The role of linguistics in the learning, teaching and assessment of mathematics in primary education : a case study of a lower school in the United Kingdom
X320 Academic studies in Primary Education
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AbstractThis doctoral research was concerned with the role of language and its implications for the learning, teaching and assessment of mathematics for children aged 4-9 years. Earlier research by the author had established language and assessment as bridges enabling learning although they had the potential to increase the divide between teacher and learner. Reflection raised the question on how children achieved in mathematics despite potential difficulties with language and assessment. Review of the literature concluded that resources and sociocultural norms were also bridges between learner and teacher. A model was established of the relationships and processes between all perceived variables that provided an external, theoretical structure to be evaluated against structuralist, pragmatic and integrational linguistic approaches and empirical outcomes. The overarching approaches adopted were institutional ethnography and case study. An appropriate methodology was devised whereby sophisticated ICT equipment captured all visual and speech events during classroom interactions. Frequency analysis at word level, content analysis at utterance level and discourse analysis at total speech level triangulated with content analysis of interviews and evaluation of documentation completed the empirical research. Data analysis revealed five registers of children’s talk. Evidence suggested that the peer-peer ‘conditioned talk’ used in focused group work was the most effective for learning as it enabled them to discern the small steps in the inferential leaps in discourse made by their teachers, work out problems together, inform their peers, share findings and reinforce each others’ learning. Learners’ language showed aspects of structural, pragmatic and integrational linguistics, confirming a conclusion of the literature review that the various linguistic approaches discussed should be used to support and not exclude each other. The contribution made to knowledge is the ethnomethodology provided by the model, ICT resource and the five registers of talk revealed by the linguistic approach to discourse analysis. Teachers would be able to understand nuances of language used by their pupils and acquire essential skills and tools to put into effect the personalised learning agenda. Peer-peer observation of teachers would be an appropriate platform for the observation of the different registers used by learners, the resources that generate those registers, and their most effective use to close the gap between natural language and the subject specific language of mathematics.
PublisherUniversity of Bedfordshire
TypeThesis or dissertation
DescriptionA thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy of the University of Bedfordshire
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