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Professional development in mathematics for primary teachers : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Educational Studies in Mathematics at Massey University
The purpose of this study was to describe teachers and principal perceptions about professional development in primary schools, and in particular mathematics professional development. A survey of primary teachers examined teachers' recent professional development experiences and related issues of access, needs assessment, effective and sustainable professional development, and accountability. These issues were further explored in relation to four case study schools in which both teachers and principals were interviewed. The study identified that there are a number of issues to confront when developing professional development programmes if individual and school needs are to be addressed. In particular, the need to obtain a balance between individual needs and school needs, the ideal and the reality, short-term and long-term needs, and curriculum demands and subject needs of individual teachers was an ever present challenge. The questionnaire results showed that mathematics professional development was not accessed regularly by all teachers, and in a few cases teachers reported purposely avoiding mathematics professional development because of a lack of confidence or entrenched beliefs. Issues of time for professional development and competing curriculum demands for primary teachers was a common concern of both principals and teachers. Professional development should be valued as an integral part of teaching and learning. In the case of mathematics this integration could well include the need to address teacher attitudes and beliefs about mathematics. Case studies suggest that school culture impacts on the value and integration of professional development and that the success or otherwise of any professional development initiatives is strongly related to the leadership and support structures within a school.