Educational support in lower secondary mathematics instruction; teacher quality, teacher characteristics and their interrelations

Ulrika Ekstam

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Thisstudy investigates educational support for lowersecondary mathematics instruction, teacher quality, teacher characteristics andtheir interrelations. Particular emphasis was placed on differentiationpractices and teacher efficacy beliefs for teaching students in need of educational support inmathematics. Previous research has indicated that among in-schoolfactors, the teacher has one of the greatest impacts on student performance.Furthermore, high teacher quality has been recognised as a rightfor all students, high or low performing. As teacher efficacy beliefs are notedto be context and subject specific, this thesis sought to complement and extendprevious research in the field of educational support for lower secondarymathematics instruction.

For studies I, II and III, answers from 27special education teachers and 42 mathematics teachers in Swedish-speaking lowersecondary schools in Finland were received with an electronicquestionnaire. Different models of educational support and nine differentiationpractices in mathematics in lower secondary education were examined (Study I). The results indicatedthat the most frequently used model for educationalsupport in mathematics was the pull-out model, and flexible studentgrouping was used by almost all mathematics teachers in grade 9. Both specialeducation and mathematics teachers used the differentiation practices almost tothe same extent.StudiesII and III focused on teacher characteristics and their relation to teacherefficacy beliefs for teaching students in need of support. More specifically,Study II examined the effect of teacher characteristics (certification,experience and gender [mathematics teachers]) on teacher efficacybeliefs. Study II also investigated mathematics teachers’ perceived pedagogicalknowledge for teaching low-performing students andspecial education teachers’ perceived subject knowledge in mathematics. Theresults indicated that special education teachers had higher teacher efficacybeliefs thanmathematics teachers for teaching students in need of mathematics support.However, mathematics teachers exhibited high self-perceivedpedagogical knowledge for teaching students in need of support, while specialeducation teachers self-perceived moderate subjectknowledge in mathematics. The relation between teacher efficacy beliefs,certification and teacher experience on the use of differentiation practiceswas also examined (Study III). The results indicated that level of teacherefficacy beliefs was related to the frequency of use of differentiation incontent, the use of manipulative tools and for co-teaching.

Study IV investigatedhow subject knowledge and individual interest in mathematics relate to teacherefficacy beliefs for teaching students in need of educational support inmathematics. The participants were57 special education pre-service teachers at a Swedish-languageuniversity in Finland. Teacher efficacy beliefs included threesub-domains:instruction, adapting instruction for differentneeds and motivating students. The results from StudyIV indicated that interest in mathematics had a positive impacton all three teacher efficacy beliefs sub-domains, while subject knowledge had apositiveimpact on only one sub-domain – instruction – andonly via interest.

The results from thisthesis indicate that teacher efficacy beliefs is animportant and complex teacher characteristic for teaching students in need ofsupportin mathematics. As the main component of inclusive education, differentiation requiresteachers tohave various skills and abilities; therefore, cooperationbetween special education and mathematics teachers should be encouraged andsupported. 


Tryckta ISBN978-952-12-3580-1
Elektroniska ISBN978-952-12-3581-8
StatusPublicerad - 2017
MoE-publikationstypG5 Doktorsavhandling (artikel)


  • Teacher efficacy beliefs
  • mathematics
  • Special education
  • Differentiation

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