Hidden Dimensions in the Professional Development of Mathematics Teachers - In-Service Education for and with Teachers

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Bettina Rösken (2009): Hidden Dimensions in the Professional Development of Mathematics Teachers - In-Service Education for and with Teachers. Dissertation, Universität Duisburg-Essen.
Betreut durch Günter Törner.
Begutachtet durch Günter Törner und Bharath Sriraman.
Erhältlich unter http://duepublico.uni-duisburg-essen.de/servlets/DocumentServlet?id=20267
Tag der mündlichen Prüfung: 23.03.2009.


The professional development (PD) of mathematics teachers is a highly relevant topic at this time, when calls for school improvement are on the daily agenda. However, while the knowledge base on effective PD is growing, conditions that hinder successful progress are still prevalent and call for improvements in the field. Since most studies are about teachers instead of being for and with them (Malara & Zan 2002), the explicit focus of this thesis is to get insight into what makes PD successful from a teacher’s perspective. Subject of this work is thus elaborating intensely on the view of teachers, i.e., their beliefs and subjective theories, their experiences and needs. The leading assumption is, following the famous paper by Bauersfeld (1980), which moreover led to the title of this work, that there are hidden dimensions in the reality of PD that are not yet covered by research in this area. To look into this subject encompasses a theoretical and an empirical approach, which is presented in eight chapters, shortly outlined in the following:

The first chapter introduces the topic, provides on overview on the subject under discussion and contains an outline of all chapters.

The second chapter is concerned with the theoretical positioning of the thesis, at first regarding theoretical perspectives and at second moving on to theoretical models. While the former aims at identifying the relevant variables in the context of PD, the latter intends to capturing the relevant processes. An overview on the main theoretical areas and a comprehensive state of the field is given while taking both a static and a procedural perspective. A specific focus is on teacher in-service education and training. In particular, corresponding effects are subject of some debate while finally teachers’ needs and expectations are especially valued.

In chapter 3, some information is given on the specific situation of mathematics teacher PD in Germany. Again, the main emphasis is on in-service education and training since practicing teachers are the target group of the work and the empirical study. The last comprehensive overview was provided by Peter (1996), this chapter hence also serves for partly up-dating the discussion. Additionally, two specific PD interventions that were launched in Germany and Austria are reflected regarding their significance within the educational discourse.

In chapter 4, the initiative Mathematics Done Differently for fostering mathematics teachers’ PD in Germany is introduced. In brief, one aim of the initiative is to spread and broaden existing local or regional programs to different thematic fields in Germany. Another concern is to design new courses according to teachers’ needs. Presenting the initiative encompasses thoroughly reflecting the design against the theoretical background and the national context in which it was launched. All empirical data that is presented in the following chapters was gained in the course of this project.

Chapter 5 is concerned with providing a synthesis of the discussed issues and formulating the research questions guiding the empirical approach. Subject of the empirical study is the personal domain by valuing the individual teacher as part of a professional world of practice. The purpose is to illuminate issues of teachers’ professional learning and their needs, and factors that they consider as necessary for effective PD.

Chapter 6 is dedicated to explicating the empirical approach and in particular the methodological choices. While various theoretical perspectives on mathematics teacher PD serve as a conceptual frame, theoretical and methodological triangulation was chosen. Methodological justification is given while drawing on different research paradigms, i.e., that quantitative data was collected by a questionnaire and qualitative ones by interviews with teachers. Teachers from all over Germany engaged in the initiative Mathematics Done Differently participated in the study and contributed rich and informative data.

In chapter 7, the data analysis is explicated and the results of the empirical study are presented. The chapter is organized in two main sections while distinguishing between the quantitative and the qualitative approach. While the former one led to five dimensions structuring teachers’ needs and expectations regarding their PD, the interview statements were assigned to three main dimensions. Remarkably, teachers reported on some relevant subcategories within these dimensions that have not been explored in the research literature so far. The qualitative findings shed light on issues especially relevant for teachers and provide insight in what needs to be done to provide successful PD.

In chapter 8, some conclusions are provided while chapter 9 is concerned with discussing implications in terms of future prospects.



  • H. Bauersfeld [1980]: Hidden dimensions in the so-called reality of a mathematics classroom. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 11, 23-41.
  • N. Malara & R. Zan [2002]: The problematic relationship between theory and practice. In L. English (Ed.), Handbook of international research in mathematics education (pp. 553-580). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates: Mahwah, NJ.
  • A. Peter [1996]: Aktion und Reflektion. Lehrerfortbildung aus international vergleichender Perspektive. Weinheim: Deutscher Studien Verlag.