Original Research

Professional development for teachers’ mathematical problem-solving pedagogy – what counts?

Brantina Chirinda
Pythagoras | Vol 42, No 1 | a532 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/pythagoras.v42i1.532 | © 2021 Brantina Chirinda | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 03 February 2020 | Published: 25 August 2021

About the author(s)

Brantina Chirinda, Department of Science and Technology Education, Faculty of Education, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa


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Abstract

Problem-solving is of importance in the teaching and learning of mathematics. Nevertheless, a baseline investigation conducted in 2016 revealed that mathematical problem-solving is virtually missing in South African classrooms. In this regard, a two-cycle design-based research project was conducted to develop a professional development (PD) intervention that can be used to bolster Grade 9 South African teachers’ mathematical problem-solving pedagogy (MPSP). This article discusses the factors that emerged as fundamental to such a PD intervention. Four teachers at public secondary schools in Gauteng, South Africa, who were purposively selected, participated in this qualitative research study of a naturalistic inquiry. Teachers attended PD workshops for six months where PD activities that were relevant to their context were implemented. Between the PD workshops, teachers were encouraged to put into practice the new ideas on MPSP. Qualitative data were gathered through reflective interviews and classroom observations which were audio-recorded with teachers’ consent. Data were analysed through grounded theory techniques using constant comparison. The findings from the study suggested that teachers’ personal meaning, reflective inquiry, and collaborative learning are factors fundamental to their professional growth in MPSP. The major recommendation from the study is that facilitators of PD must acknowledge these factors to promote teachers’ professional growth in MPSP. If PD processes and activities are relevant to teachers’ personal meaning, reflective inquiry, and collaborative learning, teachers find the PD programme fulfilling and meaningful. This study contributes to the PD in MPSP body of knowledge by having worked with teachers in an under-researched context of historical disadvantage.

Keywords

Mathematics education; mathematical problem-solving pedagogy; personal meaning; professional development; reflective inquiry; collaboration

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