Mathematical belief change

Teachers’ beliefs arguably have an impact on their teaching practice (see for instance Leder et al., 2002), but often, beliefs appear to be resistant to change. It is therefore an interesting topic that is being raised by Peter Grootenboer in his article: Mathematical belief change in prospective primary teachers. The article was recently published online in Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education.

Grootenboer provides a nice overview of previous research in this area, and that alone is reason enough to read this article. In addition, the study he reports is very interesting. Unlike many other studies of teachers’ beliefs, Grootenboer has conducted a naturalistic study (in his own classroom), and he collected data from different sources: observation, interviews and assignments. If, like me, you are interested in teachers’ beliefs in mathematics education, you should definitely read this article! Here is the abstract:

The development and influence of beliefs in teacher education has been a topic of increasing interest for researchers in recent years. This study explores the responses of a group of prospective primary teachers to attempts to facilitate belief change as part of their initial teacher education programme in mathematics. The students’ responses seemed to fall into three categories: non-engagement; building a new set of beliefs and; reforming existing beliefs. In this article the participants’ responses are outlined and illustrated with stories from three individuals. This study suggests that belief reform is complex and fraught with ethical dilemmas. Certainly there is a need for further research in this area, particularly given the pervasive influence of beliefs on teaching practice.

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