Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Restructuring mathematics teaching | learning: Co-teaching as a designed approach to teachers' collaborative inquiry

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posted on 2023-09-26, 23:59 authored by Eden, Raewyn

This study explores how participation in collaborative inquiry opens space for an expanded set of understandings and practices for mathematics teaching | learning. It examines the affordances of collaborative inquiry to promote, or constrain, teacher learning in the context of teachers’ day to day work.  Sociocultural perspectives underpin the study whereby professional learning is presumed to be situated in the social and cultural contexts of teachers’ work. A survey of the literature supports the assumption that persistent underachievement in mathematics for some groups of learners requires shifts in what teachers know and can do and reveals the importance of collaboration and inquiry for teacher learning.  The study involved a participatory, design-based approach underpinned by an authentic and appreciative inquiry stance. Design-based research was chosen for its proximity to practice and its focus on connections between the enactment of learning designs and outcomes of interest. The research was iterative and cyclical whereby the researcher worked with a group of four teachers in one New Zealand primary school to design, implement and refine an approach to teachers’ collaborative inquiry. A range of data were gathered during a 6-month collaboration, including from teacher interviews, classroom observations and three-weekly group meetings. The analysis took a pragmatic and multi-theoretical approach to examine what it meant to design and enact teachers’ collaborative inquiry. Cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT) was employed to capture the complexity of the teachers’ collaborative inquiry activity and to analyse and interpret the contradictions that arose.  A key finding was that a co-teaching inquiry approach fostered conditions that afforded teachers’ expanded access to and depth of engagement with new, and often dissonant, practice ideas. Through co-teaching, mathematics teaching | learning was restructured within three interconnected fields of practice: the teachers’ enacted practice, their talk about practice, and their noticing of student thinking within practice. The co-teaching inquiry activity was increasingly directed at a collective purpose; involved an interplay of risk and trust; supported shifts in teachers’ roles and responsibilities; and allowed teachers to constantly renegotiate the goals of their shared activity. The co-teaching arrangement disrupted practice whereby teachers’ actions served as minor interruptions to each other’s practice and thus became a resource for teacher learning. Opportunities to engage deeply with one another’s practice opened space for an expanded set of actions for each of the teachers in their own practice.  This thesis adds nuanced understandings of the interrelated roles of collaboration and inquiry in improving teaching. It contributes to the growing body of literature exploring co-teaching arrangements for teacher learning, in this case in the previously under-examined context of teachers’ collaborative inquiry for their ongoing professional learning. It offers insights into how co-teaching might support teachers to enact new and challenging pedagogies aimed at addressing the persistent and considerable challenges posed by an ethical imperative to promote mathematics learning for diverse (all) students. Participating in the co-construction of a design for their collaborative inquiry enabled teachers to restructure their work and expand the possibilities for their individual and collective practice. It allowed teachers to reconstruct their identities from the lone operator whose professional reputation needs protection from exposure of any weaknesses in their mathematics knowledge or practice, to a learner whose naïve questions and gaps in practice served as a resource for all in their learning.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License


Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Education


Higgins, Joanna; Cherrington, Sue; McDonald, Lex