An appraisal of in-service education in mathematics for teachers of children under 13 years old
The main objective of this research was to help all the teachers at twelve First and Middle schools to broaden their teaching of mathematics, providing planned activities for concept learning and opportunities tor discussion. The researcher acted both as change-agent and evaluator, with some help from the LEA advisers. The IDe.thodologyused was. action research and case-study. The fieldwork was ~arried out mainly between April 1976 and July 1979 in fourteen schools: six First, six Middle and two High schools in an Quter London borough where mathematics co-ordinators had recently been appointed in First and Middle schools. Preliminary observation visits were made and interviews were conducted to determine the teaching methods used and the teachers' attitudes to mathematics, past and present. In the past, the researcher had operated by means of working sessions for in-service education in mathematics. Despite a second round of working sessions such changes as were made were not sustained. In this project, in addition to providing working sessions the researcher visited all the project schools frequently to help individual teachers in their classrooms to make the changes desired. The working sessions were organised in two ways: at the teachers' centre for teams of key teachers from eight of the schools, and at four individual schools for the head and all the teachers, so that the relative effects of off-site and on-site working sessions could be compared. The two inputs of working sessions and support visits were divided by an interval of two terms, during which the researcher made regular visits to each school to work with groups of children and to monitor developments informally. The support visits of the second input were continued until Spring 1979. Final visits to the schools were made during 1980. Since there had been unexpected calls on the advisers' time, their observation visits to schools were seriously reduced. The researcher therefore had to rely for confirmation on the heads' estimates of the percentage changes made in the teaching of mathematics. She compared these estimates with her own, and set the agreed estimates against the total contributions made at each school by the head, the co-ordinator and the key teachers, bearing in mind the high cumulative staff turnover at each project school. The estimates of change ranged from 35 per cent to 70 per cent. The findings included: (1) Improving a school's teaching of mathematics (5 to 13 years) by in-service education takes at least three years; (2) In-service education comprising support visits to help individual teachers to make changes in their classrooms, as well as working sessions, is effective in terms of more lasting classroom changes; (3) The appointment of mathematics co-ordinators in First and Middle schools was useful, but they need prior training and a greater knowledge of mathematics if they are to be fully effective; (4) Heads, who have to act as facilitators, should also attend the training sessions for co-ordinators. For a head to facilitate maximum change, she too has to have a competent knowledge of mathematics. (5) No clear advantage emerged for either the off-site or the on-site working sessions. A more important factor seemed to be the active contribution made by the head.