How are teachers in intermediate schools catering for the diverse learning needs of their students in mathematics? : a thesis submitted to Massey University in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Education (MEd), Institute of Education Te Kura o te Mātauranga
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Increasingly teachers are finding that students within their classes represent a diverse range of abilities, experiences and backgrounds (Parsons et al., 2018; Tomlinson et al., 2003) Students in mathematics classes across New Zealand display diverse learning needs, and come to school with a vast range of prior knowledge, experiences, skills and understanding requiring teachers to find ways to cater for such differences within their programme. The Ministry of Education (2016) recognises the increasingly diverse population of New Zealand and calls for teachers to ensure that every child is provided with opportunities for educational success regardless of ethnic, cultural or economic background. Within New Zealand, intermediate schools play a valuable role in bridging the gap between primary and secondary education. In the two years that students attend, teachers focus on developing the skills of emerging adolescents and preparing them for secondary education. This study critically examines how teachers in intermediate schools cater for diverse learning needs of students in mathematics and explores the rationale for the methods they choose. At present there is little research in New Zealand intermediate schools that provides understanding of current beliefs and practices regarding catering for the diverse learners found in intermediate school classrooms. This study aims to provide further understanding, and to identify areas for further development. In order to examine the research question “how are teachers in intermediate schools catering for diverse learning needs in mathematics”, a qualitative multiple case study approach was used. Twelve teachers across three different intermediate schools were interviewed and each school was presented as a separate case, followed by a cross case analysis identifying common themes. Findings from the study showed that teachers primarily used different forms of grouping to cater for diverse learners in mathematics, rather than a focus on the content of lessons and tasks given to students. Concerns and pressures around assessment also played a big factor in shaping teacher attitudes towards grouping practices, and teacher capability and understanding around alternatives to ability grouping were also a common theme.