The mathematical knowledge and beliefs of pre-service primary teachers in Hong Kong

Wing Yee Lo

PhD thesis, conferred 2015

In Hong Kong, primary mathematics education underwent curriculum reform in 2000. The revised primary mathematics curriculum places a stronger emphasis on developing students’ higher-order thinking skills and lifelong learning abilities. Pre-service teachers are expected to acquire mathematical competencies to facilitate the changes of curriculum reform. However, their knowledge and beliefs can significantly influence their potential to understand and implement the required reform.

This study investigated Hong Kong pre-service primary teachers’ curriculum knowledge, mathematical content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, and their mathematical beliefs to deepen our understanding of the factors that may influence their implementation of a new curriculum agenda. Data were collected in three stages and involved three qualitative research methods including questionnaires, interviews, and lesson plan analyses. Survey research was conducted with 152 pre-service primary teachers in a teacher education program in Hong Kong. Nineteen questionnaire respondents were interviewed and nine lesson plans were collected. The data from three interviewees who held different views about mathematics teaching and learning were further analysed as cases to explore the consistency of the knowledge and beliefs across the data collection methods.

The results showed that many participants did not understand the intent of the curriculum document. The participants seemed to have rich mathematical content knowledge, but they lacked a deep understanding of pedagogy in primary mathematics. Their reform-oriented beliefs generally supported the innovative approaches recommended in the revised curriculum, but some were still influenced by conventional elements. While both positive and negative learning experiences of mathematics had a positive impact on participants’ beliefs about mathematics teaching, most demonstrated their willingness to learn from the past and recognised the need to establish better learning environments for their primary school students. Implications are discussed regarding the theory of teacher competencies and the preparation of primary mathematics specialists.

Supervisor: Associate Professor Judy Anderson