles in mathematics. If teacher

education institutions are to prepare mathematics teachers to implement such

innovations, it is vital that attention is devoted to the deeper issues involved. The

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beliefs and attitudes, both at the theoretical and practical levels. The model and

proposals offered here provide a framework for considering some of the questions

which the design of such courses raises.

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