Teacher Beliefs, Knowledge, and Reported Practices Regarding Numeracy Outcomes in the Solomon Islands
The low level of basic numeracy achievement in the Solomon Islands education system is a growing concern to key stakeholders. Apart from monitoring numeracy standards, no attempt has been made to explore how Solomon Islands teachers structure mathematics teaching and learning, or the quality and effectiveness of teaching and learning in schools. It has been widely recognised that teachers' beliefs, knowledge, and practices are major influences in teaching and learning mathematics in classroom situations. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to explore Solomon Islands primary school teachers' beliefs, knowledge, reported practices, and professional learning experiences that enhance numeracy outcomes. The review of literature thus focuses on teacher beliefs about mathematics, its teaching, and learning; teacher pedagogical content knowledge; and professional development. Sixteen mainly urban based primary school teachers were interviewed to explore teachers' beliefs, pedagogical content knowledge, and professional learning experiences. A phenomenological approach to qualitative methodology was adopted to explore the phenomenon. A methodological triangulation of data collection was used involving a Belief Cards exercise and a semi-structured interview protocol. The combination of these methods helped to provide a coherent picture of teacher beliefs, knowledge, and practices. The results were analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis. The findings of the Belief Cards exercise showed that individual teachers held disparate and inconsistent views and beliefs about mathematics, its teaching, and learning. Although the majority of the teachers agreed with beliefs about the nature of mathematics as problem solving and favoured pupil-centred approaches, when it came to specific beliefs representing pedagogic strategies about teaching and learning of mathematics, teachers held differing views about linking mathematics to real life situations; mathematics as teacher-centred and transmitted, and pupils as passive listeners; and teachers' enthusiasm about doing mathematics. The study also indicates most study teachers displayed a combination of traditional-transmission and contemporary-constructivist beliefs and views about mathematics, its teaching, and its learning. Further findings based on the interview protocol included that almost 50 per cent of the teachers claimed to have insufficient knowledge about mathematical content and theoretical perspectives about learning, inadequate specific mathematics teaching resources, and 75 per cent claimed a lack of ongoing professional development support in mathematics. Some constructivist mathematical practices were reported; however, the teaching described by some teachers tended to reflect the traditional-transmission approach to teaching and learning of mathematics. The overall results showed a disparity between teacher beliefs and practices exists.