An exploratory study of mathematics teachers beliefs and classroom practices in state schools and private preparatory courses : an institutional perspective
This study explores mathematics teachers' classroom practices in Turkey and is centrally informed by socio-cultural theories. The research examines mathematics teachers,instructional practices in relation to the wider institutional context in which teaching practices are situated. The study takes a naturalistic approach, with minimum prior assumptions on the way in which teachers' classroom practices are examined. The structure of the examination of practices is grounded in the data itself. A multiple-case study methodology was used for this purpose. The main data included observation of four mathematics teachers' lessons from different institutional backgrounds (two state school and two private preparatory courses). I video recorded teachers' lessons while they were teaching the topic 'functions' over a period of one month, a total of 52 lessons. Other sources of data included semi-structured interviews and a questionnaire administered to 87 teachers. The findings from the analysis of interviews suggested that all of the teachers described their lessons in the same manner and I conclude that all four teachers' instructional practices contain two main elements: 'content', where the theory of the mathematical knowledge to be taught is presented; and 'example solving', where the theoretical knowledge presented was essentially put into practice. Analysis of the video data suggests different patterns of practices in the teachers of different institutions. My attempt to make sense of these differences revealed an emergent theme that I pursued: that the institutional context influences teachers' practices more than I expected and more than is reported in the mathematics education literature. The findings reveal associations between specific instructional materials, teaching practices and institutions. The analysis of data also shows that the institutional context influences teachers' practices to an extent that teachers subordinate their own views regarding their teaching practices, i. e. teachers adopt teaching practices the institution they are working in promotes, even though they believe that these are not the most appropriate teaching practices to facilitate student understanding of mathematics. On the basis of these findings: I argue that individual differences in teachers' practices may be reduced by the institutions, depending on the degree of influence of the institution concerned; I argue that institutions influence mathematics teachers' professional development; I introduce the construct 'contextual density' to describe the varying degrees of influence of institutions on teachers.