Teachers' and pre-service teachers' confidence to teach primary school mathematics
Beswick, K and Ashman, D and Callingham, R and McBain, D, Teachers' and pre-service teachers' confidence to teach primary school mathematics, Proceedings of the 2011 Australian Association for Research in Education Conference, 27 November - 1 December 2011, Hobart, Tasmania, pp. 1-10. ISSN 1324-9320 (2011) [Refereed Conference Paper]
Confidence has been variously defined as a dimension attitude, an outcome of beliefs about one's self-efficacy in a particular situation, and as inherent in the process of learning and linked to identity formation. It is often assumed to be associated with ability and crucial to performance. There is evidence that many primary teachers lack confidence in their ability to teach topics in the mathematics curriculum effectively (Beswick, Watson, & Brown, 2006; Watson, Beswick, Caney, & Skalicky, 2006), and that pre-service teachers have reservations about their preparedness to teach mathematics at the level they will be qualified to teach it. Indeed, mathematics anxiety is commonly reported among pre-service primary teachers (e.g., Uusimaki & Nason, 2004). The pre-service (n = 96) and practising (n = 32) teachers in this study worked together in the pre-service teachers' final mathematics curriculum unit in an approach designed to bridge the perceived theory-practice gap. We were interested in the impact of the unit on the pre-service teachers' confidence. Confidence data were collected using a paper based questionnaire that included one section related to confidence. The section comprised 21 items to which participants responded on 5- point Likert scales indicating the extent of their confidence from Low confidence to High confidence. This paper presents data on the confidence of practising primary teachers and pre-service teachers to teach various aspects of the primary school mathematics curriculum. Differences between the confidence of the two groups of teachers at the start and end of the project, and changes in the pre-service teachers' confidence from the beginning to the end of the semester long unit are examined using t-tests. Unsurprisingly the practising teachers were more confident to teach most topics than were their novice colleagues at the start of the semester but this was not the case at the end. In general the pre-service teachers' confidence improved from beginning to end of the semester.