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Primary special school teachers' knowledge and beliefs about supporting learning in numeracy

Moscardini, Lio (2015) Primary special school teachers' knowledge and beliefs about supporting learning in numeracy. Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs, 15 (1). pp. 37-47. ISSN 1471-3802

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This paper presents findings from a qualitative study of a group of 12 teachers in primary special schools in Scotland for children with moderate learning difficulties. It sets out an analysis of classroom observations and interviews that explored teachers' knowledge and beliefs about teaching and learning in mathematics with children with moderate learning difficulties. The teachers were interviewed pre- and post-intervention; this was a research-based professional development programme in children's mathematical thinking (Cognitively Guided Instruction) which teachers then developed in their classrooms. The findings showed that prior to the professional development, the teachers had a limited knowledge of children's mathematical development with teaching frequently informed by intuitive beliefs and dated and sometimes discredited practices. Most teachers had low expectations of children with learning difficulties. Post-intervention, the teachers reviewed this stance and affirmed that a deeper understanding of children's mathematical thinking provided a more secure knowledge base for instruction. They also recognised the extent to which learners were constrained by existing classroom practices. The paper argues for the commonality of this knowledge base and considers the problematic nature of viewing such knowledge as sector specific.