Identifying mathematics teaching knowledge for Saudi Female mathematics teachers in middle school

Author: Hdil Alatallah

Alatallah, Hdil, 2020 Identifying mathematics teaching knowledge for Saudi Female mathematics teachers in middle school, Flinders University, College of Education, Psychology and Social Work

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Teacher’s mathematical content knowledge is an essential aspect of the work of teaching. To teach effectively and apply the required curriculum, other aspects like pedagogical content knowledge and beliefs are rather more important. Student learning is highly connected to teachers and the work of teaching. Over the last few decades, different (theoretical and empirical) frameworks addressing the mathematics knowledge needed for teaching have been proposed, including The Michigan Project (US), COACTIV (Germany), TEDS-M (International), and Rowland’s Knowledge Quartet (UK). According to Neubrand (2018), the work of teaching is complex and many scholars argue that describing a multifaceted process like teaching requires more than just examining teachers’ knowledge; it must also include related contextual factors. This research argues that a holistic view of mathematics teachers’ mathematics knowledge for teaching (MKT) is essential in order to determine how aspects of MKT (Subject Matter Knowledge (SMT) and Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK)) and beliefs impact pedagogical decisions. Indeed, relational understanding of the complex work of teaching and the role of teachers’ mathematical knowledge for teaching makes new contributions to theory and practice.

The new approach of this research sheds light both on what teachers do and why, by investigating three areas: 1) The gap between knowing and acting; 2) The importance of the cultural context; 3) The affective component. This has been applied through examining three major aspects: 1) knowledge (Types of cognitive content knowledge); 2) beliefs about (nature of mathematics- mathematics teaching- and mathematics learning); and 3) culture. It provides additional information about the relationships between them and understanding of how these aspects may impact on teachers’ classroom practices. The research evaluates the teaching process through a cultural lens within the Saudi Arabian context. A qualitative study employed three central data collection methods, written test, interviews and observations, to identify Saudi Female Mathematics Teachers’ (SFMTs’) mathematics knowledge for teaching in middle school in Saudi Arabia. As a result of this investigation, the current study suggests that there are factors other than teachers’ knowledge that guide their actual teaching. Finding shows that In the first area, 1) The gap between knowing and acting: teachers’ content knowledge focussed primarily on knowledge of facts and rules (Type 1) are significantly linked with the rule-based approach to teaching in Saudi Arabia. In the second area, the importance of the cultural context: teaching is a cultural activity (Stigler & Hiebert, 1999), and Saudi’s culture is highly influenced by Confucian epistemological beliefs that shape the processes of teaching in the classroom and the practice of teaching within the country. In the third area, the affective component: Platonist beliefs about the nature of mathematics held by SFMTs are not consistent with a new Saudi curriculum reform where the problem-solving approach in the new curriculum is underpinned by constructivist learning. This thesis provides evidence and insight to guide future teacher education professional development program designers and policy makers in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.

Keywords: mathematics teaching knowledge, effective teaching, culture, beliefs, knowledge, teaching practice, middle school, Saudi Arabia

Subject: Education thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2020
School: College of Education, Psychology and Social Work
Supervisor: Associate Professor Julie Clark