Secondary mathematics teachers' classroom practices: a case study of three township schools in Gauteng Province, South Africa
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While there have been enormous changes in the South African system of education since 1994, the legacy of apartheid and the different education of Black teachers is still evident in township schools. This study examined the practices of mathematics teaching in three township secondary schools by conducting a detailed investigation of eight teachers in three schools. Classroom observations and video recordings of teachers of Grades 10 to 12 served as the main data collection method. A sample of 12 lessons was analysed using the Secondary Teaching Analysis Matrix-Mathematics (STAM-Mathematics) (Gallagher & Parker, 1995) instrument. The researcher used STAM to categorise teachers' classroom practices along a three pronged continuum, namely didactic, transitional and conceptual teaching for the purpose of answering research questions about the content, the teaching, the assessment practices, the interactions between the teacher and the student, and the resource availability. Analysis of the data collected using the 22 STAM descriptors showed that the practices of teaching mathematics in township secondary schools was primarily didactic, with only minimal characteristics of transitional teaching and fewer attributes of conceptual teaching. Identifying the gaps between the teachers' practice and the descriptors for transitional and conceptual teaching with respect to the content, the teaching, the approaches to assessment, interactions between teacher and students, and resources availability has provided insight and a baseline for teacher inservice. Consequently, this study has provided research-based evidence for appropriate intervention to improve mathematics teaching and learning as prioritised by the Department of Education since the creation of the democratic government in 1994.It is recommended that mathematics teachers in township schools use the STAM instrument in pairs or groups to observe and analyse each other's lessons with particular focus on the 22 descriptors and to use this framework as a guideline for daily lesson preparations and to help guide the teachers from teacher-centred instruction to conceptual instruction. Further, the STAM could be incorporated into teacher education and professional development programs and thereby lead to more conceptual forms of teaching that could contribute towards a greater understanding of mathematics and ultimately raise the pass rate of learners in external examinations at Grade 12.
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