What characteristics of secondary mathematics professional development courses do teachers find effective?

Barker, Deborah Maria

July 2017

Thesis or dissertation

© 2017 Deborah Maria Barker. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

In this study, I investigate what characteristics mathematics teachers find effective in their professional development.

The literature review reveals the significance of teacher professional development and its impact on quality of teaching and student experience. It also describes and offers a critique of an emerging body of knowledge of professional development for mathematics teachers.

I explore and analyse the experience of teacher participants, each engaged in one of three professional development courses for teachers of mathematics. The courses were managed by my employers, Mathematics in Education and Industry (ME). Two were led by my colleagues and one was led by myself. Three forms of data collection were carried out: a paper questionnaire of demographic and background details of the teacher participants; a paper survey of their views of effective (and ineffective) professional development activities experienced during the above courses; and, semi-structured interviews with small focus groups of self-selecting participants.

A classification system is developed to categorise and assess teacher participants’ qualitative responses. This system permits themes to emerge, to be identified and then analysed. The data collection reveals that the individuals forming the community of mathematics teachers on these courses varied widely in terms of professional background and career stage.

Significantly, the findings suggest that a number of aspects contribute to the effectiveness of professional development for mathematics teachers, as identified by the teachers themselves. Furthermore, some groupings of teacher participants on professional development courses present commonalities in terms of which aspects are most significant.

Finally, the thesis presents a number of implications for future practice in the design and delivery of professional development for mathematics teachers, and suggests a number of possible areas for further research in the future.

School of Education and Social Sciences, The University of Hull
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