A case study of secondary school mathematics teachers evaluating their classroom-based assessments for the purpose of teaching for mathematical proficiency

Le Roux, Jean-Pierre (2020-03)

Thesis (MEd)--Stellenbosch University, 2020.


ENGLISH ABSTRACT : Much emphasis has been placed on the role that assessment plays in the relationship between teaching and learning. Current thinking about mathematics teaching and learning encourages teachers to integrate a range of teaching and assessment practices that are receptive to their students’ thinking and which promote learning. Reforms in mathematics education, including the Mathematics Teaching and Learning Framework for South Africa (DBE, 2018), have called on teachers to adapt their classroom-based assessment practices towards promoting a learning-centred classroom. The research findings of this study on how teachers can incorporate new ideas into their classroom-based assessments, and by designing classroombased assessments towards mathematical proficiency, are especially relevant considering that the Mathematics Teaching and Learning Framework (DBE, 2018) draws on Kilpatrick, Swafford and Findell’s (2001) five strands of mathematical proficiency to bring about the transformation of mathematics in South Africa. This in-depth study aims to respond to calls that have been made to understand the complexities that mathematics teachers face when they are expected to bring new ideas to the learning environment they create, including their assessment practices. In this study, five mathematics teachers from two secondary schools formed a case study to understand better how teachers can redesign their classroom-based assessments to promote mathematical proficiency for a professional development agenda. The three main concepts of the theoretical framework, which are adapted from Belbase (2012) are: (1) teachers’ beliefs; (2) teachers’ assessment practices of mathematical proficiency; and (3) teachers’ knowledge of mathematical proficiency. In this study I interpreted the relationship between teaching, learning, and assessment from the perspective of developing teachers’ assessment as a network, and my intervention was located on the edge between teachers’ knowledge and assessment practices. I engaged the participant teachers on the construct of mathematical proficiency (Kilpatrick et al.,2001) and asked them to adapt their classroom-based assessments for the purpose of teaching for mathematical proficiency. The data, which was gathered from semi-structured group and individual interviews, classroom-observations, and artefact collection, found that mathematics teachers’ conceptions of assessment were compelling. Four key aspects (purpose and function of assessment; the perceived curriculum; expectations of students; and school context) shape teachers’ conceptions of assessment, which results in the teachers having either societal conceptions of assessment or pedagogical conceptions of assessment. The teachers’ conceptions of assessment were the strongest indication of whether the teachers aligned to an assessment culture or a testing culture of assessment. The study found that teachers’ pedagogical conceptions of assessment which promotes pedagogy are essential to foster a learning-centred classroom. The study provides an argument about the implications of the research findings for professional practice by discussing four key principles of adapting classroom-based assessment to promote a learning-centred classroom. This study has found that classroom-based assessment drives the teaching and learning which takes place in the mathematics classroom. The research study also makes two theoretical contributions. The first pertains to the distinction between mathematics teachers’ beliefs and their conceptions. The second concerns the effect and influence of teachers’ beliefs on the teachers’ adaption of their classroom-based assessments towards mathematical proficiency by linking the relationships between knowledge and assessment with beliefs, and by expanding on the implications of the research to achieve optimal teacher change.

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