Bibliotherapy to address mathematics anxiety in primary pre-service teachers

PhD Thesis


Wilson, Sue Anne. (2019). Bibliotherapy to address mathematics anxiety in primary pre-service teachers [PhD Thesis]. Australian Catholic University School of Education https://doi.org/10.26199/acu.8vyv9
AuthorsWilson, Sue Anne
TypePhD Thesis
Qualification nameDoctor of Philosophy
Abstract

This thesis contributes to the understanding of an important ongoing issue in mathematics education and adds to the literature on ways to address this issue. The study is located against a social and historical background of issues of exclusion from participation in opportunities that are afforded by competence in mathematics.

Mathematics anxiety (maths anxiety) in primary pre-service teachers has been reported in the research literature as an ongoing issue. This anxiety can lead to high levels of stress and poor performance and can impact on confidence and emotional and academic wellbeing. Often, proposed solutions have focussed on how pre-service teachers might better learn mathematics. However, research addressing affect has indicated the need for greater emphasis on understanding their emotional responses and anxieties.

This thesis reports a descriptive and interpretive sequential mixed method study within the affective domain which investigated the effectiveness of bibliotherapy to better understand and address maths anxiety. The purpose was to understand the impacts of maths anxiety on the mathematical identity of primary pre-service teachers, and how these impacts might be ameliorated. The study investigated questions concerning the range and extent of maths anxiety in pre-service teachers at the start of their teacher education course, their perceptions of the influences that had stimulated this anxiety, and the effectiveness of bibliotherapy in better understanding and/or addressing maths anxiety in pre-service teachers.

Data were collected through quantitative and qualitative methods, using the Revised Mathematics Anxiety Rating Scale (Alexander & Martray, 1989) to identify the range and extent of participants’ maths anxiety, and the narrative device of Critical Incident Technique (CIT) to investigate the experiences to which they attributed this anxiety. Participants’ views provided their perceptions of their mathematical identity. The study investigated the effectiveness of bibliotherapy in two different contexts, Cognitive bibliotherapy in existing classes and Interactive bibliotherapy in a small-group workshop developed in collaboration with the student counsellor. The study employed a multi-scope analysis which used a range of methods – descriptive and inferential statistics (t-tests, confirmatory and exploratory factor analyses), and analysis of themes identified by the CIT and bibliotherapy in the two different contexts.

The study found that pre-service teachers begin their teacher education course with existing levels of maths anxiety, which are largely associated with the negative effects of testing and evaluation. The findings also confirmed the major contribution of former teachers to the development of pre-service teachers’ maths anxiety, drawing attention to the consequences of blame and humiliation reported by participants and to the importance of the concept of pedagogical tact. The study emphasised the benefits of including in this research pre-service teachers who did not identify with maths anxiety in this research.
The workshop provided a transformative experience, as participants showed increased understanding and revision of their maths anxiety and identified alternative conceptions of their previous mathematical experiences. Insight was identified as a major factor in the development of participants’ future mathematical identity. This led to evaluations of their future effectiveness as teachers of mathematics, thus illustrating the development of a more positive projective identity.

Contributions of the study included the modification of the bibliotherapy stages, development of a key of ideal types for responses and development of a new concept of “biblioperception.” It provided a model for professional collaboration with the student counsellor in the form of the workshop protocol.

This thesis argues for a paradigm shift in the way researchers, teacher educators and policy makers view maths anxiety in pre-service teachers. There is a need to identify and celebrate the positive influences that past experiences of maths anxiety can have on evolving more effective teachers in our classrooms, potentially enabling a wider range of students to develop more positive relationships with mathematics.

In recognising the potential for pre-service primary teachers’ experiences and understanding of maths anxiety to increase their effectiveness teachers of mathematics, this thesis not only posits a new way of thinking about maths anxiety in pre-service teachers, but also provides insights into how it might be addressed, which would be of interest to both researchers and teacher educators. It also discusses implications and recommendations for future research, education practice and policy.

Year2019
PublisherAustralian Catholic University
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.26199/acu.8vyv9
Page range1-367
Final version
File Access Level
Open
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Print18 Dec 2019
Online29 Apr 2021
Publication process dates
Deposited29 Apr 2021
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https://acuresearchbank.acu.edu.au/item/8vyv9/bibliotherapy-to-address-mathematics-anxiety-in-primary-pre-service-teachers

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