A Multiple Case Study Examining Secondary Mathematics Teachers’ Perceptions of Reform-Oriented Instruction and Obstacles to Instructional Change

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Gaddy, Angeline King
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Middle Tennessee State University
For more than a century, reform efforts have been suggested in the field of mathematics education. Two of the more recent efforts, by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, in 2000, and the National Research Council, in 2001, contributed to the Common Core State Standards of Mathematics, which were published in 2010 and widely adopted across the United States. For many mathematics teachers, achieving the goals described in these standards meant changing their style of teaching from using traditional instructional methods to reform-oriented methods. When studying teachers who attempted to alter their teaching practices in response to past reform efforts, researchers have found obstacles that blocked the implementation of the reforms or prevented their being implemented in the way they were intended. Through an examination of mathematics teachers attempting to transform their teaching practice in anticipation of the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, this case study revealed the beliefs and perceptions the teachers held about their transitioning to using reform-oriented instructional methods.
This study, conducted over a four-month period, employed surveys, interviews, written reflections, and observations, to reveal the beliefs held by the participants about their abilities to use reform-oriented teaching methods, the criteria they used to determine their success, and what obstacles they encountered to changing their practice. Using qualitative research methods, the researcher analyzed the participants’ responses, which revealed the participants believed, to varying degrees, that they possessed the ability to teach using reform-oriented instructional methods. To evaluate their success, the participants described three categories of criteria: students’ attitudes and behaviors, participants’ questioning skills, and students’ presentation of their work. Finally, the obstacles reported by the participants to their implementing their intended reform were time constraints, lack of resources, student concerns, and insufficient training and experience. These results correspond to research findings about teachers during a period of transition. The findings from this research study suggest a need for ongoing training and support for teachers who are undergoing a transition in their teaching practice.
Multiple case study, Obstacles to change, Reform-oriented instruction, Teachers in transition