What you expect is what you get: The impact of mathematics teachers' beliefs about students' capabilities on their practice
Beswick, K, What you expect is what you get: The impact of mathematics teachers' beliefs about students' capabilities on their practice, Proceedings of the 'Narrowing the Gap: Addressing Educational Disadvantage' Conference, 26 - 28 April 2007, University of New England, Armidale, NSW, pp. 121. ISBN 978-1-921597-01-5 (2007) [Conference Extract]
This paper draws together evidence obtained from several research projects conducted
principally in Tasmania but also in the UK concerning the impact on teaching of
differentiated teacher expectations of studentsí capabilities. Questionnaire data indicate that
teachers hold different views about appropriate curricula and goals of mathematics teaching
for different groups of students depending on their perceptions of the studentsí abilities,
while interviews and observations illustrate the ways in which differing teacher expectations
are played out in classrooms.
Rather than suggesting simplistic or causal links between teachersí beliefs and practices,
the paper draws on nuanced understandings of the content and structure of teachersí belief
systems. In particular, evidence of the mediating effects of teachersí beliefs about the
relative compliance of students perceived to be of differing abilities on teachersí pedagogical
choices is considered. Implications for studentsí opportunities to achieve in the context of the
explicitly or implicitly differentiated curricula that result from teachersí beliefs about them are
The evidence illustrates that improvements in the mathematics achievement of relatively
disadvantaged groups of students is dependent upon teachers believing that more is
possible. With this in mind the characteristics of two approaches to encouraging desired
change are also considered. One of these is a professional learning model instigated by
researchers and the other driven by a head of department within a school.
The paper will be framed by current understandings of the content and structure of
mathematics teachersí belief systems and of effective professional learning for teachers.