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Spring 2019 PhD Candidate

Zhaochen Song

song

Ph.D. Mathematics Education

“Chinese Middle School Mathematics Teachers’ Pedagogical Content Knowledge and Cultural Beliefs Toward Teaching”

This study investigated the pedagogical content knowledge and cultural beliefs towards teaching of middle school mathematics teachers in Shandong, China. The study illustrates how four middle school mathematics teachers exhibit their knowledge of teaching and knowledge of curriculum in their daily teaching, and how their beliefs about teaching related to such knowledge. Four middle school mathematics teachers participated in this study, and data were collected by means of interviews and classroom observations. The interviews and classroom observations were analyzed using qualitative methods. The significance of this study lies in its contribution to mathematics educators who seek improvement for professional development programs from other cultures and education systems.  

            The interviews and classroom observations show that the four teachers demonstrated profound pedagogical content knowledge in teaching and curriculum. In particular, their use of questions, the emphasis of prior knowledge and connections between topics, knowledge in curriculum, and teaching coherence was evident in the observations and interview. Though they were using a unified curriculum, their teaching approaches could be vastly different. Two teachers out of four used non-traditional teaching approaches in the observations. Their cultural beliefs towards teaching were established closely to the High School Entrance Exam and how the education system runs in China and hence affected their teaching strategies. Specifically, they valued the use of practice problems and assessments in their daily teaching, and they all believed that the collective work was helpful to improve their teaching.

            This study indicates that teaching approaches of middle school mathematics teachers in China could be driven by their individual beliefs about teaching, their teaching experience, and the pressure from the Entrance Exam. The idea of collective and collaborative work is worth noting in improving the quality of professional development programs.