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Examining special education teacher learning in mathematics
Long, Stella
THESIS 11433 The purpose of this research study was to understand the factors, individual and contextual, influencing special education teachers acquisition of knowledge and skills for teaching mathematics to pupils with Special Educational Needs (SEN). The study also sought to understand the perceptions and experiences of the participants, of the influence of the mathematics input on a Post Graduate Diploma in Special Educational Needs (PGDSEN) programme on their acquisition of new knowledge and skills. Finally, the understandings of the participants of the transfer of their learning to classroom practice was examined. Barriers and facilitating factors influencing the implementation of their new practices were elicited. Concerns have been expressed about attainment levels in mathematics (Department of Education and Skills, 2011f; National Mathematics Advisory Panel, 2008). Research has established that developing teacher mathematical knowledge increases the attainment levels of pupils (Hill, Rowan, & Lowenberg Ball, 2005). Some teachers acknowledge that they do not have the necessary skills and knowledge to teach pupils with SEN (Black-Hawkins, 2014). Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is vital to ensure that special education teachers are supported in meeting the specific challenge of teaching mathematics to pupils with SEN (Maccini & Gagcon, 2002). However, professional development for teachers in special education has received ?little attention to date? (Florian, 2010a, p. xix). The literature review for this study provides a contextual framework and justification for the research. Inclusive education has placed additional demands on teachers (Greer & Meyen, 2009). Practising teachers perceive that CPD is their route to the acquisition of the specialist knowledge required in inclusive education settings (Ware, Butler, Robertson, O'Donnell, & Gould, 2011). Some pupils find it difficult to learn mathematics and therefore require skilled teaching (Chinn & Ashcroft, 2007; National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, 2007). Although the knowledge base in mathematics difficulties is not as well developed as that of literacy, there is a base of evidence based practices to guide and support teachers to provide quality instruction to pupils with learning difficulties in mathematics (Gersten & Newman-Gonchar, 2011). The research question and embedded questions which served to elicit the data for this study are as follows: What factors influence special educators? teaching of mathematics to pupils with SEN? -- What are the individual teacher factors influencing special educators? acquisition of knowledge and skills in mathematics? -- What are the contextual factors influencing special educators? acquisition of knowledge and skills in mathematics? -- What are the special educators? perceptions and experiences of the influence of the mathematics input on the PGDSEN programme on their acquisition of knowledge and skills in mathematics? -- What are the special educators? understandings of the transfer of their learning to classroom practice? Set within a constructivist paradigm, a case study design proved to be an appropriate means of gaining an in-depth insight into the phenomenon, special education teacher learning in mathematics. The study was conducted in four phases over a 30 month period. Primarily qualitative in nature, the data collection methods included questionnaires, measures, interviews, document analysis and reflective diaries. The data were analysed thematically. The themes which emerged from the data were; Inclusive and special education: Policy and provision; CPD and Translating the learning into practice: Teaching mathematics to pupils with SEN. Bronfenbrenner?s (1979) ecological theory provided a framework to identify, organise and understand the complexity and interaction of factors influencing special education teacher learning and the subsequent transfer to practice of new knowledge and skills in the present research study. Participants of this study held positive attitudes to inclusion. However, over half of the cohort expressed some concern about their personal skills and knowledge for teaching pupils with SEN. They believed that CPD would provide a medium for upskilling in SEN. There was considerable variation in the participants? mathematical knowledge for teaching. The participants agreed that the input on mathematics on the PGDSEN programme was relevant to their needs. Influences were seen at three levels ? personal, class and whole-school. Participants agreed that they had implemented new practices in their teaching of mathematics to pupils with SEN. The transfer of new learning to classroom practice was more easily achieved when a whole school culture towards inclusion was in place. It was evident that class teachers held a pivotal position in many schools with regard to the implementation of new practices. Structural issues in schools such...
Keyword(s): Education, Ph.D.; Ph.D. Trinity College Dublin
Publication Date:
2017
Type: Doctoral thesis
Peer-Reviewed: Unknown
Language(s): English
Institution: Trinity College Dublin
Citation(s): Stella Long, 'Examining special education teacher learning in mathematics', [thesis], Trinity College (Dublin, Ireland). School of Education, 2017
Publisher(s): Trinity College (Dublin, Ireland). School of Education
Supervisor(s): Shevlin, Michael
First Indexed: 2018-12-15 06:12:08 Last Updated: 2018-12-15 06:12:08