The interaction of professional development experiences, teacher reflection, and teacher beliefs on teaching practice in relation to the NCTM Standards: A perspective from five middle school mathematics teachers

Date of Completion

January 1997


Education, Teacher Training|Education, Secondary|Education, Curriculum and Instruction




The NCTM Standards documents (1989, 1991) promote a classroom culture in which students are engaged in doing, discussing, and discovering mathematics. However, mathematics instruction is often repetitive and does not involve students in interesting and relevant activities.^ This study investigated changes in teaching practice of middle school mathematics teachers engaged in professional development activities aligned with the NCTM Standards. Teachers from a Northeastern, urban school district responded to the Standards Belief Instrument (SBI) and participated in a Level of Use (LoU) interview. A grid, using the SBI responses (y-axis) and LoU interviews (x-axis), was created. Based on results, 5 teachers were selected to participate in the study: quadrant one-2, quadrant two-2, and quadrant three-1.^ Data was collected from February 1996 to February 1997. Classroom observations, pre- and-post interviews, video-tape, reflective journals, lesson plans, and student focus groups were the main sources of data.^ The results indicated that teacher(s) in quadrant: (1) three- did not possess an understanding of the NCTM Standards, had a procedural understanding of mathematics, and professional development activities were enjoyed but not used, (2) two- possessed a limited understanding of the NCTM Standards, had a procedural understanding of mathematics, and incorporated some professional development activities, and (3) one- possessed a clear understanding of the NCTM Standards, had a procedural and conceptual understanding of mathematics, and used many professional development activities. Changes made in planning and classroom practice differed from teacher to teacher and mirrored Edwards' Teacher Change as a Reflective Cycle Model. Finally, teachers believed that constraints in implementing the NCTM Standards included a lack of time, materials, and student participation.^ This study suggests that professional development experiences should provide teachers with models of Standards-based teaching and opportunities to reflect on teaching. Further, teachers in each quadrant have different professional development needs. Teacher(s) in quadrant: (1) three- need professional development experiences focusing on content knowledge and classroom models, (2) two- need to explore ways to incorporate a procedural and conceptual understanding of mathematics in classroom activities, and (3) one- need opportunities to interact and discuss with colleagues ways to teach mathematics. ^