Is anyone listening? Women mathematics teachers' experiences of professional learning

Adams, Gill (2014). Is anyone listening? Women mathematics teachers' experiences of professional learning. EdD thesis The Open University.



This study explores women secondary mathematics teachers' experiences of professional learning. Life histories were elicited through semi-structured interviews in the form of guided conversations, supplemented by time-lines of mathematics and of professional learning. Analysis focused on constructed personal experience narratives. Although research demonstrates the features of effective professional learning, teachers' experiences of learning throughout their careers remains under explored. A particular focus in this study is on the ways in which professional learning is supported, providing opportunities for reengagement with mathematics, a subject frequently viewed as inaccessible and masculine.

The women's stories are peopled with significant others who provide both models and encouragement, frequently drawn from their own school days and early professional experience. Much professional learning is informal, arising from unstructured reflection on teaching, with teachers accorded neither agency nor consistent support for their learning.

The women's narratives provide a perspective on lived experiences of professional learning. Frequently learning is unsupported and spaces to discuss mathematics learning and teaching limited. Teachers appear isolated in restrictive school environments which contribute to a perception of reduced agency. Where opportunities for collaborative professional learning exist, women participate actively in the wider mathematics education community. Analysis of the narratives suggests that teachers' agency over their professional learning needs to increase to create spaces for women to collaborate on mathematics focussed professional learning. The allocation of resources to teacher professional learning should be prioritised.

These glimpses reveal the restricted landscape of women mathematics teachers'learning opportunities. Despite these restrictions, however, teachers push at the boundaries. The narratives will support teachers who may draw on the voices of others to help them to make sense of their own development. Further research is warranted to explore the way individuals might develop and utilise their own professional learning narratives.

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