Primary Teachers' Mathematical Beliefs and Practices in the Maldives
Recent reforms in mathematics education have been influenced by such theoretical perspectives as constructivism, which have reconceptualised teaching and learning. Mismatches between teachers’ beliefs about teaching and learning, and ideas underpinning reform are often viewed as major obstacles to implementing educational reforms. This study examined the mathematical beliefs and practices, and factors affecting practices, of eight primary teachers selected from four schools in two different regions of the Maldives. The research used a multiple case study approach within a qualitative methodology. A questionnaire, semi-structured interviews, and observations were used to collect data about teachers’ beliefs and practice. Teachers’ lesson notes, worksheets, samples of student work, and test papers were used to understand teachers’ practice. Data were analysed within and across cases using a thematic approach. Teachers demonstrated a range of beliefs that included both constructivist and traditional elements to different degrees. In general, teachers’ observed practice was more traditional than their beliefs about teaching and learning mathematics. The teachers’ practice showed some consistency with their beliefs about the nature of mathematics, mathematics teaching and learning; however, the degree of consistency between beliefs and practice differed from teacher to teacher. Overall, the findings indicated there are several factors affecting teachers’ practice, including methods of assessment, teacher accountability for students’ results, limited time to cover the curriculum, lack of resources, and parental pressure to use textbooks. National assessment practices, affecting many factors found to limit practice, emerged as being particularly influential on the teachers’ instructional behaviour. The study suggests the need to change the nature of national assessment, and remove other barriers if teachers are to be best placed to implement their constructivist beliefs and the Maldives mathematics curriculum. The findings also have implications for professional development and teacher education programmes.