Teachers’ experiences in implementing habits of mind which promote mathematics learners’ relational understanding, while operating within a community of practice
Current insights into the South African education crisis suggest that emphasis needs to be placed on developing teachers’ mathematical knowledge for teaching (MKfT) through ongoing professional development. Aiming to provide insight into teacher professional development, this research describes an initiative undertaken by a group of Mathematics teachers who formed a Community of Practice at their school. Through the implementation of Habits of Mind that promotes Relational Understanding, these teachers attempt to improve the teaching and learning of Mathematics at their school, and further their professional development. A qualitative phenomenological design of inquiry was conducted to describe the teachers’ experiences when implementing Habits of Mind in their teaching. Group interviews, individual interviews and documentary sources were used to gain a rich description of the lived experiences of these teachers during the research period. To analyse the data a combination of Giorgi’s phenomenological model and the interconnected model of professional growth was used. Results indicate three insights into teacher professional development: (1) Communities of Practice promote the sharing and development of MKfT though the mechanism of collaboration; (2) Teachers are challenged when implementing intervention strategies as firstly their learners are challenged in their literacy ability which limits their articulation in Mathematics lessons, and secondly they are faced with time constraints imposed by workload demands; (3) The attempt to implement intervention strategies within a Community of Practice, despite being challenging, encourages reflective practice which informs individuals’ professional practice and supports ongoing professional development.