Principled teaching for deep progress: improving mathematical learning beyond methods and materials

Watson, Anne and De Geest, Els (2005). Principled teaching for deep progress: improving mathematical learning beyond methods and materials. Educational studies in Mathematics, 58(2) pp. 209–234.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10649-005-2756-x

Abstract

This paper contributes to knowledge about principled action which makes a difference to learners attainment. We report on the Improving Attainment in Mathematics Project, a project focusing on low-attaining secondary students. The purpose of the project was to introduce innovations in practice through action research with 10 teachers over 2 years, and evaluate the effect on students learning using national test scores, teachers reports, non-routine tasks and other performance indicators. However, this is not a study which shows how certain methods lead to better results. While it was found that learning improved, the methods and strategies the teachers used were not always generalisable across the project, indeed some were contradictory. Continued searching led to the identification of common underlying principles of teaching which different teachers manifested in different ways. Overt methods were less important than the collection of beliefs and commitments which underpinned teachers choices. There was, however, a convergence of practice around a focus on long-term development, the process of becoming a learner of mathematics, rather than short-term gains. In addition, we had to deal with some of the realities of authentic collaborative research with practitioners.

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