What does research tell us about teachers, teaching and learner performance in Mathematics ?

Key Points:

  • Learner performance in mathematics is not strongly correlated with teacher qualifications or experience, nor with the learner-educator ratio. This was the consensus finding coming from both original research and research commissioned by CDE.
  • Mathematics learners in South Africa are increasingly being taught by teachers with plenty of teaching experience. More than 60% of the learners surveyed in the TIMSS 2011 study were taught by teachers with more than 10 years’ teaching experience. However, the TIMSS study showed that there was no significant relationship between teaching experience and learner performance in mathematics.
  • Teacher quality is the most important component in the pursuit of improved learner performance, in mathematics and all other subjects. Yet the findings of this research challenge ‘common-sense’ ideas of what drives learner performance and calls for alternative explanations of variations in learner performance, in mathematics especially.
  • The majority of principals interviewed in the CDE research seemed entirely satisfied in their belief that the quality of their mathematics teachers and teaching was average to good. This is deeply concerning because their schools were not producing first-tier results and instructional leadership is one of the most important factors affecting learner performance in mathematics.
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